Citation
Emerging community

Material Information

Title:
Emerging community the nature of online peer interaction in a distance-learning educational administrator cohort program
Creator:
Choi, Cynthia C
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
126 leaves : ; 28 cm

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
School management and organization -- Study and teaching ( lcsh )
School principals -- Certification ( lcsh )
Telematics ( lcsh )
Distance education ( lcsh )
Communication in education ( lcsh )
Team learning approach in education ( lcsh )
Communication in education ( fast )
Distance education ( fast )
School management and organization -- Study and teaching ( fast )
School principals -- Certification ( fast )
Team learning approach in education ( fast )
Telematics ( fast )
Genre:
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 111-126).
Statement of Responsibility:
by Cynthia C. Choi.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
52497336 ( OCLC )
ocm52497336
Classification:
LB2805 .C46 2001a ( lcc )

Downloads

This item has the following downloads:


Full Text
EMERGING COMMUNITY:
THE NATURE OF ONLINE PEER INTERACTION
IN A DISTANCE-LEARNING
EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATOR COHORT PROGRAM
by
Cynthia C. Choi
B. Envd., University of Colorado at Boulder, 1991
M.A., University of Colorado at Denver, 1996
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Educational Leadership and Innovation
2001


2001 by Cynthia C. Choi
All rights reserved.


This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy
degree by
Cynthia C. Choi
has been approved
by
Rodney Muth
Patricia Browne-Ferrigno


Choi, Cynthia C. (Ph.D., Educational Leadership and Innovation)
Emerging Community: The Nature of Online Peer Interaction in a Distance-
Learning Educational Administrator Cohort Program
Thesis directed by Professor Rodney Muth
ABSTRACT
As alternative educational deliver methods emerge, the integration and use
of technology also is transforming learning environments and learning
relationships. The most prominent of emerging technology-based instruction is
based on computer-mediated communication (CMC). While distance education
historically lacked actively engaged learning opportunities, computers, computer
networks, and telecommunications have allowed more interactivity for integrated
learning environments.
Interaction is a widely discussed aspect of distance-learning. Whereas all
facets of interaction remain important research issues, this study focuses on the
nature of peer-to-peer interaction in a distance-learning principal licensure
program. What makes peer interaction intriguing is that peer-learning
relationships appear to offer a humanistic response to the ever-changing demands
of our high-technology world. Unlike many traditional learning strategies that are
IV


teacher-directed, peer-learning relationships acknowledge the expertise of the
learners and expand their role from learner to co-creator of knowledge. With a
constructivist-learning paradigm as a framework, a merger of adult learning
theories and CMC technologies guided how peer interaction of program
participants in this unique distance-learning principal licensure program support
their learning processes.
This studys findings are based on one-years worth of participants online
dialogue. Guided by several research questions, the content of this online peer
interaction was analyzed, and peer interaction appears to support distance learners
effectively. This particular online environment showed great potential to
encourage community building, resulting in a community of learners.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I
recommend its publication.
Signed
Rodney Muth
v


DEDICATION
This dissertation is humbly dedicated to my beloved parents, Kyung Hi and Jai
Kun Choi. Their tireless support, wisdom, and caring have inspired me to reach
this milestone and to challenge myself continually. Because of their confidence
in my abilities, I have achieved all that I have. I thank them sincerely for begin
my most influential teachers.
In addition, I hope this accomplishment will inspire my nieces and nephews,
Kristal, Jerome, Jeffrey, Jon, and Jessica, to strive for greater achievements that
celebrate their individual strengths and potential.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
Only with the support, encouragement, and guidance of numerous people, I have
been able to complete this dissertation.
First, I express my deepest gratitude to Dr. Rodney Muth, chairperson, advisor,
and role model, for always knowing the right way to encourage me and to
challenge me. His patience, guidance, advice, and critical eye have sustained me
throughout this process. I will share all that I have gained from his mentorship
with my own students and work to be the dedicated educator that he models.
I thank Dr. May Lowry and Dr. Jonnna Dunlap for serving as my committee
members and doctoral lab leaders. Their confidence, encouragement, and
advocacy have been instrumental in my completing this dissertation.
My dear friend, Dr. Patricia Browne-Ferrignoher generosity, tenacity, and
motivation have inspired me throughout our doctoral studies, including the
completion of this thesis. Many thanks are due for serving as my outside reader
and for her active support.
My gratitude is extended to Dr. Marcia Muth for her writing guidance and helping
me to understand the culture and style of academic writing.
I thank my friends, Peggy Lore, Suze Auldridge, Jeong Hwan Park, and Johnnie
Hill-Marsh for helping me cope with the emotional aspects of this process.
I also want to thank my sisters, June, Amy, and Christina, and their families, for
their ongoing encouragement and prayers.
A special thanks goes to Le Moyne College for honoring me with a Pre-Doctoral
Teaching Fellowship. This award allowed me to focus on my research at the final
stages of my dissertation and to begin my teaching career. To my new colleagues
at Le Moyne College, many thanks for the warm welcome and generous support
extended to me.
While I still have more individuals to acknowledge, I trust that they know who
they are and just how much I appreciate their contributions to the completion of
this dissertation.


CONTENTS
Figures..............................................................xii
Tables...............................................................xiii
CHAPTER
1. ADULT LEARNING IN AN ONLINE CONTEXT..................................1
Context of Study..............................................4
Integration of Peer-Support Activities in an Online Context...6
Peer Interaction and Andragogy................................7
Significance of the Study.....................................9
Learning and Online Interaction...................... 11
Description of Online Environment......................16
Researcher Assumptions.......................................17
Research Questions...........................................17
Methodological Approach......................................J8
2. PEER INTERACTION AND ONLINE LEARNING................................21
Online Learning Environment..................................21
Distance Learning: CMC Tools...........................22
vm


Constructivism
.26
Virtual Learning Communities............................28
Peer-Learning Relationships....................................32
Mentoring...............................................32
Collaborative Learning..................................37
Peer Tutoring......................................37
Peer Coaching/Mentoring............................39
Professional Collegiality...............................42
Conclusion.....................................................45
3. DESIGN OF STUDY......................................................47
Research Design................................................49
Case Study Participants........................................51
Data Collection and Analysis Strategies........................51
Research Questions......................................52
Organization of Data....................................53
Context of Study: The ALPS Program............................56
Cohort Model............................................57
Curriculum..............................................57
Information Technology..................................59
Assessment..............................................59
Program Tenet...........................................60
IX


On-Campus Residency...............................60
Validity Issues.........................................61
Limitations............................................63
4. EMERGING THEMES, ISSUES, AND POSSIBILITIES....................65
Content.................................................66
Topic of Conversation.............................69
Purpose of the Message..........................74
Patterns of Dialogue....................................76
Peer-Learning Relationships.............................82
Conclusion..............................................87
5. CONCLUSIONS...................................................89
Discussion of Research Findings.........................89
Summary and Recommendations: Peer Support...............93
Summary and Recommendations:
Online Learning Communities.............................96
Summary and Recommendations:
Instructional Design Issues.............................98
APPENDIX
A. SUMMER ORIENTATION SCHEDULE..................................101
B. RESEARCH DESIGN OVERVIEW.....................................103
C. HUMAN SUBJECTS COMMITTEE APPROVAL............................105
D. CONSENT FORM.................................................107
x


E. COMPARISON OF HELPING RELATIONSHIPS IN LEARNING............109
BIBLIOGRAPHY.....................................................Ill
xi


FIGURES
Figure
1.1 Transformation of Studys Focus...................................3
1.2 Diagram of Meaning-Making Model.................................. 12
1.3 Expanded Online Meaning-Making Model ...........................13
3.1 Distance-Learning Administrator and Principal
Licensing Program and MA or Eds..................................58
Xll


TABLES
Table
4.1 Development of Reflective Questions...............................67
4.2 Coding Key for Message Content.....................................68
4.3 Distribution of Membership within Cluster Groups..................77
4.4 Distribution of Threaded Discussions and Non-responded Messages.....78
xm


CHAPTER 1
ADULT LEARNING IN AN ONLINE CONTEXT
The use of online environments for education is increasing exponentially.
A 1999 study by the U.S. Department of Education (Lewis, Snow, Farris, & Levin,
1999) found that between fall 1995 and 1997-98, the percentage of higher
education institutions offering distance education courses increased by about one
third, from 33 percent to 44 percent (p. vi). This study further reports that another
one-fifth of the institutions without distance education components are planning to
follow suit in the next three years. An estimated 1,363,670 enrollments in college-
level, credit-granting distance education courses were reported, with nearly 60% of
institutions using asynchronous technologies (Lewis et al.).
The integration and use of distance education technology is transforming
learning environments and learning relationships. Attention to the total learning
environment is essential to support all aspects of the learning process; in online
environments, it is even more imperative. For example, how does computer-
mediated communication (CMC) support learning processes, learner and instructor
behaviors, and group interaction among learners at a distance? According to Khan
(1997), current research is lacking to support a full understanding of the effects that
CMC technologies have on instructional environments in higher educational
1


settings. There is little research about the nature of virtual interaction and few
models ... for students [and instructors] to follow (Richardson &Tumer, 2001, p.
1). As universities turn more to distance-learning strategies, it becomes ever more
critical that faculty and students better understand whether online interactions
support academic success in this context.
For this exploratory study, I focus on the nature of online peer interaction of
a distance-learning principal licensing program at University of Colorado at Denver.
As an administrator in higher education setting, my professional and academic
interest evolved around issues of student retention and graduation. With increasing
number of online learning programs, I recognized a great interest and potential in
ways in which peer support maybe transformed to fit in a virtual environment.
Paralleling grounded theory strategies, the focus of this study evolved as
depicted in Figure 1.1. I began my preliminary exploration of online peer
mentoring. While pursuing this topic, I encountered limitations in the available
research; therefore, I broadened my topic to include peer-group mentoring. By
doing so, I discovered a rich body of literature in cohort-based learning. This
literature revealed a great fit between my general research interest and the context of
this study. After a critical literature review and continual discussion with my
faculty mentor, the focus of this study emerged to examine the nature of online peer
interaction among program participants.
2


While all of facets of interaction remain important research issue, this study
focuses on the peer-to-peer aspects of interactivity of a distance-learning principal
licensure program. Thus, online peer interaction in the context of distance-learning
environments that promises to meet the professional growth needs of adult learners
became the centerpiece of this study. While the research is grounded in andragogic
theories (Knowles, 1984) and conducted in a specific setting, its overarching
purpose is to elucidate peer-learning relationships, including the qualities that define
helping relationships (Saltiel & Sgroi, 1996) between peer learners. The purpose is
to inform the practice of adult education, particularly in technology-supported
learning environments.
3


Context of Study
In Spring 2000, University of Colorado at Denver (UCD)s first principal
licensing, distance-learning (DL) cohort was moving into the latter half of its
program. By this time, I had shared with faculty members my general research
interest in student interactions with their peers, such as development of
socialization, mentoring, and supporting relationships in online environments and
how these contributed to student learning. Those faculty members who were
intimately involved with this DL cohort saw a great fit between my research interest
and the setting of this DL cohort. Thus, the principal/administrator licensing
preparation program at UCD presented an ideal setting for the study because a
variety of adult learning strategies, in particular, peer-learning groups (called cluster
groups) were an integral component of this distance-learning program, a one-year
(June 1999-July 2000) principal/administrator licensing program. This program was
a progressive, face-to-face, standards-driven (Ford, Martin, Murphy, & Muth, 1996;
Murphy, Martin, & Muth, 1994), portfolio-assessed (Muth, Murphy, Martin, &
Sanders, 1996), and problem-based (Ford, Martin, Muth, & Steinbrecher, 1997) and
cohort-based (Barnett & Muse, 1993) graduate-level program. The cohort learning
structure was critical to this study.
4


The term cohort has several definitions (Ohana, 2000). In its traditional
context, it often denotes an age group. Cohort in the context here describes a
group that undergoes a program of study together, creates a shared purpose, and
engages in other activities intended to bind the group together (Basom, Yerkes,
Norris, & Barnett, 1995). The faculty selected the closed cohort structure, one in
which all coursework is taken in a prescribed order at the same time. No new
members were admitted to the group after its initial formation. The closed cohort
model delivers instruction suited to the unique needs of adults (Mahoney, 1990;
Weise, 1992), fosters collegial learning (Barnett & Muse, 1993), strengthens
individual learning (Johnson & Johnson, 1991,1997), and empowers students
(Teitel, 1995). A closed cohort keeps students together as a group throughout the
entire program (Basom, Yerkes, Norris, & Barnett, 1995) and provides ongoing peer
support and professional collegiality (Barnett, Basom, Yerkes, & Norris, 2000).
Within this closed cohort, peer-learning groups were formed. At the time of
the program orientation, cohort members were given the opportunity to self-select
into small groups, called cluster groups. Thus, five cluster groups were formed
based on geographic locale of the cohort members. The peer interaction within
these cluster-group activities is the focus of this study.
5


Integration of Peer-Supported Activities in an Online Context
Interaction is a widely discussed aspect of distance-learning. Drawing upon
a study completed in 1973, Moore, a leading pioneer in this area, outlined a model
of distance education that describes it as a function of two variables: structure and
dialogue. For Moore, dialogue represents interaction, communication, and
correspondence, while structure refers to the organization of the course/program
(e.g., delivery of instruction via computer conferencing). The dialogue (student-
student interaction and student-teacher interaction) is contained by the structure.
So, different technologically mediated structures allow for and lead to different
types, amounts, and quality of dialogue.
Moore (1989) addresses the teaching-learning process at a distance in terms
of interaction. His theory of transactional distance states that the distance in
distance education is not just physical, but presents pedagogical and psychological
barriers as well. Moores theory highly stresses interaction and building
environments that are learner-centered, friendly, and structured and that allow
exchanges of ideas and dialogue. Researchers have (a) categorized online
interaction (Henri, 1992), (b) posited the educational benefits of that interaction
(Mason, 1994), and (c) compared the interaction of this unique environment to
6


traditional classrooms (Hiltz, 1994). Despite such research emphases, the issue of
online interaction has been an area of much debate in distance education research.
It is a widely held view (Harasim et al., 1995; Kearsley, 2000) that a high
level of interaction has a positive effect on distance education (Sorensen & Baylen,
2000). Additional research (Beaudoin, 1995; Bonk & King, 1998; Collison,
Elbaum, Hawind, &Tinker, 2000) emphasizes interaction as one of the most
important elements of instruction in distance educationinteractions with people,
with instructional strategies and learning events, and with technology. While Moore
(Gayol, 1995) made a distinction among the interactions as learner-content, learner-
learner, and, learner-instructor, Hillman, Willis, and Gunawardena (1994) added
learner-interface interaction to Moores typology, reflecting the advancements in
technological environments.
Peer Interaction and Andragogy
Unlike many traditional learning strategies that are teacher directed, peer-
learning relationships acknowledge the expertise of the learners and expand their
role from that of learners to co-creators of knowledge. This is consistent with adult
learning theories, namely, andragogy (Knowles, 1980,1984), self-direction (Candy,
1991; Tough, 1979), and social learning (Merriam & Caffarella, 1991,1999).
Andragogic approaches in particular seek to tap adult learners internal motivation
and self-direction, incorporate their prior experience, and foster collaboration as
7


well as learner autonomy. They also emphasize the importance of dialogue and
collaborative inquiry as well as critical reflection (Brookfield, 1986,1990,1995;
Schon, 1987; Vella, 1994). The participatory nature of these methods seeks to
empower adult learners, engage them in problem-solving, and introduce
perspectives that challenge their unexamined modes of thinking (Brookfield, 1986,
1990, 1995).
Brookfield (1986) identified four specific benefits of peer-learning
relationships for adult learners: self-directed learners rely heavily on peer-learning
groups for (a) support, (b) information exchange, (c) stimulus through new ideas,
and (d) relevant resources (p. 83). Additionally, he notes that peer-learning
arrangements foster personal ownership and joint accountability for learning
activities that are explicitly grounded in [a learners] own concerns and
circumstances (p. 84). Each peer partner can give and receive personalized
attention so that learning is both customized and relevant. Further, this process
fosters mutuality as both peers engage in the dual roles of helper and learner. As
Saltiel (1998) puts it, Learning partners meet the challenge of staying with the
material in order to maintain the relationship as well as make progress (p. 19).
A merger of adult learning theories (Brookfield, 1986; Knowles, 1980,
1984) and CMC technologies (Barker, 1995; Bates, 1995; Kaye, 1989) guided how
peer interactions of program participants in this unique distance-learning
principal/administrator licensing cohort for K-12 educators supported students
8


learning process and peer-learning relationship. The constructivist learning
paradigm (Duffy & Cunningham, 1996; Jonassen et al., 1995; Jonassen, Peck, &
Wilson, 1999) served as a framework of this study.
Significance of the Study
What makes peer-learning relationships intriguing is that they appear to offer
a humanistic response to the ever-changing learning demands of our high-
technology world. They combine simplicity, personalized support, and practical,
experiential learning. Peer-learning relationships involve a basic, reciprocal helping
relationship between two or more people at the same level who join together, either
formally or informally, to accomplish a common or closely related learning project.
Since peer learning often occurs informally, however, it tends to go unrecognized
and thus the process involved is not well detailed. While more attention is being
directed to peer-learning, the available literature on it is sparse.
As information technology has finally emerged as a permanent, respected,
and increasingly essential component of the college experience (Green, 1996, p.
24), increased knowledge about the nature of online peer interaction among the
members of a networked community will result in a better understanding of the
overall community of users and their shared activity (p. 97). This unique and
evolving educational environment demands changes in pedagogy as well as learner
and instructor behavior (Harasim, Hiltz, Teles, & Turoff, 1995). Research in
9


distance education has focused on several areas, including the design of courses to
maximize the potential of CMC, teaching considerations, institutional issues
(computer access, policy, and cost), curriculum creation and interactive
methodologies, and issues of implementation (Phillips & Snetsinger, 1995).
However, qualitative or quantitative evaluation research on online interaction within
virtual learning communities using asynchronous conferencing is still scarce (Cox,
1999; Richardson & Turner, 2001). In particular, exploration of peer interaction in
its natural context is even more limited.
Moore (1989) suggests that peer interaction (social, academic, reflective, and
collaborative) and student-teacher interaction are very influential in the creation of a
successful online educational environment. Online communication, e-mail,
computer conferencing, and other CMC technologies can offer an efficient and
motivating method for engaging people (Waggoner, 1992). As facilitation of
student interaction increases, the distance education paradigm is moving toward
networking, which provides a many-to-many communication setup (Harasim,
1990; Picciano, 2001).
In particular, online peer interaction in a distance-learning program can have
significant effects on learning outcomes (Romiszowski, 1997). Peer interaction
(e.g., social, academic, reflective, and collaborative) can facilitate more active
engagement in the learning process and contribute to effective learning experiences.
In using emerging network-based computer technology as a resource and as the
10


platform for building a community of learners, students are encouraged to explore
their own interests and to become active in their own learning in cooperative and
collaborative ways (Romiszowski & Mason, 1996). Students have the opportunities
to solve authentic problems within a community of learners (Lave & Wenger,
1991), a basic construct of effective adult learning.
Learning and Online Interaction
Learning strategies based on a constructivist perspective take a learner-
centered approach, in which meaning and knowledge are constructed by the learner
through a process of relating new information to prior knowledge and experience.
Learning is viewed by many as an active, purposeful, and meaning-generating
process that occurs within the learner (Shuell, 1986). Under the framework of
constructivist epistemology, the main goal of learning is to derive understanding
from the activity of learning. According to Jonassen, Davidson, Collins, Campbell,
and Bannan-Haag (1995), one goal of learning is meaning-making. Because
learning involves the construction of relevant and useful knowledge, it is their belief
that knowledge emerges from the learners interactions with the world through
articulation of and reflection on what is known, and meaning results. The principles
by which these learning environments are created is thought to be built on four
general system attributes: (a) context, (b) construction, (c) collaboration, and (d)
conversation. Further, learners negotiate within their minds reflectively,
11


metacognitively, and socially with others within the context of a community of
learners.
Jonassen et al. (1995) state that learners engage in a highly interrelated,
complex process involving reflection, articulation, internal negotiation, and social
negotiations, as described in their meaning-making model. Meaning-making, the
goal of learning processes (Jonassen et al., p. 11), requires articulation and reflection
on what one knows, simultaneously involving both internal negotiation and social
negotiation.
Artici i Internal Negotiation - ilation k Social Negotiation
Refle ' ction
Fig. 1.2 Diagram of Meaning-Making Model (Jonassen et al., 1995)
Moreover, constructivist environments facilitate learning through meaningful
interactions that are based on collaborative activities where learning is set in a
meaningful, real world context (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Through dynamic,
integrated relationships and collaborative interactions that occur socially, learners
are actively engaged in a dialogical process, constructing personally relevant
knowledge.
12


