TEL Communities

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TEL Communities
Definitions: Theoretical background relevant to technology facilitated social learning
Research evidence: Systematic literature reviews on the theme of technology facilitated social learning

Social presence–connecting pre-service teachers as learners using a blended learning model

Garner, R. and Rouse, E., 2016. Social presence–connecting pre-service teachers as learners using a blended learning model. Student Success, 7(1), pp.25-36.

This is an account of an Australian teacher education module, delivered through online and face to face tutorials to a community of pre-service teachers in early years education. The paper builds in part on the work of Parker, Maor and Herrington (2013) who highlight the need for interaction with peers and staff as well as content for successful blended learning.  With this in mind the study described considers social presence on the part of participants and staff in supporting successful engagement and social learning. The article provides a wealth of contextual and historical background to this notion.

The findings bear on the issue of learning communities in teacher education in a variety of ways.  Students reported the combination of face to face sessions with online study and communication with peers supported their learning.  In some cases relationships from campus contacts were built upon and deepened through online communications. The role of a staff member proved very influential, supporting students to feel connected and supported through what are described as reciprocal relationships.   This notion can be seen as a potential characteristic of the communities of practice in teacher education which this guide addresses. Among the suggestions for success proposed by the authors are the critical nature of a pedagogy which includes relationship building, fostering collaborative relationships in the community, teacher presence to raise student perceptions of support and care through an interface which remains ‘human’.  Suggestions for the final point in the list provide signposting for others, with recommendations including the use of professional narratives by staff in the community, video exemplification, sharing of personal experiences and feedback on concerns. Reciprocal relationships will inspire deeper student engagement they contend, leading to more successful learning experiences.