While the above model represents the essence of the meaning-making
process, an expanded model, depicting more completely the highly interactive and
complex interaction of online environments, seems necessary.
Awareness
Articulation
Discourse
Internal
Negotiation
Community
of
Learners
Social
Negotiation
Reflection
Figure 1.3 Expanded Online Meaning-Making Model
This expanded model above represents the fluid, interrelated functions
involved in the construction of knowledge. Specifically, in addition to the two sets
of interactivity (articulation and reflection overlapped with internal negotiation and
social negotiation), the components also interact with each other. This is consistent
with the premise that an educational learning experience is both reflective and
collaborative. As each pair of the components interact, different phases of learning
13


occur. Meaning making involves negotiation of concepts and thoughts not only
internally but also with others.
Collaboration among learners occurs throughout the learning process (Saltiel
& Sgroi, 1996). By articulating covert processes and strategies, learners are able to
build new and modify existing knowledge structures. Larson and Jacobs (2001)
point out that an understanding of community building is a negotiated process.
Collaborative learning through peer interaction has been identified as a critical
variable in learning (Bates, 1995; Harasim, 1990). Adult learners (a) use reflection
and metacognition to think about their learning processes and knowledge, (b)
articulate ideas and their reflective and (c) metacognitive thinking, and negotiate
within themselves and with others socially toward the goal of knowledge
construction and understanding. These activities occur via dialogue with other
learners (social negotiation), as well as reflectively within ones own mind (internal
negotiation).
Social interaction in distance education can also have significant effects on
learning outcomes (Romiszowski, 1997). Thus, interactivity can be defined both in
social terms and in terms of student interaction with the content of instruction.
Online content is a representation of interactivity (particular to a situation), which
occurs via conversation with other learners (social negotiation) as well as
reflectively within ones own mind (internal negotiation).
14


Educators who are experienced users of computer conferencing might easily
envision distance-learning experiences being aligned with constructivist views on
learning and being applied to innovations in distance education and CMC
technology. For example, the following are selected researchers findings that
expound this last point:
1. independence of the student is a critical factor in learning (Wedemeyer,
1981),
2. learners need to control and take responsibility for the pace of their own
progress (Keegan, 1986),
3. learning environments must be learner-determined, allowing for self-
directed learning (Moore, 1994),
4. educational environments can facilitate learning by supporting dialogic
exchange of questions, answers, arguments, comments, and feedback (Harasim et
al, 1995),
5.high levels of interaction (e.g., discussion, feedback) make learning
more effective (Perraton, 1988).
In sum, Gunawardena and Zittle (1995) identified five areas needing
research relative to effective distance instruction: (a) learner-centered instruction,
(b) interaction, (c) social presence, (d) cognitive strategies, and (e) collaborative
learning.
15


Given these five areas, it seems possible that interaction might be a foundation for
the others. If the focus of the instructional environment is on interaction, the
approach would most likely be a learner-centered one that facilitates interaction
among groups of people (Bruner, 1966). Environments high in interaction
encourage students to develop cognitive strategies (Henri, 1992) and facilitate
collaborative learning instructional strategies (Kaye, 1992).
Description of Online Environment
The primary vehicle for interaction among participants in the DL cohort was
a server-based, Web-accessible, collaborative software conferencing system,
FirstClass Client, by SoftArc (www.softarc.com). With cross-platform usability,
multi-client login capability, scalability, and ease of administration, the Universitys
version of FirstClass Client, dubbed Colorado Education Online (CEO), was chosen
as the format to facilitate this program. CEO permits synchronous as well as
asynchronous communications, easy file sharing, and Internet access (Muth, 2000,
p. 60). This user-friendly system provided discussion sites known as conferences
where cohort participants could post questions, comments, and responses to be
viewed by all conference members. Sub-conferences of small cluster groups,
formed geographically, were used to facilitate online projects. In addition, this
system offers private electronic mail and live-chat opportunities. Significant blocks
16


of time during the cohorts orientation sessions provided students with instruction
and practice in using CEO as outlined in Appendix A.
Researcher Assumptions
This study was guided by the following assumptions. First, one aspect of
online interaction is the peer-support relationshipparticipants foster collegial
relationship where two or more students provide mutual support. Second, peer-
support relationships can emerge naturally and are not always intentional or
formally structured. Third, peer-support relationships are promising because they
are grounded in principles of adult education; that is, they seek to engage
participants in voluntary, self-directed, collaborative, relevant, and active learning.
Fourth, learning in an online environment can be supported by constructivist
paradigms.
Research Questions
The overarching research question of this study is the following: In what
ways and to what extent were peer-to-peer interaction evident within online
exchanges during the cohort program experience? This research used one-years
worth of data collected from the practitioner/participants online conference
interaction and online correspondence. Guiding sub-questions are these:
1. What is the content of online interaction?
17


2. To what extent does peer support exist?
3. What form do peer support activities take in an online cohort group?
Methodological Approach
I selected a case-study design (Merriam, 1988) for this research because of
its congruence with my objective of conducting an exploration of the nature of
online peer interaction in its natural setting. The case consisted of 17 of the original
22 K-12 educators who participated in UCDs distance-learning
principal/administrator licensing program between June 1999 and July 2000. A
critical review of the literature on qualitative educational research guided the
methodological design of the research. In addition, I did a critical review of the
professional literature on the online learning environments (distance-learning,
computer-mediated communication, constructivism, and virtual learning
communities) and peer relationships (mentoring, collaborative learning, and
professional collegiality). As indicated earlier, adult-learning concepts discussed in
this chapter, and the two bodies of literature reviewed in the next chapter, undergird
to this studys focus.
Online exchanges within the cohorts cluster group sub-conferences of the
17 participants were the primary data. (Two students dropped out the program in
the first week, and three more exited before the end of the second semester.)
Participants generated data used in this study during the conduct of the distance-
18


learning program; therefore, they are not the result of researcher prompts. Data
collection was strictly electronic. First, conferencing software used by the
participants archived all communication exchanged. The sources of online
interaction data were (a) open discussions, (b) cohort participants responses and
interactions relative to instructional activities and questions, and (c) all other online
behaviors. Data collection via computer servers proved to be efficient and
convenient for this investigation.
Data analysis was a recursive process beginning with data exploration
through the reorganization of the analytic categories. Content analysis (Weber,
1994) was used to describe the nature of online discussion, allowing insights to
emerge from the recursive data analysis process (Glaser & Strauss, 1967).
Supported by grounded theory strategies, emerging categories, themes, and patterns
were identified. Throughout data analysis, the data were indexed and coded using
theoretically informed themes and patterns, and the interaction data were organized
and related according to constructivist learning theory. Analysis also was guided by
Jonassen et al.s. (1995) meaning-making model.
NUD*IST Vivo (NVivo), a computer-based, qualitative research program
distributed by Scolari (www.scolari.com) was used to conduct content analysis of
the online data. Words, phrases, or other units of text were classified into content
categories (Weber, 1994) using NVivo. The data were converted into rich text
format and imported into NVivo for classification. Then, visual coding representing
19


ideas, concepts, and patterns (Richards, 1999) were constructed to develop
significant themes and categories.
Analyses of historical and descriptive documents and demographic data
helped to contextualize the participants online peer interaction. The synthesis of
the data from these multiple sources yielded results that are both descriptive and
inferential. The descriptive component seeks to illuminate the readers
understanding of online peer interaction, and the inferential part translates the
findings into recommendations for future applications of this research process.
20


CHAPTER 2
PEER INTERACTION AND ONLINE LEARNING
This chapter presents a selective, critical literature review in support of this
case study. Two areas of literature were selected, one to develop an understanding
of the process under investigation and one to gain insights into the context in which
the study was conducted. The first section addresses interactivity and constructivist
strategies in online learning environments, the context of this study. The second
section compares and contrasts selected peer-learning relationships leading to a
clearer understanding of online peer interaction processes. The complexity of
online peer interaction is viewed as a merger of distance-learning and peer-learning
relationships.
Online Learning Environment
This section of the literature review addresses research in the areas of
educational technology and constructivism. With a focus on adult learning
principles, the literature on the particular educational technology involved in this
study elucidates how constructivist principles integrate with the educational
intentions of that technology. Many of the principles of modem adult learning
integrate well with constructivist theory. These topical areas include computer-
21


mediated communications for distance-learning, constructivism, and virtual learning
communities and build the foundation for analyzing the distance-learning case in
this study.
Distance-Learning: Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) Tools
Barker (1995) points out that the federal and state governments have
increased their support of distance education and continue to do so, indicating an
accepted method for education and distance education has continued to grow
significantly in recent years. Historically, distance education has been a process of
teacher-centered transmission of instruction to learners. Typically, learner-centered
instruction has not been implemented in distance education, as this approach focuses
on the learner as the active agent in learning process. As Thornburg (1991) points
out, one of the reasons for a lack of actively engaged students in learning
environments at a distance is that the tools had not been available until recently to
do much more than deliver a packaged education to learners. The introduction of
advanced computers, computer networks, and telecommunications allowed more
interactive, integrated learning environments.
CMC is recognized as the most prominent of emerging technology-based
instruction with unparalleled potential for interactivity (Collis, 1996). CMC tools
support networked instructional activities and communication over distances, both
asynchronously and synchronously (Barker & Dickson, 1994). Gonzalez (1995)
22


describes the asynchronous facet of CMC for distance education as time and place
independent (p. 42). CMC tools support networked instructional activities and are
both time and distance insensitive (Barker & Dickson, 1994; Dehler & Porras-
Hemandez, 1998). While distance education historically lacked actively engaged
learning environments, computers, computer networks, and telecommunications
have allowed more interactivity for integrated learning environments. With each
advancement in technology-mediated instruction comes a better and higher level of
interaction in CMC-based instruction (Barker, 1995).
CMC as a medium can facilitate collaborative or group learning in a virtual
learning community (Kerr & Hiltz, 1982; Nipper, 1989; Picciano, 2001; Rapaport,
1991; Reddick & King, 1996) and includes electronic mail (e-mail), electronic
bulletin boards, facsimile (fax), voice mail, and computer conferencing. CMC is
prominent in emerging technology-based instruction (Bates, 1995). E-mail has
become the most widely used form in higher education (Holden & Wedman, 1993)
because it supports communication over distances, both synchronously and
asynchronously.
Significant research in the last two decades has focused on CMC and its
application to instruction. In addition to its didactic usefulness (supplying course
content, posting course assignments or other course information, and corresponding
with students), CMC is particularly suited to collaborative learning because it
facilitates information exchange and extended chains of communication. McDonald
23


and Gibson (1998) conclude that structured computer conferencing yields results
that are consistent with those obtained using face-to-face nominal group techniques
to solve problems. According to Bates (1995), CMC also offers more social
learning opportunities such as learning partnerships, debates, and sharing of
experiences and expertise.
Some analyses suggest that participants generally enjoy the experience and
value e-mail complemented discussions (Gibson, 1990; Lowry, Koneman, Osman-
Jouchoux, & Wilson, 1994; Romiszowski & de Haas, 1989; Shedletsky, 1997).
Online experiences often seem to create an intimacy unlike any other educational
settings. Tucker (1995) posits that the chief benefits of computer-mediated
distance-learning are access and equity:
[Designers, instructor, and students in the computer-mediated distance
learning environments report that the virtual classroom is a more level
learning field than the physical classroom.... Dimensions such as physical
appearance, gender, body language, showmanship, shyness, and competition
for limited discussion time are minimized or eliminated in the virtual
classroom. Dimensions such as thoughtfulness, staying on point, precision
of word choice, creativity, and the ability to build upon preceding ideas may
be enhanced, (p. 43)
With such innovation, the interaction between students becomes the focus.
Over the years, with each advancement in technology-mediated instruction, came a
better and higher level of interaction in CMC-based instruction. Thus, the
interactivity component seems to be a core element. How do we facilitate greater
active engagement in the learning process? How does the interaction contribute to
24


an effective learning experience? These are two inquiries of interest that persist
among instructional designers, researchers, educators, and software developers.
Therefore, exploring the nature of the interaction distance education environments
becomes a central issue.
Some researchers (Cookson, 1995; Kirby & Boak, 1987) suggest that the
field need to go beyond common research in this area that has tended to focus on the
following: (a) structural and learner characteristic, (b) learner satisfaction, (c)
outcome, and (d) students perceptions and impression. Plenty of research focuses
on numerous features other than the actual learning processes. If, as Bruner posited
(1966), learning is in the activity, then learning may be contained within the
interaction, placing emphasis on the learning process.
Gibson (1995) summarizes distance education research, stating that research
is needed which focuses on learners and learning (p. 1). She suggests that
research specifically examine learning strategies related to interaction, contextual
impacts of learning processes, and the formation and operation of learning
communities.
It appears from the literature that it has been only in the past couple of
decades that educators have begun to link educational theory to distance-learning,
distance learners, and distance education as a whole. For example, studies of
distance education have examined student engagement in learning processes,
including (a) collaboration and sharing of knowledge (Roberts, 1988), (b) linkage of
25


learners to information and peer support (Harasim, 1990), and (c) student
engagement in general relative to various types of delivery (Bemt & Bugbee, 1993;
Marland, Patching, & Putt, 1992). In most studies, it was concluded that increased
interaction was related to positive results and to improved learning. A second area
of research focuses on students approaches to learning, that is, cognitive strategies
(Harper & Kember, 1986). Again, results have shown that the greater the level of
interactivity between students and students and teachers, the greater the
performance and student satisfaction (Kearsley, 2000; Sorensen & Baylen, 2000).
Constructivism
As learning theories such as constructivism gain adherents in general
education, distance education researchers have discussed the potential usefulness of
the methods and concepts used it classroom contexts. Studies have shown that
constructivist, student-centered environments contribute to student satisfaction and
learning (Candy, 1991; Garrison, 1993; LeBaron & Bragg, 1994). Constructivist
instructional strategies, such as situated learning, are suitable for learning at a
distance (Hummel, 1993), stressing that learning occurs in context of social
activities. Specifically, the cognitive processes of learning are situated in
interactions with other people in such activities as problem solving, brainstorming,
or debate.
26


Many of the principles of modem adult learning integrate well with
constructivist theory. Constructivist theories assert that knowledge is built by the
individual in an active process of interaction within a particular context. This theory
incorporates a wide range of intellectual activities, such as learning, reality-building,
instructional methods, and inquiry approaches in research and evaluation (Duffy &
Cunningham, 1996). In terms of teaching and learning, constructivist paradigms
define instruction as a process of supporting an individuals building of knowledge.
Under the framework of constructivist epistemology, the main goal of
learning is to derive understanding from the activity of learning. According to
Jonassen, Davidson, Collins, Campbell, and Bannan-Haag (1995), one goal of
learning is meaning-making. Because learning involves the construction of
relevant and useful knowledge or meaning-making, it is their belief that
knowledge emerges from the learners interactions with the world through
articulation of and reflection on what is known. The principles by which these
learning environments are created is thought to be built on four general system
attributes: context, construction, collaboration, and conversation. Jonassen et al.
state that learners engage in a highly interrelated, complex process involving
reflection, articulation, internal negotiation, and social negotiations, as described in
their meaning-making model (pg. 12).
Jonassen et al. (1995) have outlined a constructivist model of learning that
attempts to merge technology-mediated instructional systems and distance-learning.
27


This particular model has four basic components: articulation, reflection, internal
negotiation and social negotiation.
Meaning-making, the goal of learning processes (Jonassen et al., 1995, p.
11), requires articulation and reflection on what one knows, while simultaneously
involving both internal negotiation and social negotiation. Constructivist
environments facilitate learning through meaningful interactions that are based on
collaborative activities where learning is set in a meaningftd, real world context
(Lave & Wenger, 1991). Through dynamic, integrated relationships and
collaborative interactions that occur socially, learners actively engage in a dialogical
process, constructing personally relevant knowledge.
Collaboration among learners occurs throughout the learning process (Saltiel
& Sgroi, 1996) in constructivist environments. By articulating covert processes and
strategies, learners are able to build new and modify existing knowledge structures.
Collaboration is one focus of constructivist distance-learning activities (Seaton,
1993), combining computer technologies and communications to support various
learning activities.
Virtual Learning Communities
The essence of current higher education is to emphasize learning and
collaboration, thereby stimulating learning for individuals and groups.
Collaboration becomes a key to effective learning as it provides multiple
28


perspectives about a problem and encourages the social negotiation of ideas and
concepts (Muth et al., 1999, p. 16). Cohort research (Barnett, Bason, Yerkes, &
Norris, 2000) suggests that student cohorts foster reflective abilities (Hill, 1995;
Ohana, 2000) and group learning skills (Leithwood, Jantzi, & Coffin, 1995),
indicating that the cohort structure has positive influence on students interpersonal
relationships as a result of the cohort experience. Individual support and
encouragement result from the intense interpersonal associations that develop
among cohort members, which can positively affect students social relations
(Norton, 1995), isolation reduction and affiliation (Hill, 1995; Kasten, 1992), and
belonging and social bonding (Hill, 1995). Beyond individual support, a collective
sense of accomplishment can help develop a sense of community (Murphy, 1993).
A common claim in the literature (Harasim, 1990; Jonassen et al., 1995;
Lave & Wenger, 1991) is that online environments can enhance interactions,
shifting from the predominate teacher-centered model in which the instructor is the
source of knowledge and moving toward learner-centered models in which peer
support, interaction, and collaboration are emphasized (Harasim, 1990; Lebow,
1993; Seaton, 1993). In such environments, online communication among learners
provides mutual support and leads to the sharing of ideas and information, risk-
taking by individuals and groups, reflection on learning by individuals and groups,
and cooperative learning (Anderson & Lee, 1995). Kaye (1989) states that
29


instructional models that support group work and collaborative interaction largely
determine success.
Within the growing collection of literature on the social phenomena of
online communities, research shows that interactions in virtual spaces share many of
the characteristics of real interaction (Kiesler, Siegel, & McGuire, 1994; Rapaport,
1991; Rheingold, 1993; Short, Williams, & Christie, 1976). Smith (1992) points out
that virtual communities provide familiar gathering places for people.
While interaction within a virtual community is peculiar in many ways, this
does not mean that very familiar kinds of social interaction do not take place
within them. Rather, it is the way that common and familiar forms of
interaction are transplanted into and transformed by virtual spaces that is of a
particular interest, (p. 3)
Most virtual communities do not form without some connection between
participants or a shared purpose.
According to researchers, complex social worlds inhabit cyberspacetheir
basic characteristics cannot be determined solely by features of the communication
medium (Paccagnella, 1997). People discuss, debate, reconcile, reflect, and share a
range of intellectual and emotional responses through correspondence with one
another. Studies of electronic mail users have shown the consistent interpersonal
side of online communication, in which users play games, socialize, and receive
emotional support in addition to problem solving and exchanging information
(McCormick & McCormick, 1992; Rice & Love, 1987). In their study, Beller and
Or (1998) wrote that
30


Teaching and learning styles are being developed: learning based on
prepared electronic materials; ongoing interaction between partners in the
learning process; learning by doing; and collaborative learning. There is a
shift from lecturing and telling (sage on the stage) to facilitating and
guiding (guide on the side).
This guide on the side approach to collaborative learning has raised
questions about the quality and experience of virtual learning. While some have
identified characteristics thought to promote learning, such as ample time for quality
feedback, the computer as a buffer, and enhanced spontaneity (Bresler, 1990), those
skeptical of cyber-learning view it as potentially offering a false or artificial sense of
learningdiminishing individual capacity and leading to fragmentation (Heim,
1993). In contrast to these views, research on virtual communities shows increased
creative flow and collaborative possibilities (Collison, Elbaum, Haavind, & Tinker,
2000; Knox-Quinn, 1993).
Research in the creation and implementation of successful online
environments for learning remains a new and evolving area (Cox, 1999). Many
questions remain unanswered. Minimal literature is available that addresses how
relationships within these communities differ from those in real space. Little data
exists comparing how the dynamics of the groups organization, operation, and
collaboration in virtual communities differ from or are similar to the dynamics of
communities based upon physical co-presence. Electronic mentoring is an example
of collaborative, support relationship modeling made possible by the increased
availability of electronic communications on college campuses (Guernsey, 1997).
31


Peer-Learning Relationships
This section compares and contrasts selected literature on alternative helping
relationships in learning: traditional mentoring, collaborative learning (peer tutoring
with children, peer coaching/mentoring among primary and secondary school
teachers), and professional collegiality (peer-helping relationships among college
faculty).
Mentoring
Like peer partnerships, mentoring holds the unique promise of facilitating
learning through a one-to-one helping relationship (Jacobi, 1991). In contrast,
however, are characterized as dyadic, personalized, and grounded in trust and
mutual respect between the two parties involved; yet, in mentor-protege
relationships, power differentials exist that are typically based on the mentors status
as an elder, an expert, or some sort of superior.
The term mentor has its origin in Homers Odyssey, when Odysseus
entrusted the education of his son, Telemachus, to a wise and learned man named
Mentor (Heller & Sindelar, 1991, p. 7). This literary allusion carries with it images
of the mentor as an experienced, wise, trustworthy mature man who is able to guide
ayoung man through the developmental crises of life, keeping him safe, while also
32


assuring his growth. Implicit in this and other descriptions of mentoring is the
notion that it is primarily for males.
Levinson (1978) highlighted the role of mentors in male development, while
Sheehy (1976) claimed that the role of a mentor in a career womans life is crucial,
despite the likelihood of the mentor becoming too much like a father for her own
developmental good (p. 190). Still, opportunities for women are more limited due
to the shortage of highly placed female role models (Shapiro, Haseltine, & Rowe,
1978). Otto (1994) suggests this is especially true of women in higher education,
and according to Boice (1992), minorities face similar access challenges as well.
Importantly, one clear advantage of the peer-mentoring alternative is the broader
availability of partners for people of both genders and diverse backgrounds (Kram
& Isabella, 1985).
According to Shapiro et al. (1978), the mentor-protege dyad is a special
kind of relationship. It... has a basically parental dynamic structure (p. 56).
Enduring friendships between mentors and proteges are not as likely as they are
between peer partners precisely because the parental dynamic gets in the way. In
contrast, non-hierarchical learning relationships between peers tend to foster
friendship and/or collegiality over extended time periods (Kram & Isabella, 1985).
Peer partners presumably operate on an equal footing, with the potential for
a truly reciprocal learning experience. This is a key benefit in what Shapiro et al.
33


(1978) call the peer pal relationship, a relationship between peers helping each
other to succeed an progress (p. 55). They describe it this way:
The concept of peers as patrons belies the notion that patrons must be more
senior and more powerful than their protegees. While peer pals clearly
cannot be godfathers to each other, the reciprocity implicit in the relationship
can provide a powerful boost toward success for each of the participants.
Through sharing... strategies and providing sounding boards and advice for
one another, peer pals help each other while helping themselves, (pp. 55-56)
Thus, a defining characteristic of the peer partnership is that it empowers learners by
acknowledging them as experts in their own right.
Shapiro et al.s (1978) use of the term, peer pal is referenced often but it
always gets fleeting attention, suggesting that the real action lies in traditional
mentoring processes. This implies a failure to recognize that serving as both learner
and helper may offer both partners an even richer experience. In contrast, Huang
and Lynchs (1995) description of the Taoist tradition of mentoringDao Ying
underscores the value of reciprocity:
With Dao Ying, the mentor goes beyond the common notion of master to
become a special kind of leader, one who can both guide and be guided.
Dao Ying instills an attitude of trust that enables a mentor to say, I trust that
at this point you guide me. In the next moment I trust that you will respect
my guidance of you. ... this [is an] interdependent, unfixed relationship of
mutual respect... [Thus t]he best mentors are students of other mentors, (p.
17)
Similarly, Daloz (1986) views mentoring as an art that depends on nurturing
the relationship. Teaching and mentoring are ideally acts of care that call on the
guide to walk at times ahead of our students, at times beside them, and at times [to]
34


follow their lead (p. 237). While Daloz never discusses the possibility of peers
mentoring peers, his references to equality between both participants resonate
strongly with the peer-learning partnership model. Yet, Saltiel (1998) links
traditional mentoring and peer mentoring by pointing out that mentor relationships
can develop into peer partnerships. She writes, [o]nce the relationship changes to
one based on mutual respect, admiration, and encouragement, the relationship
progresses to that of partners in learning (p. 9).
From these perspectives, then, mutuality and trust are key ingredients in
peer-learning. Further, both giving and receiving functions are valued. Yet in
conventional mentor relationships, the roles are generally rigid and unilateral, with
the mentor giving advice and the protege receiving it (Shapiro et al., 1978). Indeed,
playing only one role in the dyad limits both parties learning.
This was confirmed in Watkins (1980) study of a program to train female
and minority post-doctoral researchers for new opportunities in educational research
at Northwestern University. She found that a self-styled model of bi-directional
community sharing was actually more effective than the conventional mentoring
partnership that had dazzled them initially. From this, Watkins concluded that
lateral collegial partnerships are more likely than traditional mentoring to generate
true learning communities, especially in academic settings, reinforcing the value of
reciprocal growth and development among peers.
35


Both the traditional mentoring and the peer-learning partnership models
employ self-directed learning relationships, as opposed to formal training or
evaluation. Yet, the conventional mentor typically retains a position of power and
authority, despite Dalozs (1986,1999) advice that part of the art of mentoring is to
accept without clinging to the authority we are given; the other part is to let it go
when it no longer serves its purpose (p. 216). Still another aspect of the mentors
role is to reveal him/herself as human so as to speed up the breakdown... of
inappropriate authority (p. 226). This advice seems relevant for peer-learning
partners as well. While peer relationships presumably entail a natural balance of
power, a natural tension also exists between wanting to be supported and wanting to
be the expert or authority figure who provides the supporta human development
paradox that is probably at the heart of most learners hopes and anxieties.
Wuncsh (1994) calls for a systematic approach to mentoring, claiming that a
time commitment on the part of both the mentor and the mentee appears to be a
key ingredient. Pairs who do not meet regularly with specific goals in mind do not
make progress or feel satisfied with the mentoring (p. 30). This view has distinct
implications for the peer-learning partnership, suggesting that formalized helping
relationships may be more effective than informal ones.
36


Collaborative Learning
In facilitating the development of collaborative learning relationships,
collaborative effort among the learners helps them achieve a deeper level of
knowledge generation while moving from independence to interdependence. The
development of collaborative skills requires a means of study and an environment
for study that (a) lets a group of students formulate a shared goal for their learning
process; (b) allows the students to use personal motivating problems, interests, and
experiences as springboards; and (c) takes dialogue as the fundamental way of
inquiry (Collison, Elbaum, Haavind, & Tinker, 2000).
Peer Tutoring
Peer tutoring is another helping relationship like mentoring and usually is
dyadic, occurring among peers. It is the foundation for what is commonly known
today as cooperative learning. According to Topping (1988), general forms of
tutoring date back to ancient Rome, early Judaic practices, and Elizabethan
grammar schools. It was not until the middle of the 18th century, when students
started to be grouped in classes by age, that Andrew Bell instituted the first
systematic use of peer tutoring... the use of children to teach other children (p.
13). In Bells highly structured form of peer-learning, learning goals were
37


predetermined and the roles of tutor and tutee were clearly delineated. Not too
many years later, an educator by the name of Lancaster advanced the use of peer
tutoring, but the method faded eventually and did not resurface until the 1960s
(Topping, 1988).
Among the advantages of peer tutoring are personalized attention for the
tutee, enhanced interaction among students, freedom for teachers from some of their
more routine work. Perhaps the most important advantage is the intrinsic rewards
for the tutor who learns nurturing behavior, gains self-confidence, and improves
her/his own subject knowledge by virtue of experiencing the teaching role.
However, as Wagner (1982) points out, tutors and tutees often are not truly peers.
While the tutors may or may not be the same chronological age as their tutees, they
are often more competent in a given subject; hence, the implication is that peer
tutoring is a remedial activity rather than a developmental one. For some, this
creates an unendurable stigma. In addition, the strict control exercised by the (third
party) teacher in structuring the tutoring exercises seems incompatible with the
principles of adult learning that support learner autonomy and self-direction. As
mentioned already, this approach is generally employed with children, rather than
adults. This is not always the case with its successor strategy, cooperative learning.
Despite these critiques, Wagner writes that
Students learning through helping each other is a very promising alternative
to learning through competing with each other... cooperation as compared
with competition, serves as a means of teaching respect for individual
38


differences, teaches the ability to communicate effectively, helps in the
cognitive development of the individual, develops empathy, and particularly,
eliminates failure and its accompanying feelings, (p. 219)
The emphasis on cooperation rather than competition in peer tutoring is also
central to the peer-learning partnership model. Both approaches also speak to the
empowering aspects of learning by teaching. However, some key differences exist
in peer-learning partnerships, the emphasis is on mutual development, not
remediation, and on personal goal-setting, not evaluation by an external expert,
the teacher.
Peer Coaching/Mentoring
Peer coaching/mentoring approaches are referenced most often in the
literature on teacher preparation for primary and secondary school education. These
approaches generally seek to bring colleagues together in pairs or small groups for
orientation or remediation purposes. Presented here are a few exemplary peer-based
approaches used in pre-service and in-service teacher training.
Joyce and Showers (1982) are often credited with being among the first
researchers to elevate the status of peer coaching. In an interview with Brandt
(1987), Joyce states that skill development is not enough to facilitate learning
transfer. What was needed was companionship; especially companionship with
peers (p. 12). Joyce and Showers 1980 examination of over two hundred studies
of various training methods demonstrated that direct coaching is one of the strongest
39


indicators of learning transfer (Batesky, 1991). In a subsequent study, Showers
found the creation of an atmosphere characterized by experimentation and
collegiality to be another key benefit of peer coaching (p. 16).
Joyce and Showers (1982) suggest that the functions of the coaching team
include providing companionship as an antidote to isolation and thinking through
problems of mutual concern. Other functions include giving technical feedback and
getting the side benefit of receiv[ing] it vicariously while they observe it being
given (p. 7), and providing the personal facilitation necessary to help (team)
members feel good about themselves (p. 7), emphasizing mutuality and non-
judgmental feedback as underlying element of dyadic peer partnerships.
Batesky (1991) elaborates on three particular peer-coaching models. First,
in mirror coaching, one teacher asks another to observe her with regard to a
specified method or behavior. It is then the observers role to mirror back or give
feedback on what he or she observed concerning only the designated method or
behavior. The second model, collaborative teaching, takes the process one step
further to the point where the coach and teacher work together, as colleagues and
partners, to jointly analyze the discuss the results (p. 17). Third is the expert
coaching model, which as the label implies, uses a more experienced teacher as the
observer. Batesky emphasizes four prerequisites for success in developing a
positive attitude toward educational reflection and experimentation... and... a
sense of professional collegiality (p. 19). These prerequisites are (a) trust between
40


partners, (b) a defined lesson goals, (c) confidentiality, and (d) training support.
Perhaps most important is the principle that [p]eer coaching is of, by and for the
teacher (p. 19). In all cases, however, the process is distinguished by the observed
teacher remaining in charge of her learning.
Garmston, another leader in the field of pre- and in-service training for
primary and secondary school teachers, is known for his Cognitive Coaching
process. This method is designed to help teachers expand their latent abilities by
guiding them to
Explore the thinking behind their practices .... In Cognitive Coaching,
questions asked by the coach reveal to the teacher areas ... that may not be
complete or consciously developed. When teachers talk out loud about then-
thinking, their decisions become clearer to them, and their awareness
increases. (Garmston, Linder, & Whitaker, 1993, p. 57)
Cognitive Coaching focuses on critical reflection through dialogue and co-
discovery. Modeled after clinical supervision approaches, this process, like many
peer-based strategies, incorporates a pre-conference to set goals, an observation to
collect data, and a post-conference for assessment in which the teacher, not the
coach, evaluates the lessons success (p. 57).
Another related model is that of the critical friend (Costa & Kallick,
1993). This approach combines many of the ingredients mentioned already. As the
label implies, the critical friend is a trusted person who offers new perspectives on
method or problem by posing provocative queries. Costa and Kallick state that
41


A critical friend takes the time to fully understand the context of the work
presented and the outcomes that the person or group is working toward. The
friend is an advocate for the success of that work. (p. 50)
This model departs from the others in two ways. First, it encourages the use
of critiquea step that goes beyond mirroring and feedback. Second, it specifies
the use of written feedback and suggestions. Coasta and Kalllick (1993) state that
the writing requirement differs from the typical feedback situation because the
learner does not have to respond or make any decisions on the basis of the feedback.
Instead, the learner reflects on the feedback without needing to defend the work to
the critic (p. 51).
Professional Collegialitv
Hamish and Wild (1994) describe their peer mentoring and coaching as a
mutually helpful situation in which both participants have something of value to
contribute and to gain from the other (p. 191). They suggest that the mutual
expertise, equality and empathy frequently absent from traditional mentoring
relationships (p. 192) contribute to the potential of this process. They also believe
that it is more likely to be realized if the peer mentor relationship is formalized and
demonstrates that peer relationships can thrive between partners of various age and
experience combinations.
42


Weimer (1990) also sees considerable potential for colleagues to work
together on professional improvement, but she reports that it is a sorely
underutilized strategy. She writes that collegial
relationships lend themselves to the discussion, analysis and exploration of
teaching and learning. Despite this obvious potential, colleagues at most
colleges and universities today contribute little to one anothers instructional
activities, (p. Ill)
Weimer discourages the practice of having peers evaluate each other because she
believes that role shuts down dialogue about teaching. From her perspective, the
most desirable option is to use colleagues as helpers. Weimer cites five helping
activities in which colleague helpers can participate: observing instruction,
mentoring, reviewing course materials, team teaching and integrating and
interpreting instructional information (p. 119). She also espouses reciprocal
observation to promote mutuality throughout the relationships, indicating that
mentoring ... is much less effective when it ends up being something done by one
person to another (p. 126). In sum, Weimers ideas lend support to the notion of
peers as authentic partners in learning.
The contributions of all the authors cited thus far highlight the promise of
peer collaboration in improving teaching and learning. However, a clear definition
of peer-learning partnerships is still lacking. As Saltiel (1998) notes, [t]here is
magic in a collaborative partnership ... [but djesriptions of this type of relationship
and its characteristics have defied precise portrayal (p. 5). Nevertheless, she does
43


identify the following elements in her work on collaborative learning partnerships:
shared goal or purpose; trust, respect and loyalty; personality traits and qualities that
are complementary; respect for each other; synergy between partners; and a valued
relationship.
Consistent with Saltiels work, the following defining elements of peer-
learning partnerships were identified in this review:
1. Peer partnerships may occur informally or formally and they may
involve dyads or small groups.
2. Peer partners are of equal rank (still some may differ in age, seniority,
and gender.
3. Peer partners participate and choose their partner voluntarily.
4. Mutually enriching relationships are fostered when partners have a
common or closely related learning objective that serves as the basis for their
reciprocal learning.
5. Partners work together to gather context-specific information as a basis
for joint inquiry, reflection, and discourse.
6. Learning partners generally function autonomously.
7. Partners alternate between helper and learner roles in order to achieve
reciprocal learning.
8. The focus is on learning development, not evaluation or remediation.
44


9. Optimally, bi-directional support for reciprocal growth and learning is
grounded in a caring, trusting relationship, characterized by mutual respect and an
appreciation of each partners differences.
The literature on nontraditional forms of helping relationship in learning
suggests that these alternative models have an important role to play in facilitating
adult learning. As noted by Hamish and Wild (1994), a gap occurs in the literature
on the dynamic of peer mentoring, where those in a mentor relationship are
equals, colleagues or peers (p. 191).
Conclusion
Interaction is at the core of effective distance-learning and is recognized as
one of the components needing the most research. The dialogue-based conferencing
platform has the potential to be aligned with constructivist principlesthese
discourse communities might be able to support individual and group learning that
is purposive and personally relevant.
Research suggests that a CMC based environment may facilitate the personal
construction of knowledge (Jonassen et al.,1995) within a community of learners
and thinkers (Brown & Campione, 1990). Thus, distance education technologies
support constructivist learning (Jonassen et al, 1995). This technology may
effectively merge the following into the learning environment: dialogue; group-
45


based instructional strategies; high levels of student-student interactions; and, social
and collegial factor.
The need as outlined in the literature to understand the role of interaction
and the ways that CMC facilitates peer-learning relationships have led to the
formulation of this study. The main purpose of this study is to describe the nature
of online peer interaction within this particular environment and to frame it in terms
of adult learning principles.
46


CHAPTER 3
DESIGN OF STUDY
This study sought to gain an in-depth understanding of the nature of online
peer interaction in a principal/administrator licensure program. This study was
undertaken with a view toward helping educators and researchers better understand
(a) the use of CMC technologies as an instructional tool to support distance-learning
and (b) the nature of online peer interactions in a natural setting.
This exploratory case study used qualitative research methods to describe the
particular phenomenon of online peer interaction among graduate students in a
distance-learning program experience. Appendix B outlines the overall research
design used in this study. The literature review presented in the previous chapter
framed the research objectives, and an additional literature review of qualitative
research method informed the methodological design of this study. The nature of
peer interactions of 17 students were gleaned from a collection of online exchanges
within the cluster groups and descriptive literature about the program available in
the context of this study.
Qualitative research methodology is most appropriate to this study for the
following reasons. First, the study needed to be exploratory to allow insights to
emerge from an ongoing recursive data analysis process. As the structured design
47


was minimal, it was necessary to allow the emerging insights to drive the analysis
process. The data were very dependent on context, and the case needed to be
studied as it naturally occurred with no control or manipulation of variables.
Methodology under the qualitative paradigm typically uses no control or
manipulation. Instead, it uses inductive logic, allowing categories, themes, and
patterns and theories to emerge (Bogdan & Biklen, 1998). This approach provides
rich, context-bound information that can lead to the discovery of ways to explore
and describe the phenomena under investigation. It also facilitates the development
of a complex, holistic picture formed through words that provides detailed
descriptions of natural settings (Bogdan & Biklen, 1998).
Merriam (1988), an advocate of the case-study method, defines it as an
examination of a specific phenomenon such as a program, an event, a person, a
process, an institution, or a social group (p. 9) for the purpose of illuminat[ing] a
general problem (p.13). She points out that interpretation in context (p. 10)
distinguishes the case study from other research designs. Case study knowledge
also differs from knowledge produced by other research in that it includes vivid
material such as quotations and vignettes that resonate with the readers own
experience. This makes the findings more accessible and usable in the field. In
addition, such knowledge is more contextual and more developed by reader
interpretation (p. 15), thereby allowing the reader to participate in making meaning
of the findings.
48


In addition, research expert, Maxwell (1996) claims that cases demand an
exploratory stance where the variables are highly complex, not precisely identified,
and are very dependent on contextual features. Such were the variables (i.e.,
technology, peer-learning, and online interaction) of this study. They also state that
understanding can emerge through a recursive process of data exploration and data
analysis, as intended in this study.
Research Design
This study describes the online peer interaction among graduate students in a
distance-learning experience. The primary goal of the study was to gain an
understanding of the peer-to-peer online interaction by analyzing this
communication process in its natural setting, distance-learning. During June 2000,
research proposal was approved by the Human Subjects Committee (see Appendix
C, p. 105).
The UCD School of Education offered an ideal setting in which to conduct
this qualitative case study. The context of the study was the first distance-learning
licensing model in Colorado, and the timing and accessibility for exploration were
ideal. The purpose of this exploration is to broaden understanding of how students
learn through online peer interaction and how insights gained can be used to
facilitate and strengthen cohort learning. At the closing gathering on July 2000,1
met with the cohort participants to explain my study design and their involvement as
49


outlined in the consent form (see Appendix D, p. 107). I successfully gained
consent from all 17 participants.
Use of grounded theory techniques and procedures (Strauss & Corbin, 1998)
allowed insights to emerge from a recursive data analysis process (Glaser & Strauss,
1967). The primary data were analyzed with content analysis (Weber, 1994) of
online communication within the five cluster groups. Data were collected from
interactions over the entire year of the program. The research was bounded
temporally (one-year long) and physically (only the online interactions of the cluster
groups communication). Initiated by grounded theory strategies, emerging
categories, themes, and patterns were identified. Although some analysis was
conducted by hand, QSR NUD*IST Vivo 1.1 (NVivo) for Microsoft Windows was
used for the major portion of analysis.
The intent was to understand the phenomenon of online interaction among
students in terms of peer interaction and the current principles of adult education,
which parallel constructivist learning theory. Data analysis included a description
of the phenomena as well as pertinent aspects of the contextthe peer-learning
relationship and the technological environment. Also, by using an emergent
qualitative framework (Bogdan & Biklen, 1998), exploration of the interactions and
the relationships among all components (peer-learning, peer interaction, technology)
allowed insights to emerge.
50


Case Study Participants
By the end of the first week of the program, 20 students were registered, and
by the time this case study commenced 3 students had dropped out of the program
for various reasons. The seventeen remaining members of the cohort agreed in July
2000 to participate in this exploratory study.
The participant group included 10 females and 7 males. The group was
diverse in age, a range from 28 to 45 years. The cohort had 16 Caucasians and one
Native American. All but two participants were married. Additionally, almost half
of the participants already held Masters degrees; thus, their primary purpose for
participating was to prepare for the principal/administrator license. Some of the
completers also earned an Educational Specialist degree.
Data Collection and Analysis Strategies
This section concentrates on how the data were collected and analyzed.
Since collection and analysis should be a simultaneous process in qualitative
research (Merriam, 1988, p. 123), a recursive and dynamic strategy was practiced.
Guided by suggestions of Bogdan and Biklens (1998), analysis of available data
began as the data were being collected.
51


The data sources were embedded in an overarching conference identified as
the DL Cohort in the Universitys CEO system, which contained multiple
subconferences, including those for each of the five cluster groups and each of the
five instructional and applied domains. Each of the cluster-groups had an
identifying name created by the group members themselves while each student had
private mailboxes. General comments were made in the cluster-group
subconferences and the individual messages are assumed to be made within their
private mailboxes. For the purposes of this study, the sources of online peer
interaction data were limited to the five cluster-group subconferences, which
include (a) open discussions, (b) cohort participants responses and interactions
relative to instructional activities and questions, and (c) other online interactions.
At the time of data collection, the program had essentially concluded. This
allowed for complete data gathering. To ensure the safe keeping of electronic data,
all data were recorded onto a data CD-Rom so that data sources were kept
unchanged, thus reducing the likelihood of alteration and deletion. Additional data
collection included document analysis to understand the overall programmatic
structure.
Research Questions
The overarching research question of this study is In what ways and to what
extent are peer-to-peer interactions evident within online exchanges during the
52


cohort program experience? This research used one year of data collected from the
practitioner/participants online conference interactions and included their online
correspondence. Guiding sub-questions are these:
1. What is the content of online interaction?
2. To what extent does peer support exist?
3. What form do peer support activities take in an online cohort group?
Exploration of these questions was directed by the following assumptions:
(a) one aspect of online interaction is peer support relationshipparticipants will
foster collegial relationship where two or more students provide mutual support for
each other; (b) peer support relationships can emerge naturally and are not always
formally structured; (c) peer support relationships are promising because they are
grounded in principles of adult educationsthat is, they seek to engage participants
in voluntary, self-directed, collaborative, relevant, and active learning; and, (d)
learning in an online environment can be enhanced by constructivist strategies.
Organization of Data
The analysis of the online interaction data was ongoing as analysis informed
further decisions on data exploration. As the intensive analysis continued, the
online interactions were read and re-read numerous times. The source of this
online interaction data was open discussions within the five cluster group
subconferenes. Using the following organizing procedures (Miles & Huberman,
53


1994), I (a) read raw data; (b) recorded researcher notes and memos; (c) developed
coding scheme, reflecting on the emerging insights; (d) coded the online
interactions; and (e) identified patterns and themes.
Reading raw data. To initiate this exploration, I began open-reading, reading
online content in chronological order of its origination, without any categories or
expectation in mind, to establish a foundational overview of the online interaction.
The data were organized according to the cluster groups of origination. Then, using
the printed data, each message was identified as initiated, response, or close.
In addition, groups of threaded discussions and posted messages were sorted and
labeled as Tl, T2, etc. and Ml, M2, etc., respectively. This labeling was readily
accomplished by reviewing the subject lines of each message. This process was
necessary to uncover the type of messages exchanged in the online environment to
understand better the patterns of dialogue discussed in Chapter 4.
Recorded researcher notes and memos. After the initial open-reading and
labeling message types, I reviewed and recorded the varying contents of each
message noting such factors as volume of exchanges and the quality of interaction.
Messages generated within each cluster group subconferences were kept in tact to
investigate the development and characteristic of each cluster group. Further, Miles
and Huberman (1994) were consulted for a variety of approaches for analysis
strategies. I began to note such ideas as frequency of particular topics, purpose of
54


message, and tone of comments. This process allowed me to generate potential
themes that parallel the conceptual framework and reflect on my initial assumptions.
Developed coding scheme, reflecting on the emerging insights. After re-
reading the raw data, then, sorted messages and my notes, I identified the following
themes served as a starting point of the analytic induction: (a) self-reflection, (b)
articulation, (c) mentoring, (d) sharing knowledge, (e) community building, (f) self-
disclosure, (g) social negotiation, (h) collaboration, (i) knowledge construction, and
(j) inquiry. Three categories (content, peer support, and form) served as an
organizational structure to parallel the three sub-questions.
Coded the online interactions. Using the above mentioned categories and
organizational structure, coding began. Berelson (Weber, 1994, p. 9) identified
describing trends in communication content (p. 9) as one of many purposes of
content analysis. Words, phrases, or other units of text were classified into content
categories (Weber, 1994) using NUD*IST Vivo (NVivo) to conduct the content
analysis of this research. Following the text encoding outlined by Weber (1994),
the selected data were converted into rich text format, readable by NVivo. Each of
these codes were identified under three categories identified as the following:
content: self-disclosure, peer support mentoring, and form: inquiry. In some
instances, every signified message segment was categorized into one or more
organizational category.
55


Identified Patterns and Themes. The data were indexed and coded using
themes and patterns, and the interaction data were organized to describe what was
perceived to be going on within this particular context. Reported description is
supported with transcriptions of original messages only with minor editing to
improve readability. Fictitious names were designated for each of the cohort
members.
Context of Study: The ALPS Program
The context of this study a single cohort-based (Barnett & Muse, 1993),
distance-learning program delivered through electronic communication and
implemented by the Administrative Leadership and Policy Studies (ALPS) division
within the School of Education at the University of Colorado at Denver (UCD).
This particular program was a one-year (June 1999-July 2000), graduate-level
principal/administrator licensing program.
The ALPS division within the School of Education at UCD is one of seven
higher education institutions authorized by the State Board of Education to offer
training for aspiring school principals and administrators (Colorado Department of
Education [CDE], 1997). Following the adoption of professional standards in 1994,
the ALPS faculty progressively revised its leadership education program into a
problem-based (Ford, Martin, Muth, & Steinbrecher, 1997), active-learning (Muth,
1999), portfolio-assessed (Muth, Murphy, Martin, & Sanders, 1996) model. The
56


leadership preparation program transformed from a series of on-campus courses into
unique off-campus cohorts developed through school district partnerships. As a
standards-driven program (Ford, Martin, Murphy, & Muth, 1996; Murphy, Martin,
& Muth, 1994), the goal is to endorse graduates as competent professionals ready to
assume roles as school leaders.
Cohort Model
The faculty selected the closed cohort structure because it delivers
instruction suited to the unique needs of adults (Mahoney, 1990), fosters collegial
learning (Barnett & Muse, 1993), increases student retention and empowers students
(Teitel, 1995). A closed cohort keeps students together as a group throughout the
entire program (Basom, Yerkes, Norris, & Barnett, 1995) and provides ongoing peer
support and professional collegiality (Barnett, Basom, Yerkes, & Norris, 2000).
Because most cohorts are developed in partnership with local school districts,
unique problems of practice emerge as potential projects and learning events
(Martin, Ford, Murphy, & Muth, 1998).
Curriculum
The ALPS licensing program focuses upon all six performance standards
and knowledge bases defined by the Colorado Principal and Administrator
Professional Standards Board (Ford et al., 1996; Murphy et al., 1994; Muth, 2001).
57


The program is a sequence of four learning domains that concentrate on specific
areas of school administration and connect to concurrent field internships. Each
domain usually spans an entire semester. Individual and group activities within the
domains or content umbrellas (Muth, 2000, p. 2) center around four broad topics:
(a) leadership studies, (b) school environment including law and finance, (c)
supervision of curriculum and instruction, and (d) school improvement. The fifth
domain is a 135 clock-hour intensive internship as a practicing administrator.
Content learning is balanced with field experiences so that students gain clinical
skill to recognize and solve problems of professional practice. Domains of study
overlap both to integrate subject matter across domains and to take advantage of
cycles of events in schools relevant to the domains and standards to be met (Muth,
2001).
Course No. Sum Fall Spr Sum MA/Eds Hours Total
5700 2 3 1 6
5710 2 3 1 6
5720 2 3 1 6
5730 2 3 1 6
5930 1 3 3 7
MAorEdS 9 9
Total 9 9 9 4 9 40
Note. Division of Administrative Leadership and Policy Studies at the University
of Colorado at Denver program brochure (n.d.).
Figure 3.1 Distance-Learning Administrator and Principal Licensing Program and
MAorEdS.
58


Information Technology
The adoption of a sophisticated online communication system by the school
of education opened myriad opportunities to integrate online instruction and
learning into the schools licensing programs. The FirstClass Client e-mail and
conferencing system, sold by SoftArc and dubbed Colorado Education Online
(CEO), provides statewide service to the school, area districts, and educational
associations (Muth, 2000). CEO permits synchronous as well as asynchronous
communications, easy file sharing, and Internet access (Muth, 2000, p. 2).
Additionally, this user-friendly system allows discussion sites known as
conferences. Within a cohort conference, participants can post questions,
comments, and responses viewed by all conference members. Sub-conferences
facilitate completion of special online projects. In addition, CEO offers private
electronic mail and live-chat opportunities. All program-related online
communication housed in a conference is archived for three years.
Assessment
Mastery of learning is presented through defense of self-constructed
portfolios (Muth et al., 1996). Artifacts created through cohort activities or products
developed through professional experiences that link to specific benchmarks are
59


presented in the portfolio as evidence of expertise. Students who complete all
licensing program requirements and successfully pass the state-approved
examination are eligible to receive a Colorado Provisional Principal License.
Students in the ALPS licensing programs can earn a Master of Arts (MA) or
Educational Specialist (EdS) degree by completing nine additional credits of
specified coursework beyond the required 31 credits (Muth, 2000).
Program Tenet
The curriculum integrates problem-based learning and action research,
exploration of problems of practice through group projects, online mentoring and
instruction, and personal reflection (Muth, 2001). The cohort provides an evolving,
adaptable learning environment that allows participants to empower themselves
through practical applications of knowledge and integration of personal and
professional experiences in their own learning (Napier & Lowry, 1999).
On-campus Residency
The structure of this DL cohort had a minimal campus residency component
at the beginning of the program for eight days and at the end of the program for two
days. Both of the sessions were held on the UCD campus. The first face-to-face
orientation session was held in June 1999 to foster and maintain a shared cohort
culture and effective cluster groups. At this time, cohort members were directed to
60


form their cluster groups. As a result, five cluster groups were formed based on
geographic locale of the cohort members. Further, while the program is problem
based, teaching faculty felt strongly that a clear foundation for each of the four
domains and the internship was essential and thus scheduled lecture-type
information sessions. In addition, hands-on training in the use of CEO was a central
part of the on-campus sessions. Even though the CEO electronic-communication
system is intuitive, chatting, transferring files, and managing subconferences were
problematic for some; thus, more time for practice was provided. In July 2000,17
of the original 22 students gathered for a two-day closing session to defend their
portfolios and participate in exit interviews.
Validity Issues
Since this studys methods operated within a qualitative framework, where
the researcher is considered the main instrument (Glesne & Peshkin, 1992),
questions about the accuracy and validity of the data analysis and interpretation can
be raised. Thus, the following effort was made to verify insights and categorizing
decisions by triangulating researcher observations, reflections, and conclusions via
(a) regrouping of data and reorganization of the categorization system, (b) methods
of analysis (e.g., content analysis and analytic induction) (Denzin, 1978; Patton,
1990), and (c) sources of meaning making model (Jonassen et al., 1995). Updated
61


literature in the field was also consulted for fresh perspectives (Glesne & Peshkin,
1992).
This study used Guba and Lincolns (1989) criteria forjudging the validity
of qualitative approaches. What follows is a brief adaptation of their criteria that
addresses these strands and how to address validity issues. I checked for Guba and
Lincolns (1989) concept of credibility, which parallels traditional internal
validity through:
1. prolonged engagement and persistent observation (via revisiting and
reorganizing raw data);
2. use of peer consultations from fields of methods, instructional
technology, peer-supported learning, and constructivism;
3. searching for multiple instances of examples within case;
4. searching for negative and discrepant examples within case;
5. use of different approaches to analysis in response to the ideas that may
emerge form different ways of exploring and reorganizing the data.
This study also addressed the traditional concept of external validity,
which Guba and Lincoln (1989) call transferability. That is, I considered whether
the reader of the findings and conclusions would be able to determine whether this
particular situation in this particular context transfers to another particular situation
and context. This was accomplished by (a) rich description, which offers details for
62


comparison (Maxwell, 1996), and (b) a detailed chain of evidence (Guba & Lincoln,
1989).
Limitations
This study contained certain limiting conditions that are inherent in most
qualitative research and some that were a result of this situation. In general,
limitations on generalization exist because nothing was controlled and random
sampling was not used. This case was very context-specific, due to the uniqueness
of the program structure and delivery system. Also, the participants might be
considered representative of only similar students in similar programs (e.g.,
graduate level, K-12 educators living in geographically dispersed areas). This study
attempted to allow things to exist naturally and to control for nothing.
Other restrictive weaknesses include a reliance on the textual data provided
by the students written online interaction. These data were very case specific and
only provided written communication. Though this may be an advantage in many
ways, it did not include other types of data (e.g., perceptions elicited through
interviews, messages from private mailboxes, transcripts of line chats). Last, since
the analysis rested with the analytic choices and thinking of the researcher, the
findings as a result of these processes could be subject to other interpretations.
Nevertheless, I gave careful thought to these limitations, and the methods used and
63


the information gained are valid, useful, and enlightening. The strengths and
significance of the study far outweigh potential weaknesses.
64


CHAPTER 4
EMERGING THEMES, ISSUES, AND POSSIBILITIES
In this chapter, I report the nature of online peer-to-peer interaction among
cohort participants in a principal licensure program. One-years worth of the
participants online dialogue in their cluster group subconference folders was the
source of data for analysis. As mentioned in the previous chapters, students self-
organized into five cluster groups. Members of these small groups were assigned a
subconference within the overall distance-learning (DL) conference in the Colorado
Education Online (CEO) conferencing system. The 17 program participants
generated a total of 683 files of online dialogue that were available for analysis. Of
those files, 590 were generated within the five cluster group subconferences, which
served as the primary source of data for this study. The remaining 93 message files
were from the general cohort-wide conference where administrative information
exchanges occurred. The cluster-groups messages were the primary data source
because they addressed the phenomenon of interest, namely online peer interaction.
This data set was captured in two ways. First, each individual message was
printed and organized according to the chronological order of origination and kept
within the five cluster groups. The purpose of this method was to allow easy access
for open reading and management of all the online interactions. Second, these files
65


hosted by the CEO server were downloaded to my local computer. Using the
summarize related messages function within the conference tool of CEO, I
selected all the files maintained within each cluster groups subconference by
gathering all the messages into rich text format (RTF). Then, these five RTF files
were recorded onto a data CD-ROM to preserve this information in its original state.
Rich text format was selected because it was compatible with NVivo qualitative
application.
The findings of analyses are organized in three sections: content, peer
support relationships, and patterns of dialogue, corresponding to each of the
subquestions. In addition to the subquestions, focused reflective questions were
developed to guide data organization as shown in Table 4.1.
These questions above allowed me to stay open and responsive to new perspectives
and ideas. They also helped to facilitate the huge task of organizing and
categorizing the data.
Content
Guided by the overarching research question and its subquestions, I analyzed the
content of the online peer interactions. Using grounded theory strategies, the initial
categories of data were first constructed by open reading of the data. As I
read these messages, I made rough notes on recurring themes and ideas. First, I
selected one data set and began to manually code to understand the content


Table 4.1
Development Reflective Questions.
Subquestions
Reflective Questions
1. What is the content of Were certain topics and particular words more
online interaction? prevalent/frequent?
(content)
What was the purpose of the comment:
inquiry, advice, puzzlement, sharing,
complaining, directing, problem solving?
Was the interaction social, academic, reflective,
and/or collaborative?
2. To what extent does Did students support each other, offering advice
mentoring exist? and solutions to problems?
(peer support
relationships) Was trust and mutuality evident?
Did a sense of community arise?
3. What form do peer To whom was the response directed?
support activities take
in an online cohort Was it connected to another comment?
group? (patterns of
dialogue) What was the tone of the comments?
Did changes in communication patterns occur?
of the peer interaction. Meanwhile, a fellow researcher and I created a
coding scheme for a conference paper as presented in Table 4.2, which was applied
to this study as well. This coding scheme became my preliminary guide for
exploring the rest of the data.
67


Table 4.2
Coding Key for Message Content
Code Description
a Reference to assignment (clarification, redirection, reminder, wrap-up)
g Greeting and/or closing
c Reference to cohort activities and/or studies
p Reference to personal matter and/or personal message
r Reference to professional responsibilities and/or experiences
s Self disclosure: I agree, I believe, I disagree, I feel, I found, I think
t Reference to technical support and/or trouble
Analysis indicated that 87% of 590 files made some reference to an
assignment. This included the learners need for clarification, criteria, academic
discourse, report of individual progress, and reminders. From this descriptive data,
it was interesting to notice minimal discussion regarding the topical content; instead,
the majority of the interaction dealt with the logistical issues related to completing
the assignment. For example,
Valerie, Hi, Well I am very upset right now. I read your chat with
[Instructor] about the articles, and I guess I didnt understand her syllabus
very well, but I didnt read where the articles had to be research based. I
have already read and written both of them. They are neither one actually
research based, but both of them have other references and they were really
good articles. But, Im glad you asked the questions about the guidelines
that she made note of, I couldnt find it either.
68


As for students comments, they were transcribed with minor editing to improve
readability and pseudonyms are used to honor the privacy of all students.
The next example illustrates the ease of information exchange this online
environment allowed. As many of the assignments were requested to be posted in
the cohort conference, cohort members were able and encouraged to review the
products of other groups submitted for assessment. Often this venue was used as a
guide or affirmation of their own understanding. Here is an example of what cluster
group (CG) 5 noticed from another CGs posting to justify the progress of their own
project.
Hi
I read the [CG 4] improvement plan that they have already turned in, but
they did the whole thing in outline format. Ours may be shorter, but we are
using the whole page by writing it out in text. I think it would be a wash
as far as amount of information.
The number of greetings, suggestions for action, and reference to personal and
profession matters varied greatly among the five cluster groups, expression of self-
disclosure and technical issues were consistent throughout the cluster groups, as
discussed in the following sections.
Topic of Conversation
The first theme that emerged from the data was technology. While
intensive, hands-on training to learn and practice the use of the CEO system was
offered during the cohorts eight-day session during the first summer, the data
69


indicate that students had many technical difficulties. For example, exchanging
attached files of course work became a great nuisance, especially at the beginning of
the program. Here is an example of a threaded discussion on this issue:
[Reply to a message Thread 2]
I could not get your attachment document to open in Word 97. It copied into
a file folder, but will not come up on Word 97?? What kind of computer and
word processor are you using? What did you save it as?
[Thread 3]
Im not sure what is happening. I have an [IBM], with Windows 98 and a
processor called WordPad, it is supposed to be compatible to WordPerfect
6.0. Who knows? Ill wait and see what is going on with Ronald and Karen.
I did save this file under My Documents, lawsacenario.
This example was representative of the general level of technical difficulties
and troubleshooting abilities displayed in the message. While this threaded
discussion ends at this point in the public conference, I suspect that issues of
transferability of data files were addressed and that this type of problem was
resolved in private mailboxes as demonstrated by comments like the following:
I just hope the people who need to read everything can. I sent all my stuff in
a text file, so I hope they can....
As part of their interactive course activities, live chats were also encouraged
and assigned as an integral component of this program. However, numerous
technical difficulties were reported by Karen:
I wish I could read other peoples stuff [attachments] but [someone] is
working on it. Dam Macs anyway!!! I am also having trouble getting on
chat lines, is anyone else?? My computer completely locks up wont do
another thing. When I open the invite button there is nobody on the list of
70


choices and the[n] it is locked. I really dont want to miss our cyber FAC
[Friday Afternoon Club] tonight!!!!
Even a week later, she was still dealing with her technical accessibility.
I cant get anything out of attachments yet because my word processor wont
read them... I tried FAC and my computer FROZE!! I am having some
difficulties to say the least....
However, by the sixth week (mid-August), the majority of the technical problems
subsided.
A more pressing topic of discussion was the upcoming projects. An
overwhelming need for clarification on the academic requirements caused quite a
stir in these online exchanges and persisted throughout the program. Concerns
included need for clarification of due dates, group work versus individual work, and
other specifics of assignments. Here is an example of a part of a threaded
discussion focused on clarifying an assignment between Ronald and Carolyn:
[Ronald]
The first Dumb question!!! The assignment that we are to do .... Is this
the assignment that we do by ourselves or do we do it as a cluster.... Sorry
I am still a little unsure what we are to do together and by ourselves.
[Carolyn]
Thanks for scaring the begeebees out of me. I forgot I was doing the Law
assignment on my own. So when you asked about the scenario assignment
being a group thing, I was very confused. Now I am o.k.
Then the student outlined the upcoming assignments and asked whether it should be
the work of the cluster group or individual.
71


Soon after a threaded discussion like the one above arose, CG 5 designated a
person to outline the upcoming due dates.
Hi everyone,
Just checking to see if all of you are on the same page as I am for
assignments DUE, I did get the syllabus from UCD, but am just a little
nervous today I guess.
5700, #3B Leadership Read Assignment and Materials provided
5700, (pg 5C) Leadership Continue threaded discussion on article with
partner
5700, (pg. 5 A) Read Leadership book for cafe
Anything else? ...
[a member of this cluster group replies]
You have all of the assignments that I have....
I used NVivo to organize the data into themes and patterns. NVivo offered a
means of coding to identify and bring together the data passages that seemed to
belong together (Richards, 1999). Once manual coding during the open reading
phase was finished, the conceptual framework of this study was reviewed and that
generated the next round of categories that responded to the meaning-making model
(Jonassen et al., 1995) as follows: (a) self reflection, (b) community building, (c)
social negation, (d) group reflection, (e) articulation, (f) metacognition, (g)
collaboration, (h) professional social-negotiation, (i) mentoring, (j) inquiry and
exploration, (k) sharing knowledge, and (1) professional reflections.
Another common issue among the participants was professional social-
negotiation. As most of the students juggled a career while seeking preparation for
72


professional advancement, often holiday times and traditional school activities such
as open house, parent conferences, athletics, homecoming, and prom prompted
exchanges about time management:
[Vernon comments]
I dont know about you all, but I missed so much last week, its taken me all
day to get things caught up for last week. [Referring to the required face-to
face-orientation component of the program.] All I have done is read the
handout....
[Valerie shares her plans]
The end of August is looking busy so Im going to try to get a headstart on a
few of those [assignments] this week and next week if time.
[Carolyn replies]
I am like you, I am trying to get ahead.
[Marilyn expresses her concern]
With school starting I am feeling stressed. I have not done anything last
week and a half because of having to work!!!
Here is another example of a threaded discussion as this group shares their
confusion.
[Thread 1]
Is anyone besides me feeling a bit stressed about the new assignments that
werent on the calendar? One a week? I was just beginning to feel like I
was going to be o.k. with what I knew about.
UGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
[Thread 2]
WHAT? Assignments do each week. I have no Idea what you are talking
about. I have just been following the calendar. Help me out with this,
PLEASE!!!!!!
73


[Thread 3]
Yeah, are you talking about the finance ones? There aren't others that aren't
on the calendar are there?
Let us know right away please
[Thread 4]
Yes my dear, there are more assignments that are not on the calendar. Look
in the environment file. :)
In addition to sharing their concerns and strategies regarding their program
obligations, many disclosed other professional development issues such as job
search and job interviews.
[Karen shares her situation]
I had my job interview yesterday and it went very well. They said I would
have to talk with Central Office about negotiating $. I heard that it has been
done. We'll see. Let me know about the Central one too. I am on a time
frame though cuz I have to resign before July 15 or I am docked a month's
pay. YIKES Talk soon.
[She reports her decision with her fellow cluster members]
By the way, I did get the Guidance Director position. It isn't administrative,
but it is a foot in the door, I think. It will count as supervisory years on an
administrative pay scale they tell me, so that is good. Anyway, we'll be
talking soon, I hope.
Purpose of the Message
Frequent requests for help, advice, and information were made. Students
freely asked their colleagues for these things and usually received quick responses.
Often in proximity to these requests for help were responses that contained advice,
empathy, solutions, and encouragement (Rorty, 1991). Such responses contributed
greatly to the overall atmosphere of coll.egiality (Lave & Wenger, 1991).
74


[Thread 3]
Yeah, are you talking about the finance ones? There arent others that arent
on the calendar are there?
Let us know right away please
[Thread 4]
Yes my dear, there are more assignments that are not on the calendar. Look
in the environment file. :)
In addition to sharing their concerns and strategies regarding their program
obligations, many disclosed other professional development issues such as job
search and job interviews.
[Karen shares her situation]
I had my job interview yesterday and it went very well. They said I would
have to talk with Central Office about negotiating $. I heard that it has been
done. Well see. Let me know about the Central one too. I am on a time
frame though cuz I have to resign before July 15 or I am docked a months
pay. YIKES Talk soon.
[She reports her decision with her fellow cluster members]
By the way, I did get the Guidance Director position. It isnt administrative,
but it is a foot in the door, I think. It will count as supervisory years on an
administrative pay scale they tell me, so that is good. Anyway, well be
talking soon, I hope.
Purpose of the Message
Frequent requests for help, advice, and information were made. Students
freely asked their colleagues for these things and usually received quick responses.
Often in proximity to these requests for help were responses that contained advice,
empathy, solutions, and encouragement (Rorty, 1991). Such responses contributed
greatly to the overall atmosphere of collegiality (Lave & Wenger, 1991).
74


Following is an example of a threaded discussion toward to the end of the
program with the subject line of Work Session.
Hello Everyone!
I dont know about all of you, but... I cannot seem to get going. Ive only
been doing what I absolutely have to at this moment in time.
Would any of you be interested in have a two-three hour work session with
beer, pizza and work on our portfolio articles. I would like to compare what
I am doing, and I would also like input on some of my articles. Since we
seem to be in a lull right now, maybe it would be a good time to do this.
Let me know if you think this is a good idea.
HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!!!!!!!!!
[Response 1]
Great idea! Count me in.
[Response 2]
Hi~
That sounds GREAT to me. Not only am I not able to get going but I miss
everyone!!!! Let me know. Actually, I am off Fri. and we dont play B.B
until 5:00 Sat. night. Sunday is OK. The weekend after this one is taken
with Districts, BACK to Steamboat. That will make my 3rd trip this
year!!!!, but... who is complaining. Anyway, just let me know. Iwillbe
looking forward to it. Have a GREAT Valentines Day!!!
[Response 3]
Sounds like a good idea to me. I could use a little motivation too.
I am in as well. Sundays are ok with me at this time in my life. Let me
know which Sunday you all want. Meris place sounds good as well. I
promise NOT to eat any veggie pizza. In fact you all let me know and I will
pick it up. You all LOOOOOVE the Meat Lovers Dont you! I know
Carolyn does. She will eat anything! HE! HE! HA! HA!
Carolyn.
75


[Response 4]
Sunday sounds good to me. Lets go for it.
See everyone there. That is this Sunday, right?
[Closing message by initiator]
OK. Ill see you all at my house Sunday at 3:00. Im counting on you all to
set me straight and clear the muddle from my mind.
Although many discussions dealt with academic issues, personal issues and
crises were shared and supported by their peers. The following example depicts
how one group handled a personal crisis:
[Thread 1]
Guys,
My dad had a heart attack this morning about 10. Still waiting to see if they
will fly him to Albuquerque. I will try to stay up with things. Pretty scary,
used paddles just like on TV. Longest drive back from Perry Creek Ive
ever had even though I was going 90 in the snow. Ill keep in touch.
Thanks.
[Thread 2]
Dennis, forget about the school and be with your dad. Everything else isnt
important right now! Ill be praying for you. [Instructor] was very
understanding when my niece was killed this summer & Im sure she will be
like that with your crisis. Let me know if you need a babysitter or anything.
[Thread 3]
My prayers are with you and you dad. Dont worry about school, family
always come first. Let us know (or Ill call) to se if you need anything.
Patterns of Dialogue
To understand the students online interactions, it became important to
understand how the communication pattern evolved. First, I focused on the quantity
76


number of files exchanged varied quite a bit. The initial number of 20 students was
distributed fairly evenly in each cluster group: one group had three members, three
groups had four members, and the remaining group had five members. While the
number of students in the cluster groups was relatively equal, the quantity of the
online dialogue differed considerably.
Table 4.3
Distribution of Membership within Cluster Groups.
Cluster group (CG) Size of membership (Number of students) Number of files exchanged
CGI 4 35
CG2 4 63
CG 3 5 67
CG4 3 81
CG 5 4 344
To differentiate between non-responsive messages and threaded discussions,
messages were classified by connecting patterns of the response messages and
identifying the last message posted within the discussion. The display format of
messages within CEO allowed me to discern quickly the differences between
threaded discussions and non-responsive messages. Therefore, the first message
posted in each of the subconference was classified either as a non-responsive
77


message (M) to which no written reply was made or as a group of messages within a
threaded discussion (T). All files within a threaded discussion were linked and
coded as one threaded discussion. The messages were coded as either M or T and
numbered in chronological order by date beginning with the first message to appear
in the conference.
Table 4.4
Distribution of Threaded Discussions and Non-responded Messages.
Cluster group (CG) Threaded Discussions Non-responded Messages
CGI 8 2
CG2 10 19
CG 3 14 16
CG4 20 21
CG 5 77 51
No pattern of distribution between the number of threaded discussions and
non-responded postings was identified. While two groups had a greater number of
threaded discussions, another two had more posted messages. One group had an
equal number of each. Based on my reading and analysis of cluster group
interaction, groups with a greater number of threaded discussions seemed to show
better group cohesion. This was evident by the total number of messages exchanged
78


and the topics of discussion. In particular, CG 5 expressed the greatest level of
communication: They shared more personal and professional progress and held
more face-to-face meetings.
Face-to-face meetings were most prevalent within CG 5. In addition to the
two face-to-face gatherings required by the program, students from this group
appeared to have met most frequently of all the groups. They met frequently to
work on projects, as stated by one of the group members. She described the peer
interaction of her cluster group to be very supportive and found it to be the
greatest aspect of her experience. She also felt that friendships had emerged out of
this interaction.
The tone of responses had distinguishable attitude to them, as if spoken.
This was fairly typical across all cluster groups. A personality tended to come
across in the messages, perhaps due to the informality of mail messagingas
opposed to course papers that tended to be more formal, following certain
guidelines and expectations. The online writing clearly had a voice that revealed
emotion and personality. Here is an example that demonstrates the personality of
one cluster group:
[Subject: Congratulations]
Congratulations we have made it through week two. I see I am the last one
to submit my critique. [Dermis], I can tell you were burning the midnight
oil. Did you have [your newborn] in one hand and typing with the other?
79


[Roberta], please take a nice long shower. I am taking my kids to the water
world. Of course, I am taking my lap top computer. Its waterproof you
know.
See Ya,
Uno Dean
The following excerpt is from another cluster group:
[Subject: Weekly Check-up]
Hello everyone! How are things going? Anyone besides [Karen] and I
having a difficult time getting registered for Fall?
This week we have assignment #3 for curriculum and Instr. due and that
should be it.
I am doing o.k. Getting the assignments done but am having difficulty
getting the internship log and portfolio stuff in.
Anyone interested in joining Karen and I for a law presentation Fest? We
could all get together one morning for brunch or an evening for dinner and
do our presentations to spouses, cluster people and friends. ... Let me know
who wants to join. I would like to try and do it around the first of October.
Hope everyone is doing all right. WE ARE GOING TO MAKE
IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
[Response]
Hi All of you
Gee, I havent heard anything from any of you-could it be that school has
started and you are all just as busy as me? This is crazy!!!
Thanks for the checkup, [Carolyn]. I am caught up to this point, but no
longer ahead. That stresses me a little bit, or ALOT.
I am really having trouble understanding the outline for the legal topic
presentation. I dont understand all of her parts. Can anyone else put it in
clearer terms for me? Please!!! ... I am using all kinds of other
information, though and nothing really fits into her outline thing.
I have 5 cases to brief. I think that is alot, but [Carolyn], I really feel for
you. Some of those cases are pretty involved. I am doing one at a time.
80


Maybe that will work. It will be tough to reflect on all the others. Maybe
[Carolyn] and I could work together on those. What do you think,
[Carolyn]?
YES [Responding to WE ARE GOING TO MAKE IT!!! comment.]
Hope school is going well for all of you-
Football starts Friday, MONTROSE,... Anyway, that will take even more
of the spare time I have, away from these classes.
Hope to hear from all of you very soon.
Good bye for now!!
[Another response]
Hi [Carolyn];
The law presentation fest sounds convenient. (If everyone can stand three
hours of law!) ... Lets do it.
Evidence of voice increased over as the students became more comfortable
with the system and with each other. People were not as shy as one might suppose.
People used expressive devices, such as writing in all capitals (often used in online
text for emphasis), and strategically used space, punctuation, emoticons (e.g., a
smiley face turned sideways), and color. Following are five examples:
[Example 1 attempting to replicate echoing of sound]
HELLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO any one out there? Am I the only
one trying to communicate? A lot less stress now, huh?
[Example 2 expressing state of emotion]
Subject: AAACK! Im Back!
[Example 3 setting a tone of casual conversation]
I think I might take the test in May too, that way I can take it again in July, if
I need. Ya know!!!:) ... I have been SOOOOO busy at school that I have
had a struggle with keeping up on assignments; I am doing the reading, but
81


cant find the time to sit and do the work. I hope she understands!!! Is
anyone else THERE with me????
[Example 4 responding to a decision]
CHICKEN !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)
[Example 5 sharing excitement]
Just think, July 23rd and this is all over!!!
YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Clearly, the students were aware of audience when communicating and were also
open about giving and accepting critical comments on the topic of online
communication.
Peer-Learning Relationships
One element that was prevalent in all of the messages was an atmosphere of
collegiality. The students dialogue maintained an openness that enabled them to
complain, ask questions, confer with colleagues, and exchange ideas, advice,
critique, and encouragement. This collegial interaction was more evident in the
messages that contained professional and academic topics. Following is an example
of a threaded discussion to complete an assignment:
[Thread 1]
Hello everyone,
Are we ready for another? Too bad, if youre not. I propose we meet this
Saturday, 9:30 a.m. at Barnes & Noble to talk about and plan for this
assignment. Im afraid we cant wait too long as we only have 3 weeks.
I also propose that we use the school we designed for the School
Improvement assignment last summer. If theres no objection, Ill send it to
[Marilyn] and [Jennifer].
82


I will go ahead and put a short draft together for #2 then everyone can give
me input when we meet.
[Thread 2]
[Valerie], I agree, we need to start meeting. I will be out of town on
Saturday, but will be around the rest of the month.... Just let me know
what you need me to do. We definitely need to meet to get a plan going and
then set up some other times to work on it. This looks rather complicated.
[Thread 3]
Hi,
Can [Jennifer] & I be part of this? I told [Instructor] that we had divorced
our original cluster and were working with you guys. He said that was fine.
(Of course he would.) Anytime is good for me.
[Marilyn]
[Thread 4]
Absolutely, I just count you two in on everything. See you on Saturday.
[Thread 5]
I am in. Just let me know where and when.
Thanks.
[Thread 6]
Sat. works for me. See ya there.
[Thread 7]
Hi again,
I just finished #2. Ill attach and if anyone has time (ha, ha, read and give
me feedback... I reviewed Chap. 15. Then wrote it.
Is it too long? Too polly-anna? Doable? Are your schools using this
process?
[Message that followed]
Duh -1 forgot to attach.
[Thread 8]
What can I do? I will try to do something before Saturday. Vicki, where
did you find the time to write number two up? It looks very good. I am
struggling trying to get all of the reflections on law topics in by Monday.
83



airucfeo o; SuiiduigqB suosjgdsoqods dnojS ouiBooq gjdogj -podopAop ougpBjBureo
9J99UIS B S9UIIJ IB pUB dtlOJ§ 9Aip9J[09 9qi JO JU9ptqS B p9§BJI100U9 dnOJ§
gqi 99U9J9juooqns dnoj§-J9jsnp gqi iq sjguoijpoBjd jo sj9UJB9[ jo Xinmunnoo
gqi o% popgjip sbav XqiBduio dnojS pire gnSBoqoo b o; pgpgjip sbm XqiBduio
J99{J UJ90UO9 JO UI9{q0jd UOllBJlStUJ JO pupt 9UI0S pgssgjdxg pBq uosiod siqi
XqBnsf) -Xjmbui jo ragjqojd stuosj9d guo oj pgpgqp uoyo sbm XqiBdmg
p9SS9jdX9
§UT9q 9J9M SUOIJBJISnjf pUB SUJ99UOO £SUI9iqOjd U9qAV ;U9{BA9jd XpBI99dS9
urej3ojd gqi inoqgnojqi pgjjnooo joiABqgq oipqiBdura jo iiraurep gqiiipp y
iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiHOn.
jnoqB M9iD[ j pqAV qqM -3{-o oq oj SmoS sbm
1oqq J99J oj SmuuiSgq isnf sbm i ,pp9M b ouo ^JBpugpo oq; uo itU9J9M
pip sju9uju§issb M9U gqi ;noqB possgqs qq b 8uip9j gui soptsoq ouoXire si
:p9qsB qraprqs b 9{durex9 joq
[Brqdgouoo 01 qi9ui9§BUBUi-9unj o; poympgi uiojg SuiSubj surajqojd pire uoijBJjsnjj
ssgjdxg 01 jgpjo in Suiiuoa inoqB suoiqqiqui ou 9ABq o; pouraos sqiopnis gqx
XBpjniBS 9J0J9q 9U0XJ9A9 Ol guipno UB 19§ 01 Xjl JJTM
I Mouq gui pq qsnfpB ireo i isoj gqx uoiibuuojui oqi joj sqo ib podopAop
isnf 9ABq 9M pqM gsn ubo j quiqi i 'S-b siJBd sopnpin qoiqM pgjqi jgqumii
op j inoqB moji 'll jo iJBd sjgqumu pire qiBui gqi qqM op oi 8iqqiXire 9ABq
lou i is98Sns XjSuoqs i ("ojoui op qiM i -9§Bd gjqi gqi inoqB Suppf isnf


an individual plight or a group experience and shed some light on it or offer
encouragement. The students were quick to respond to and offer an empathetic ear.
Much discourse was aimed at getting through this particular online learning
experience, as it had its own set of unique troubles and was new to the great
majority of students.
[Karen states]
I read that syllabus and hit a real low. I just wonder if I can do another one.
I know it is the last class, but I am SOOOOO stressed right now. Zac is
doing EVERYTHING, and I have costumes to make, games to go to,
registration is right around the comer here, and I still have kids to see about
that. I havent even thought about the paper, and I havent written anything
for weeks!! I know I am WHINING, but I am really down right now. JUST
TOO MUCH!!! HELP!!!
[Marilyn quickly replies]
Hi [Karen],
Im feeling much the same as you. Here is what I decided to do. I am going
to just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Ill just do what I can do..
... I was getting so freaked out at having to have everything finished by July
that I started spending more time worrying about the work than actually
doing it. Take care of your family and YOURSELF. You have to attend to
the health trinity of nutrition, exercise and rest. If you dont, everything else
starts to fall apart.
Now, when I write you in a big panic next week, remind me of my own
advice, OK.
[Valerie]
Well, Im with you [Karen]. Right now finishing the whole program seems
way overwhelming. [Marilyn] has some good advice. I am also trying to
take 1 or 2 weeks at a time so that I dont go over the deep end. I have tried
to keep up with a log by scheduling time to update every 2 weeks. Then I
just review my planner so I am documenting the things that would be a part
of my internship.....I have still been unable to work on artifacts. Im just
hoping that between Spring and Summer school, well have a bit of time to
85


pour into that portion of the program. I figure Im doing the best I can with
the daily responsibilities of work and family. Hang in there!
Here is another example,
Hello All,
I am totally confused about the assignment for Oct. 2. What in the WORLD
are we to do? I tried to look it up and cannot figure it out for the life of me.
Help me! Help me!
[Responded by Carolyn]
I just noticed that too. Im not sure exactly what she wants. Is this supposed
to be like the case study we did that she assigned. Do we just work with
teacher problems, or what? How long, and do we have to have answers for
everyone?
Just a reminder:
Chapter 2 in the law book was to be read last week
Critical Issues in Public school Finance due this week
I think if we can get through this month. Nov. and Dec. will be a little
lighter. We also have Christmas break to get a head start on the next term
[Responded by Karen]
Hey
Thanks for the encouraging words. Montrose School Dist. hasnt done a
CDE-18 form for 2 years. They cant even find a copy of the last one they
did. It must be kinda obsolete. I dont know. The case study for
[Instructor] is a decision making scenario that we make up so that everyone
can respond and then we respond to their response, you know that routine!!!
Chapter 2 is really tough to read, I have started, but havent finished. Pretty
DRY!!! I dont blow, I think we have some LONGGGGG!! Stuff to write
in Oct. Many nights of typing. I really am dreading my 15 pages of
personal philosophy. Are we still doing law presentations on Oct.9? Let me
know right away!!!
86


Full Text

PAGE 1

I EMERGING COMMUNITY: THE NATURE OF ONLINE PEER INTERACTION IN A DISTANCE-LEARNING EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATOR COHORT PROGRAM by Cynthia C. Choi B. Envd., University of Colorado at Boulder, 1991 M.A., University of Colorado at Denver, 1996 A thesis submitted to the University of Colorado at Denver in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Educational Leadership and Innovation 2001

PAGE 2

2001 by Cynthia C. Choi All rights reserved.

PAGE 3

This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy degree by Cynthia C. Choi has been approved by RodneyMuth Joanna C. Dunlap t. I ">-"'1 '/,' j) ate

PAGE 4

Choi, Cynthia C. (Ph.D., Educational Leadership and Innovation) Emerging Community: The Nature of Online Peer Interaction in a Distance Learning Educational Administrator Cohort Program Thesis directed by Professor Rodney Muth ABSTRACT As alternative educational deliver methods emerge, the integration and use of technology also is transforming learning environments and learning relationships. The most prominent of emerging technology-based instruction is based on computer-mediated communication (CMC). While distance education historically lacked actively engaged learning opportunities, computers, computer networks, and telecommunications have allowed more interactivity for integrated learning environments. Interaction is a widely discussed aspect of distance-learning. Whereas all facets of interaction remain important research issues, this study focuses on the nature of peer-to-peer interaction in a distance-learning principal licensure program. What makes peer interaction intriguing is that peer-learning relationships appear to offer a humanistic response to the ever-changing demands of our high-technology world. Unlike many traditional learning strategies that are IV

PAGE 5

teacher-directed, peer-learning relationships acknowledge the expertise of the learners and expand their role from learner to co-creator of knowledge. With a constructivist-learning paradigm as a framework, a merger of adult learning theories and CMC technologies guided how peer interaction of program participants in this unique distance-learning principal licensure program support their learning processes. This study's findings are based on one-year's worth of participants' online dialogue. Guided by several research questions, the content of this online peer interaction was analyzed, and peer interaction appears to support distance learners effectively. This particular online environment showed great potential to encourage community building, resulting in a community of learners. This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidate's thesis. I recommend its publication. Signed ____________ RodneyMuth v

PAGE 6

DEDICATION This dissertation is humbly dedicated to my beloved parents, Kyung Hi and Jai Kun Choi. Their tireless support, wisdom, and caring have inspired me to reach this milestone and to challenge myself continually. Because of their confidence in my abilities, I have achieved all that I have. I thank them sincerely for begin my most influential teachers. In addition, I hope this accomplishment will inspire my nieces and nephews, Kristal, Jerome, Jeffrey, Jon, and Jessica, to strive for greater achievements that celebrate their individual strengths and potential.

PAGE 7

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT Only with the support, encouragement, and guidance of numerous people, I have been able to complete this dissertation. First, I express my deepest gratitude to Dr. Rodney Muth, chairperson, advisor, and role model, for always knowing the right way to encourage me and to challenge me. His patience, guidance, advice, and critical eye have sustained me throughout this process. I will share all that I have gained from his mentorship with my own students and work to be the dedicated educator that he models. I thank Dr. May Lowry and Dr. Jonnna Dunlap for serving as my committee members and doctoral lab leaders. Their confidence, encouragement, and advocacy have been instrumental in my completing this dissertation. My dear friend, Dr. Patricia Browne-Ferrigno--her generosity, tenacity, and motivation have inspired me throughout our doctoral studies, including the completion of this thesis. Many thanks are due for serving as my outside reader and for her active support. My gratitude is extended to Dr. Marcia Muth for her writing guidance and helping me to understand the culture and style of academic writing. I thank my friends, Peggy Lore, Suze Auldridge, Jeong Hwan Park, and Johnnie Hill-Marsh for helping me cope with the emotional aspects of this process. I also want to thank my sisters, June, Amy, and Christina, and their families, for their ongoing encouragement and prayers. A special thanks goes to Le Moyne College for honoring me with a Pre-Doctoral Teaching Fellowship. This award allowed me to focus on my research at the fmal stages of my dissertation and to begin my teaching career. To my new colleagues at Le Moyne College, many thanks for the warm welcome and generous support extended to me. While I still have more individuals to acknowledge, I trust that they know who they are and just how much I appreciate their contributions to the completion of this dissertation.

PAGE 8

CONTENTS' Figures .......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... xii Tables ....................................................................... ......................................................................................................... ........ ... ................. .......... ................................................... xiii CHAPTER 1. ADULT LEARNING IN AN ONLINE CONTEXT.. ............................................................................ 1 Context of Study. .................................................................................................................................................................................................... 4 Integration of Peer-Support Activities in an Online Context.. .......................................... 6 Peer Interaction and Andragogy .......................................... .............................................................................................. 7 Significance of the Study. ...................................................................................................................................................................... 9 Learning and Online Interaction ............................................................................................................ 11 Description of Online Environment.. ..................................................................... ........................... 16 Researcher Assinnptions .............................................................. ................ ...................... ................................................................ 17 Research Questions ............................................ ........................ ............... ............................................................... 17 Methodological Approach ...................................................................................................................................................... _18 2. PEER INTERACTION AND ONLINE LEARNING ...................................................................................... _21 Online Learning Environment.. .................................................................................................. ........................................... 21 Distance Learning: CMC Tools ..................................................... ..................................................... 22 Vlll

PAGE 9

Constructivism. ............ .............................................................................................. ......................................................... _26 Virtual Learning Communities ........................................................................................................... ..28 Peer-Learning Relationships ............................ ............................ .......... .............. ............. ..................................... ............ 32 Mentoring ................................................................................................................... ............................................... ...32 Collaborative Learning ......................................................................................................................................... ...37 Peer Tutoring ............ ..... .................................................... .. .. .................................. ............... ........................ 37 Peer CoachinglMentoring .............................................................................................................. ..3 9 Professional Collegiality ......................................................................... ............................................................. 42 Conclusion. ............... ..................................................... .................. ............... ............................................ ............................................. ................ _45 3. DESIGN OF STUDy .................................................... ........................................................................................................................................ .-47 Research Design ............................................................................................................................................................. ......................... _49 Case Study Participants ... ....................................................................... .............. ............................. .............. ............. ............... _51 Data Collection and Analysis Strategies ........................ ......................................................................... _51 Research Questions .......... ............ . .................. .......... ........ ........ ....................................................................... .... .52 Organization of Data ........................................................................ ............................................................................ 53 Context of Study: The ALPS Program....................... .................................................................. .56 Cohort ModeL ................. ............................ ......... ... .................. .................................... ................................................. 57 Curriculum .............................................................................................................................................................................. ..57 Infonnation Teclmology ....................................................................................................................................... _.59 Assessment... ............................... ............................. ............................ ... ............ .............................................................................. .59 Program Tenet... ................................................................................ .................................................................... 60 IX

PAGE 10

On-Campus Residency ...................................................................................... ......................................................... 60 Validity Issues ................................................................................................................................................................................. 61 Limitations ............................................................................................................................................................................................ ........... _63 4. EMERGING THEMES, ISSUES, AND POSSIBILITIES ....................................................................... .65 Content.. ................................................................................................ ....................... ............. ....................................................................................... 66 Topic of Conversation ................................................................................................................................................. 69 "Purpose" of the Message ............................................................................................ ...................................... 74 Patterns of Dialogue ....................................................................................................................................... ....................................... 76 Peer-Learning Relationships ........................................................................................................................................... 82 Conclusion .......................................................................................................................................................................................................... 87 5. CONCLUSIONS ................................................................................................................................................................................................................. 89 Discussion of Research Findings .................................................................................................................................. 89 Summary and Recommendations: Peer Support .................................................... ......................... 93 Summary and Recommendations: Online Learning Communities ............................................................................. ........................................................... 96 Summary and Recommendations: Instructional Design Issues......................................... .. ........................................................................................................ 98 APPENDIX A. SUMMER ORIENTATION SCHEDULE. ........................................................................................................................ 101 B. RESEARCH DESIGN OVERVIEW ..................... ........................................................................................................................ 103 C. HUMAN SUBJECTS COMMITTEE APPROV AL ........................................................................................ 105 D. CONSENT FORM ............................................................................................................. ........................................................................................... 107 x

PAGE 11

E. COMP ARlSON OF HELPING RELATIONSHIPS IN LEARNING ............................ ... .1 09 BmLIOGRAPHY.. .................... .................... ........................................................................ ..................................................................................... 111 Xl

PAGE 12

FIGURES Figure 1.1 Transfonnation of Study's Focus ...................................................................................................................................... 3 1.2 Diagram of "Meaning-Making Model" .................................. ......... ............................... : ................... .............. _12 1.3 Expanded "Online Meaning-Making Model" ..... ........................................................................ ................. 13 3.1 Distance-Learning Administrator and Principal Licensing Program and MA or Eds ................................ ......................................................................................... ........ 58 xu

PAGE 13

TABLES Table 4.1 Development of Reflective Questions .......................................... ............................................................................................ 67 4.2 Coding Key for Message ContenL ........................................................................................................................................................ 68 4.3 Distribution of Membership within Cluster Groups ................................................................................................ 77 4.4 Distribution of Threaded Discussions and Non-responded Messages ........................... 38 Xlll

PAGE 14

CHAPTER 1 ADULT LEARNING IN AN ONLINE CONTEXT The use of online environments for education is increasing exponentially. A 1999 study by the U.S. Department of Education (Lewis, Snow, Farris, & Levin, 1999) found that "between fall 1995 and 1997-98, the percentage of higher education institutions offering distance education courses increased by about one third, from 33 percent to 44 percent" (p. vi). This study further reports that another one-fifth of the institutions without distance education components are planning to follow suit in the next three years. An estimated 1,363,670 enrollments in collegelevel, credit-granting distance education courses were reported, with nearly 60% of institutions using asynchronous technologies (Lewis et al.). The integration and use of distance education technology is transfonning learning environments and learning relationships. Attention to the total learning environment is essential to support all aspects of the learning process; in online environments, it is even more imperative. For example, how does computermediated communication (CMC) support learning processes, learner and instructor behaviors, and group interaction among learners at a distance? According to Khan (1997), current research is lacking to support a full understanding of the effects that CMC technologies have on instructional environments in higher educational 1

PAGE 15

settings. "There is little research about the nature of virtual interaction and few models ... for students [and instructors] to follow" (Richardson &Turner, 2001, p. 1). As universities turn more to distance-learning strategies, it becomes ever more critical that faculty and students better understand whether online interactions support academic success in this context. For this exploratory study, I focus on the nature of online peer interaction of a distance-learning principal licensing program at University of Colorado at Denver. As an administrator in higher education setting, my professional and academic interest evolved around issues of student retention and graduation. With increasing number of online learning programs, I recognized a great interest and potential in ways in which peer support maybe transformed to fit in a virtual environment. Paralleling grounded theory strategies, the focus of this study evolved as depicted in Figure 1.1. I began my preliminary exploration of online peer mentoring. While pursuing this topic, I encountered limitations in the available research; therefore, I broadened my topic to include peer-group mentoring. By doing so, I discovered a rich body of literature in cohort-based learning. This literature revealed a great fit between my general research interest and the context of this study. After a critical literature review and continual discussion with my faculty mentor, the focus of this study emerged to examine the nature of online peer interaction among program participants. 2

PAGE 16

ElectroniC.., Peer Mentoring Online Peer Group Mentoring Figure 1.1 Transformation of Study's Focus Online Peer Interaction While all of facets of interaction remain important research issue, this study focuses on the peer-to-peer aspects of interactivity of a distance-learning principal licensure program. Thus, online peer interaction in the context of distance-learning environments that promises to meet the professional growth needs of adult learners became the centerpiece of this study. While the research is grounded in andragogic theories (Knowles, 1984) and conducted in a specific setting, its overarching purpose is to elucidate peer-learning relationships, including the qualities that define helping relationships (Saltiel & Sgroi, 1996) between peer learners. The purpose is to inform the practice of adult education, particularly in technology-supported learning environments. 3

PAGE 17

Context of Study In Spring 2000, University of Colorado at Denver (UCD)'s first principal licensing, distance-learning (DL) cohort was moving into the latter half of its program. By this time, I had shared with faculty members my general research interest in student interactions with their peers, such as development of socialization, mentoring, and supporting relationships in online environments and how these contributed to student learning. Those faculty members who were intimately involved with this DL cohort saw a great fit between my research interest and the setting of this DL cohort. Thus, the principal/administrator licensing preparation program at UCD presented an ideal setting for the study because a variety of adult learning strategies, in particular, peer-learning groups (called cluster groups) were an integral component of this distance-learning program, a one-year (June 1999-July 2000) principal/administrator licensing program. This program was a progressive, face-to-face, standards-driven (Ford, Martin, Murphy, & Muth, 1996; Murphy, Martin, & Muth, 1994), portfolio-assessed (Muth, Murphy, Martin, & Sanders, 1996), and problem-based (Ford, Martin, Muth, & Steinbrecher, 1997) and cohort-based (Barnett & Muse, 1993) graduate-level program. The cohort learning structure was critical to this study. 4

PAGE 18

The term "cohort" has several definitions (Ohana, 2000). In its traditional context, it often denotes an age group. "Cohort" in the context here describes a group that undergoes a program of study together, creates a shared purpose, and engages in other activities intended to bind the group together (Basom, Yerkes, Norris, & Barnett, 1995). The faculty selected the closed cohort structure, one in which all coursework is taken in a prescribed order at the same time. No new members were admitted to the group after its initial formation. The closed cohort model delivers instruction suited to the unique needs of adults (Mahoney, 1990; Weise, 1992), fosters collegial learning (Barnett & Muse, 1993), strengthens individual learning (Johnson & Johnson, 1991, 1997), and empowers students (Teitel, 1995). A closed cohort keeps students together as a group throughout the entire program (Basom, Yerkes, Norris, & Barnett, 1995) and provides ongoing peer support and professional collegiality (Barnett, Basom, Yerkes, & Norris, 2000). Within this closed cohort, peer-learning groups were formed. At the time of the program orientation, cohort members were given the opportunity to self-select into small groups, called cluster groups. Thus, five cluster groups were formed based on geographic locale of the cohort members. The peer interaction within these cluster-group activities is the focus of this study. 5

PAGE 19

Integration of Peer-Supported Activities in an Online Context Interaction is a widely discussed aspect of distance-learning. Drawing upon a study completed in 1973, Moore, a leading pioneer in this area, outlined a model of distance education that describes it as a function of two variables: structure and dialogue. For Moore, dialogue represents interaction, communication, and correspondence, while structure refers to the organization of the course/program (e.g., delivery of instruction via computer conferencing). The dialogue (student student interaction and student-teacher interaction) is contained by the structure So, different technologically mediated structures allow for and lead to different types, amounts, and quality of dialogue. Moore (1989) addresses the teaching-learning process at a distance in terms of interaction. His theory of ''transactional distance" states that the distance in distance education is not just physical, but presents pedagogical and psychological barriers as well. Moore's theory highly stresses interaction and building environments that are learner-centered, friendly, and structured and that allow exchanges of ideas and dialogue. Researchers have (a) categorized online interaction (Henri, 1992), (b) posited the educational benefits of that interaction (Mason, 1994), and (c) compared the interaction of this unique environment to 6

PAGE 20

traditional classrooms (Hiltz, 1994). Despite such research emphases, the issue of online interaction has been an area of much debate in distance education research. It is a widely held view (Harasim et al., 1995; Kearsley, 2000) that a high level of interaction has a positive effect on distance education (Sorensen & Baylen, 2000). Additional research (Beaudoin, 1995; Bonk & King, 1998; Collison, Elbaum, Havvind, &Tinker, 2000) emphasizes interaction as one of the most important elements of instruction in distance education-interactions with people, with instructional strategies and learning events, and with technology. While Moore (Gayol, 1995) made a distip.ction among the interactions as learner-content, learner learner, and, learner-instructor, Hillman, Willis, and Gunawardena (1994) added "learner-interface interaction" to Moore's typology, reflecting the advancements in technological environments. Peer Interaction and Andragogy Unlike many traditional learning strategies that are teacher directed, peer learning relationships acknowledge the expertise of the learners and expand their role from that of learners to co-creators of knowledge. This is consistent with adult learning theories, namely, andragogy (Knowles, 1980, 1984), self-direction (Candy, 1991; Tough, 1979), and social learning (Merriam & Caffarella, 1991, 1999). Andragogic approaches in particular seek to tap adult learners' internal motivation and self-direction, incorporate their prior experience, and foster collaboration as 7

PAGE 21

well as learner autonomy. They also emphasize the importance of dialogue and collaborative inquiry as well as critical reflection (Brookfield, 1986, 1990, 1995; Schon, 1987; Vella, 1994). The participatory nature of these methods seeks to empower adult learners, engage them in problem-solving, and introduce perspectives that challenge their unexamined modes of thinking (Brookfield, 1986, 1990, 1995). Brookfield (1986) identified four specific benefits of peer-learning relationships for adult learners: self-directed learners rely heavily on peer-learning groups for (a) support, (b) information exchange, (c) stimulus through new ideas, and (d) relevant resources (p. 83). Additionally, he notes that peer-learning arrangements foster personal ownership and joint accountability for learning activities that are "explicitly grounded in [a learner's] own concerns and circumstances" (p. 84). Each peer partner can give and receive personalized attention so that learning is both customized and relevant. Further, this process fosters mutuality as both peers engage in the dual roles of helper and learner. As Saltiel (1998) puts it, "Learning partners meet the challenge of staying with the material in order to maintain the relationship as well as make progress" (p. 19). A merger of adult learning theories (Brookfield, 1986; Knowles, 1980, 1984) and CMC technologies (Barker, 1995; Bates, 1995; Kaye, 1989) guided how peer interactions of program participants in this unique distance-learning principal/administrator licensing cohort for K-12 educators supported students' 8

PAGE 22

learning process and peer-learning relationship. The constructivist learning paradigm (Duffy & Cunningham, 1996; Jonassen et al., 1995; Jonassen, Peck, & Wilson, 1999) served as a framework of this study. Significance of the Study What makes peer-learning relationships intriguing is that they appear to offer a humanistic response to the ever-changing learning demands of our high technology world. They combine simplicity, personalized support, and practical, experiential learning. Peer-learning relationships involve a basic, reciprocal helping relationship between two or more people at the same level who join together, either formally or informally, to accomplish a common or closely related learning project. Since peer learning often occurs informally, however, it tends to go unrecognized and thus the process involved is not well detailed. While more attention is being directed to peer-learning, the available literature on it is sparse. As information technology "has finally emerged as a permanent, respected, and increasingly essential component of the college experience" (Green, 1996, p. 24), increased knowledge about the nature of online peer interaction among the members of a networked community will result in "a better understanding of the overall community of users and their shared activity" (p. 97). This unique and evolving educational environment demands changes in pedagogy as well as learner and instructor behavior (Harasim, Hiltz, Teles, & Turoff, 1995). Research in 9

PAGE 23

distance education has focused on several areas, induding the design of courses to maximize the potential of CMC, teaching considerations, institutional issues (computer access, policy, and cost), curriculum creation and interactive methodologies, and issues of implementation (phillips & Snetsinger, 1995). However, qualitative or quantitative evaluation research on online interaction within virtual learning communities using asynchronous conferencing is still scarce (Cox, 1999; Richardson & Turner, 2001). In particular, exploration of peer interaction in its natural context is even more limited. Moore (1989) suggests that peer interaction (social, academic, reflective, and collaborative) and student-teacher interaction are very influential in the creation of a successful online educational environment. Online communication, e-mail, computer conferencing, and other CMC technologies can offer an efficient and motivating method for engaging people (Waggoner, 1992). As fadlitation of student interaction increases, the distance education paradigm is moving toward networking, which provides a "many-to-many" communication setup (Harasim, 1990; Picciano, 2001). In particular, online peer interaction in a distance-learning program can have significant effects on learning outcomes (Romiszowski, 1997). Peer interaction (e.g., social, academic, reflective, and collaborative) can facilitate more active engagement in the learning process and contribute to effective learning experiences. In using emerging network-based computer technology as a resource and as the 10

PAGE 24

platfonn for building a community of learners, students are encouraged to explore their own interests and to become active in their own learning in cooperative and collaborative ways (Romiszowski & Mason, 1996). Students have the opportunities to solve authentic problems within a community of learners (Lave & Wenger, 1991), a basic construct of effective adult learning. Learning and Online Interaction Learning strategies based on a constructivist perspective take a learner centered approach, in which meaning and knowledge are constructed by the learner through a process of relating new infonnation to prior knowledge and experience. Learning is viewed by many as an active, purposeful, and meaning-generating process that occurs within the learner (Shuell, 1986). Under the framework of constructivist epistemology, the main goal of learning is to derive understanding from the activity of learning. According to Jonassen, Davidson, Collins, Campbell, and Bannan-Haag (1995), one goal ofleaming is "meaning-making." Because learning involves the construction of relevant and useful knowledge, it is their belief that knowledge emerges from the learner's interactions with the world through articulation of and reflection on what is known, and meaning results. The principles by which these learning environments are created is thought to be built on four general system attributes: (a) context, (b) construction, (c) collaboration, and (d) conversation. Further, learners negotiate within their minds reflectively, 11

PAGE 25

metacognitively, and socially with others within the context of a community of learners. Jonassen et al. (1995) state that learners engage in a highly interrelated, complex process involving reflection, articulation, internal negotiation, and social negotiations, as described in their "meaning-making model." Meaning-making, the goal ofleaming processes (Jonassen et al., p. 11), requires articulation and reflection on what one knows, simultaneously involving both internal negotiation and social negotiation. Articulation Internal Negotiation Social Negotiation Reflection Fig. 1.2 Diagram of "Meaning-Making Model" (Jonassen et al., 1995) Moreover, constructivist environments facilitate learning through meaningful interactions that are based on collaborative activities where learning is set in a meaningful, "real world" context (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Through dynamic, integrated relationships and collaborative interactions that occur socially, learners are actively engaged in a dialogical process, constructing personally relevant knowledge. 12

PAGE 26

While the above model represents the essence of the "meaning-making" process, an expanded model, depicting more completely the highly interactive and complex interaction of online environments, seems necessary. Internal Negotiation Articulation Reflection Figure 1.3 Expanded "Online Meaning-Making Model" Social Negotiation This expanded model above represents the fluid, interrelated functions involved in the construction of knowledge. Specifically, in addition to the two sets of interactivity (articulation and reflection overlapped with internal negotiation and social negotiation), the components also interact with each other. This is consistent with the premise that an educational learning experience is both reflective and collaborative. As each pair of the components interact, different phases of learning 13

PAGE 27

occur. Meaning making involves negotiation of concepts and thoughts not only internally but also with others. Collaboration among learners occurs throughout the learning process (Saltiel & Sgroi, 1996). By articulating covert processes and strategies, learners are able to build new and modify existing knowledge structures. Larson and Jacobs (2001) point out that an understanding of community building is a negotiated process. Collaborative learning through peer interaction has been identified as a critical variable in learning (Bates, 1995; Harasim, 1990). Adult learners (a) use reflection and metacognition to think about their learning processes and knowledge, (b) articulate ideas and their reflective and ( c) metacognitive thinking, and negotiate within themselves and with others socially toward the goal of knowledge construction and understanding. These activities occur via dialogue with other learners (social negotiation), as well as reflectively within one's own mind (internal negotiation). Social interaction in distance education can also have significant effects on learning outcomes (Romiszowski, 1997). Thus, interactivity can be defmed both in social terms and in terms of student interaction with the content of instruction. Online content is a representation of interactivity (particular to a situation), which occurs via conversation with other learners (social negotiation) as well as reflectively within one's own mind (internal negotiation). 14

PAGE 28

Educators who are experienced users of computer conferencing might easily envision distance-learning experiences being aligned with constructivist views on learning and being applied to innovations in distance education and CMC technology. For example, the following are selected researchers' fmdings that expound this last point: 1. independence of the student is a critical factor in learning (Wedemeyer, 1981), 2. learners need to control and take responsibility for the pace of their own progress (Keegan, 1986), 3. learning environments must be "learner-determined," allowing for self directed learning (Moore, 1994), 4. educational environments can facilitate learning by supporting dialogic exchange of questions, answers, arguments, comments, and feedback (Harasim et al., 1995), 5.high levels of interaction (e.g., discussion, feedback) make learning more effective (perraton, 1988). In sum, Gunawardena and Zittle (1995) identified five areas needing research relative to effective distance instruction: (a) learner-centered instruction, (b) interaction, (c) social presence, (d) cognitive strategies, and (e) collaborative learning. 15

PAGE 29

Given these five areas, it seems possible that interaction might be a foundation for the others. If the focus of the instructional environment is on interaction, the approach would most likely be a leamer-centered one that facilitates interaction among groups of people (Bruner, 1966). Environments high in interaction encourage students to develop cognitive strategies (Henri, 1992) and facilitate collaborative learning instructional strategies (Kaye, 1992). Description of Online Environment The primary vehicle for interaction among participants in the DL cohort was a server-based, Web-accessible, collaborative software conferencing system, FirstClass Client, by SoftArc (www.softarc.com). With cross-platfonn usability, multi-client login capability, scalability, and ease of administration, the University'S version of FirstClass Client, dubbed Colorado Education Online (CEO), was chosen as the fonnat to facilitate this program. CEO "permits synchronous as well as asynchronous communications, easy file sharing, and Internet access" (Muth, 2000, p.60). This user-friendly system provided discussion sites known as conferences where cohort participants could post questions, comments, and responses to be viewed by all conference members. Sub-conferences of small "cluster" groups, fonned geographically, were used to facilitate online projects. In addition, this system offers private electronic mail and live-chat opportunities. Significant blocks 16

PAGE 30

of time during the cohort's orientation sessions provided students with instruction and practice in using CEO as outlined in Appendix A. Researcher Assumptions This study was guided by the following assumptions. First, one aspect of online interaction is the peer-support relationship-participants foster collegial relationship where two or more students provide mutual support. Second, peer support relationships can emerge naturally and are not always intentional or formally structured. Third, peer-support relationships are promising because they are grounded in principles of adult education; that is, they seek to engage participants in voluntary, self-directed, collaborative, relevant, and active learning. Fourth, learning in an online environment can be supported by constructivist paradigms. Research Questions The overarching research question of this study is the following: "In what ways and to what extent were peer-to-peer interaction evident within online exchanges during the cohort program experience?" This research used one-year's worth of data collected from the practitioner/participant's online conference interaction and online correspondence. Guiding sub-questions are these: 1. What is the content of online interaction? 17

PAGE 31

2. To what extent does peer support exist? 3. What form do peer support activities take in an online cohort group? Methodological Approach I selected a case-study design (Merriam, 1988) for this research because of its congruence with my objective of conducting an exploration of the nature of online peer interaction in its natural setting. The case consisted of 17 of the original 22 K-12 educators who participated in UeD's distance-learning principal/administrator licensing program between June 1999 and July 2000. A critical review of the literature on qualitative educational research guided the methodological design of the research. In addition, I did a critical review ofthe professional literature on the online learning environments (distance-learning, computer-mediated communication, constructivism, and virtual learning communities) and peer relationships (mentoring, collaborative learning, and professional collegiality). As indicated earlier, adult-learning concepts discussed in this chapter, and the two bodies of literature reviewed in the next chapter, undergird to this study's focus. Online exchanges within the cohort's cluster group sub-conferences of the 17 participants were the primary data. (Two students dropped out the program in the first week, and three more exited before the end of the second semester.) Participants generated data used in this study during the conduct of the distance-18

PAGE 32

learning program; therefore, they are not the result of researcher prompts. Data collection was strictly electronic. First, conferencing software used by the participants archived all communication exchanged. The sources of online interaction data were (a) open discussions, (b) cohort participants' responses and interactions relative to instructional activities and questions, and ( c) all other online behaviors. Data collection via computer servers proved to be efficient and convenient for this investigation. Data analysis was a recursive process beginning with data exploration through the reorganization of the analytic categories. Content analysis (Weber, 1994) was used to describe the nature of online discussion, allowing insights to emerge from the recursive data analysis process (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). Supported by grounded theory strategies, emerging categories, themes, and patterns were identified. Throughout data analysis, the data were indexed and coded using theoretically informed themes and patterns, and the interaction data were organized and related according to constructivist learning theory. Analysis also was guided by Jonassen et al.'s. (1995) "meaning-making model." NUD*IST Vivo (NVivo), a computer-based, qualitative research program distributed by Scolari (www.scolari.com) was used to conduct content analysis of the online data. "Words, phrases, or other units of text were classified into content categories" (Weber, 1994) using NVivo. The data were converted into rich text format and imported into NVivo for classification. Then, visual coding representing 19

PAGE 33

ideas, concepts, and patterns (Richards, 1999) were constructed to develop significant themes and categories. Analyses of historical and descriptive documents and demographic data helped to contextualize the participants' online peer interaction. The synthesis of the data from these multiple sources yielded results that are both descriptive and inferential. The descriptive component seeks to illuminate the readers' understanding of online peer interaction, and the inferential part translates the findings into recommendations for future applications of this research process. 20

PAGE 34

CHAPTER 2 PEER INTERACTION AND ONLINE LEARNING This chapter presents a selective, critical literature review in support of this case study. Two areas of literature were selected, one to develop an understanding of the process under investigation and one to gain insights into the context in which the study was conducted. The fIrst section addresses interactivity and constructivist strategies in online learning erivironments, the context of this study. The second section compares and contrasts selected peer-learning relationships leading to a clearer understanding of online peer interaction processes. The complexity of online peer interaction is viewed as a merger of distance-learning and peer-learning relationships. Online Learning Environment This section of the literature review addresses research in the areas of educational technology and constructivism. With a focus on adult learning principles, the literature on the particular educational technology involved in this study elucidates how constructivist principles integrate with the educational intentions of that technology. Many of the principles of modem adult learning integrate well with constructivist theory. These topical areas include computer-21

PAGE 35

mediated communications for distance-learning, constructivism, and virtual learning communities and build the foundation for analyzing the distance-learning case in this study. Distance-Learning: Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) Tools Barker (1995) points out that the federal and state governments have increased their support of distance education and continue to do so, indicating an accepted method for education and distance education has continued to grow significantly in recent years. Historically, distance education has been a process of teacher-centered transmission of instruction to learners. Typically, learner-centered instruction has not been implemented in distance education, as this approach focuses on the learner as the active agent in learning process. As Thornburg (1991) points out, one of the reasons for a lack of actively engaged students in learning environments at a distance is that the tools had not been available until recently to do much more than deliver a packaged education to learners. The introduction of advanced computers, computer networks, and telecommunications allowed more interactive, integrated learning environments. CMC is recognized as the most prominent of emerging technology-based instruction with unparalleled potential for interactivity (Collis, 1996). CMC tools support networked instructional activities and communication over distances, both asynchronously and synchronously (Barker & Dickson, 1994). Gonzalez (1995) 22

PAGE 36

describes the asynchronous facet of CMC for distance education as "time and place" independent (p. 42). CMC tools support networked instructional activities and are both time and distance insensitive (Barker & Dickson, 1994; Dehler & Porras Hernandez, 1998). While distance education historically lacked actively engaged learning environments, computers, computer networks, and telecommunications have allowed more interactivity for integrated learning environments. With each advancement in technology-mediated instruction comes a better and higher level of interaction in CMC-based instruction (Barker, 1995). CMC as a medium can facilitate collaborative or group learning in a virtual learning community (Kerr & Hiltz, 1982; Nipper, 1989; Picciano, 2001; Rapaport, 1991; Reddick & King, 1996) and includes electronic mail (e-mail), electronic bulletin boards, facsimile (fax), voice mail, and computer conferencing. CMC is prominent in emerging technology-based instruction (Bates, 1995). E-mail has become the most widely used form in higher education (Holden & Wedman, 1993) because it supports communication over distances, both synchronously and asynchronously. Significant research in the last two decades has focused on CMC and its application to instruction. In addition to its didactic usefulness (supplying course content, posting course assignments or other course information, and corresponding with students), CMC is particularly suited to collaborative learning because it facilitates information exchange and extended chains of communication. McDonald 23

PAGE 37

and Gibson (1998) conclude that structured computer conferencing yields results that are consistent with those obtained using face-to-face nominal group techniques to solve problems. According to Bates (1995), CMC also offers more social learning opportunities such as learning partnerships, debates, and sharing of experiences and expertise. Some analyses suggest that participants generally enjoy the experience and value e-mail complemented discussions (Gibson, 1990; Lowry, Koneman, OsmanJouchoux, & Wilson, 1994; Romiszowski & de Haas, 1989; Shedletsky, 1997). Online experiences often seem to create an intimacy unlike any other educational settings. Tucker (1995) posits that the chief benefits of computer-mediated distance-learning are access and equity: [D]esigners, instructor, and students in the computer-mediated distance learning environments report that the virtual classroom is a more level learning field than the physical classroom. Dimensions such as physical appearance, gender, body language, showmanship, shyness,and competition for limited discussion time are minimized or eliminated in the virtual classroom. Dimensions such as thoughtfulness, staying on point, precision of word choice, creativity, and the ability to build upon preceding ideas may be enhanced. (p. 43) With such innovation, the interaction between students becomes the focus. Over the years, with each advancement in technology-mediated instruction, came a better and higher level of interaction in CMC-based instruction. Thus, the interactivity component seems to be a core element. How do we facilitate greater active engagement in the learning process? How does the interaction contribute to 24

PAGE 38

an effective learning experience? These are two inquiries of interest that persist among instructional designers, researchers, educators, and software developers. Therefore, exploring the nature of the interaction distance education environments becomes a central issue. Some researchers (Cookson, 1995; Kirby & Boak:, 1987) suggest that the field need to go beyond common research in this area that has tended to focus on the following: (a) structural and learner characteristic, (b) learner satisfaction, (c) outcome, and (d) students' perceptions and impression. Plenty of research focuses on numerous features other than the actual learning processes. If, as Bruner posited (1966), learning is in the activity, then learning may be contained within the interaction, placing emphasis on the learning process. Gibson (1995) summarizes distance education research, stating that research is needed which "focuses on learners and learning" (p 1). She suggests that research specifically examine learning strategies related to interaction, contextual impacts of learning processes, and the formation and operation of learning communities. It appears from the literature that it has been only in the past couple of decades that educators have begun to link educational theory to distance-learning, distance learners, and distance education as a whole. For example, studies of distance education have examined student engagement in learning processes, including (a) collaboration and sharing of knowledge (Roberts, 1988), (b) linkage of 25

PAGE 39

learners to information and peer support (Harasim, 1990), and (c) student engagement in general relative to various types of delivery (Bernt & Bugbee, 1993; Marland, Patching, & Putt, 1992). In most studies, it was concluded that increased interaction was related to positive results and to improved learning. A second area of research focuses on students' approaches to learning, that is, cognitive strategies (Harper & Kember, 1986). Again, results have shown that the greater the level of interactivity between students and students and teachers, the greater the performance and student satisfaction (Kearsley, 2000; Sorensen & Baylen, 2000). Constructivism As learning theories such as constructivism gam adherents in general education, distance education researchers have discussed the potential usefulness of the methods and concepts used it classroom contexts. Studies have shown that constructivist, student-centered environments contribute to student satisfaction and learning (Candy, 1991; Garrison, 1993; LeBaron & Bragg, 1994). COIistructivist instructional strategies, such as situated learning, are suitable for learning at a distance (Hummel, 1993), stressing that learning occurs in context of social activities. Specifically, the cognitive processes of learning are situated in interactions with other people in such activities as problem solving, brainstorming, or debate. 26

PAGE 40

Many of the principles of modern adult learning integrate well with constructivist theory. Constructivist theories assert that knowledge is built by the individual in an active process of interaction within a particular context. This theory incorporates a wide range of intellectual activities, such as learning, reality-building, instructional methods, and inquiry approaches in research and evaluation (Duffy & Cunningham, 1996). In terms of teaching and learning, constructivist paradigms defme instruction as a process of supporting an individual's building of knowledge. Under the framework of constructivist epistemology, the main goal of learning is to derive understanding from the activity of learning. According to Jonassen, Davidson, Collins, Campbell, and Bannan-Haag (1995), one goal of learning is "meaning-making." Because learning involves the construction of relevant and useful knowledge or "meaning-making," it is their belief that knowledge emerges from the learner's interactions with the world through articulation of and reflection on what is known. The principles by which these learning environments are created is thought to be built on four general system attributes: context, construction,collaboration, and conversation. Jonassen et al. state that learners engage in a highly interrelated, complex process involving reflection, articulation, internal negotiation, and social negotiations, as described in their "meaning-making model" (pg. 12). Jonassen et al. (1995) have outlined a constructivist model oflearning that attempts to merge technology-mediated instructional systems and distance-learning. 27

PAGE 41

This particular model has four basic components: articulation, reflection, internal negotiation and social negotiation. Meaning-making, "the goal of learning processes" (Jonassen et al., 1995, p. 11), requires articulation and reflection on what one knows, while simultaneously involving both internal negotiation and social negotiation. Constructivist environments facilitate learning through meaningful interactions that are based on collaborative activities where learning is set in a meaningful, "real world" context (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Through dynamic, integrated relationships and collaborative interactions that occur socially, learners actively engage in a dialogical process, construCting personally relevant knowledge. Collaboration among learners occurs throughout the learning process (Saltiel & Sgroi, 1996) in constructivist environments. By articulating covert processes and strategies, learners are able to build new and modifY existing knowledge structures. Collaboration is one focus of constructivist distance-learning activities (Seaton, 1993), combining computer technologies and communications to support various learning activities. Virtual Learning Communities The essence of current higher education is to emphasize learning and collaboration, thereby stimulating learning for individuals and groups. "Collaboration becomes a key to effective learning as it provides multiple 28

PAGE 42

perspectives about a problem and encourages the social negotiation of ideas and concepts" (Muth et al., 1999, p. 16). Cohort research (Barnett, Bason, Yerkes, & Norris, 2000) suggests that student cohorts foster reflective abilities (Hill, 1995; Ohana, 2000) and group learning skills (Leithwood, Jantzi, & Coffin, 1995), indicating that the cohort structure has positive influence on students' interpersonal relationships as a result of the cohort experience. Individual support and encouragement result from the intense interpersonal associations that develop among cohort members, which can positively affect students' social relations (Norton, 1995), isolation reduction and affiliation (Hill, 1995; Kasten, 1992), and belonging and social bonding (Hill, 1995). Beyond individual support, a collective sense of accomplishment can help develop a sense of community (Murphy, 1993). A common claim in the literature (Harasim, 1990; Jonassen et al., 1995; Lave & Wenger, 1991) is that online environments can enhance interactions, shifting from the predominate teacher-centered model in which the instructor is the source of knowledge and moving toward learner-centered models in which peer support, interaction, and collaboration are emphasized (Harasim, 1990; Lebow, 1993; Seaton, 1993). In such environments, online communication among learners provides mutual support and leads to the sharing of ideas and information, risk taking by individuals and groups, reflection on learning by individuals and groups, and cooperative learning (Anderson & Lee, 1995). Kaye (1989) states that 29

PAGE 43

instructional models that support group work and collaborative interaction largely determine success. Within the growing collection of literature on the social phenomena of online communities, research shows that interactions in virtual spaces share many of the characteristics of real interaction (Kiesler, Siegel, & McGuire, 1994; Rapaport, 1991; Rheingold, 1993; Short, Williams, & Christie, 1976). Smith (1992) points out that virtual communities provide familiar gathering places for people. While interaction within a virtual community is peculiar in many ways, this does not mean that very familiar kinds of social interaction do not take place within them. Rather, it is the way that common and familiar forms of interaction are transplanted into and transformed by virtual spaces that is of a particular interest. (p.3) Most virtual communities do not form without some connection between participants or a shared purpose According to researchers, complex social worlds inhabit cyberspace-their basic characteristics cannot be determined solely by features of the communication medium (Paccagnella, 1997). People discuss, debate, reconcile, reflect, and share a range of intellectual and emotional responses through correspondence with one another. Studies of electronic mail users have shown the consistent interpersonal side of online communication, in which users play games, socialize, and receive emotional support in addition to problem solving and exchanging information (McCormick & McCormick, 1992; Rice & Love, 1987). In their study, Beller and Or (1998) wrote that 30

PAGE 44

Teaching and learning styles are being developed: learning based on prepared electronic materials; ongoing interaction between partners in the learning process; learning by doing; and collaborative learning. There is a shift from lecturing and telling ("sage on the stage") to facilitating and guiding ("guide on the side"). This "guide on the side" approach to collaborative learning has raised questions about the quality and experience of virtual learning. While some have identified characteristics thought to promote learning, such as ample time for quality feedback, the computer as a buffer, and enhanced spontaneity (Bresler, 1990), those skeptical of cyber-Iearning view it as potentially offering a false or artificial sense of learning-diminishing individual capacity and leading to fragmentation (Heim, 1993). In contrast to these views, research on virtual communities shows increased creative flow and collaborative possibilities (Collison, Elbaum, Haavind, & Tinker, 2000; Knox-Quinn, 1993). Research in the creation and implementation of successful online environments for learning remains a new and evolving area (Cox, 1999). Many questions remain unanswered. Minimal literature is available that addresses how relationships within these communities differ from those in real space. Little data exists comparing how the dynamics of the group's organization, operation, and collaboration in virtual communities differ from or are similar to the dynamics of communities based upon physical co-presence. Electronic mentoring is an example of collaborative, support relationship modeling made possible by the increased availability of electronic communications on college campuses (Guernsey, 1997). 31

PAGE 45

Peer-Learning Relationships This section compares and contrasts selected literature on alternative helping relationships in learning: traditional mentoring, collaborative learning (peer tutoring with children, peer coaching/mentoring among primary and secondary school teachers), and professional collegiality (peer-helping relationships among college faculty). Mentoring Like peer partnerships, mentoring holds the unique promise of facilitating learning through a one-to-one helping relationship (Jacobi, 1991). In contrast, however, are characterized as dyadic, personalized, and grounded in trust and mutual respect between the two parties involved; yet, in mentor-protege relationships, power differentials exist that are typically based on the mentor's status as an elder, an expert, or some sort of superior. "The term mentor has its origin in Homer's Odyssey, when Odysseus entrusted the education of his son, Telemachus, to a wise and learned man named Mentor" (Heller & Sindelar, 1991, p. 7). This literary allusion carries with it images of the mentor as an experienced, wise, trustworthy mature man who is able to guide a young man through the developmental crises of life, keeping him safe, while also 32

PAGE 46

assuring his growth. Implicit in this and other descriptions of mentoring is the notion that it is primarily for males. Levinson (1978) highlighted the role of mentors in male development, while Sheehy (1976) claimed that the role of a mentor in a career woman's life is crucial despite the likelihood of the mentor becoming "too much like a father for her own developmental good" (p. 190). Still, opportunities for women are more limited due to the shortage of highly placed female role models (Shapiro, Haseltine, & Rowe, 1978). Otto (1994) suggests this is especially true of women in higher education, and according to Boice (1992), minorities face similar access challenges as well. Importantly, one clear advantage of the peer-mentoring alternative is the broader availability of partners for people of both genders and diverse backgrounds (Krarn & Isabella, 1985). According to Shapiro et al. (1978), ''the mentor-protege dyad is a special kind of relationship. It ... has a basically parental dynamic structure" (p. 56). Enduring friendships between mentors and proteges are not as likely as they are between peer partners precisely because the parental dynamic gets in the way. In contrast, non-hierarchical learning relationships between peers tend to foster friendship and/or collegiality over extended time periods (Kram & Isabella, 1985). Peer partners presumably operate on an equal footing, with the potential for a truly reciprocal learning experience. This is a key benefit in what Shapiro et al. 33

PAGE 47

(1978) call the "peer pal" relationship, a relationship between peers helping each other to succeed an progress" (p. 55). They describe it this way: The concept of peers as patrons belies the notion that patrons must be more senior and more powerful than their protegees. While peer pals clearly cannot be godfathers to each other, the reciprocity implicit in the relationship can provide a powerful boost toward success for each of the participants. Through sharing ... strategies and providing sounding boards and advice for one another, peer pals help each other while helping themselves. (pp. 55-56) Thus, a defining characteristic of the peer partnership is that it empowers learners by acknowledging them as "experts" in their own right. Shapiro et al.'s (1978) use of the term, "peer pal" is referenced often but it always gets fleeting attention, suggesting that the real action lies in traditional mentoring processes. This implies a failure to recognize that" serving as both learner and helper may offer both partners an even richer experience. In contrast, Huang and Lynch's (1995) description of the Taoist tradition ofmentoring-Dao Yingunderscores the value of reciprocity: With Dao Ying, the mentor goes beyond the common notion of "master" to become a special kind ofleader, one who can both guide and be guided. Dao Ying instills an attitude of trust that enables a mentor to say, "I trust that at this point you guide me. In the next moment 1 trust that you will respect my guidance of you." ... this [is an] interdependent, unfixed relationship of mutual respect ... [Thus t]he best mentors are students of other mentors. (p. 17) Similarly, Daloz (1986) views mentoring as an art that depends on nurturing the relationship. Teaching and mentoring are ideally acts of care that calIon the guide to "walk at times ahead of our students, at times beside them, and at times [to] 34

PAGE 48

follow their lead" (p. 237). While Daloz never discusses the possibility of peers mentoring peers, his references to equality between both participants resonate strongly with the peer-learning partnership model. Yet, Saltiel (1998) links traditional mentoring and peer mentoring by pointing out that mentor relationships can develop into peer partnerships. She writes, "[0 ]nce the relationship changes to one based on mutual respect, admiration, and encouragement, the relationship progresses to that of partners in learning" (p. 9). From these perspectives, then, mutuality and trust are key ingredients in peer-learning. Further, both giving and receiving functions are valued. Yet in conventional mentor relationships, the roles are generally rigid and unilateral, with the mentor giving advice and the protege receiving it (Shapiro et aI., 1978). Indeed, playing only one role in the dyad limits both parties' learning. This was confirmed in Watkins' (1980) study ofa program to train female and minority post-doctoral researchers for new opportunities in educational research at Northwestern University. She found that a self-styled model ofbi-directional community sharing was actually more effective than the conventional mentoring partnership that had "dazzled" them initially. From this, Watkins concluded that lateral collegial partnerships are more likely than traditional mentoring to generate true learning communities, especially in academic settings, reinforcing the value of reciprocal growth and development among peers. 35

PAGE 49

-------.-.---------------------------------------------Both the traditional mentoring and the peer-learning partnership models employ self-directed learning relationships, as opposed to formal training or evaluation. Yet, the conventional mentor typically retains a position of power and authority, despite Daloz's (1986, 1999) advice that part of the art ofmentoring "is to accept without clinging to the authority we are given; the other part is to let it go when it no longer serves its purpose" (p. 216). Still another aspect of the mentor's role is to reveal himlherselfas human so as to speed up the "breakdown ... of inappropriate authority" (p. 226). This advice seems relevant for peer-learning partners as well. While peer relationships presumably-entail a natural balance of power, a natural tension also exists between wanting to be supported and wanting to be the expert or authority figure who provides the support-a human development paradox that is probably at the heart of most learners' hopes and anxieties. Wuncsh (1994) calls for a systematic approach to mentoring, claiming that a ''time commitment on the part of both the mentor and the mentee appears to be a key ingredient. Pairs who do not meet regularly with specific goals in mind do not make progress or feel satisfied with the mentoring" (p. 30). This view has distinct implications for the peer-learning partnership, suggesting that formalized helping relationships may be more effective than informal ones. 36

PAGE 50

Collaborative Learning In facilitating the development of collaborative learning relationships, collaborative effort among the learners helps them achieve a deeper level of knowledge generation while moving from independence to interdependence. The development of collaborative skills requires a means of study and an environment for study that (a) lets a group of students formulate a shared goal for their learning process; (b) allows the students to use personal motivating problems, interests, and experiences as springboards; and (c) takes dialogue as the fundamental way of inquiry (Collison, Elbaum, Haavind, & Tinker, 2000). Peer Tutoring Peer tutoring is another helping relationship like mentoring and usually is dyadic, occurring among peers. It is the foundation for what is commonly known today as cooperative learning. According to Topping (1988), general forms of tutoring date back to ancient Rome, early Judaic practices, and Elizabethan grammar schools. It was not until the middle of the 18th century, when students started to be grouped in classes by age, that" Andrew Bell instituted the fIrst systematic use of peer tutoring ... the use of children to teach other children" (p. 13). In Bell's highly structured form of peer-learning, learning goals were 37

PAGE 51

predetermined and the roles of tutor and tutee were clearly delineated. Not too many years later, an educator by the name of Lancaster advanced the use of peer tutoring, but the method faded eventually and did not resurface until the 1960s (Topping, 1988). Among the advantages of peer tutoring are personalized attention for the tutee, enhanced interaction among students, freedom for teachers from some of their more routine work. Perhaps the most important advantage is the intrinsic rewards for the tutor who learns nurturing behavior, gains self-confidence, and improves herlhis own subject knowledge by virtue of experiencing the teaching role. However, as Wagner (1982) points out, tutors and tutees often are not truly peers. While the tutors mayor may not be the same chronological age as their tutees, they are often more competent in a given subject; hence, the implication is that peer tutoring is a remedial activity rather than a developmental one. For some, this creates an unendurable stigma. In addition, the strict control exercised by the (third party) teacher in structuring the tutoring exercises seems incompatible with the principles of adult learning that support learner autonomy and self-direction. As mentioned already, this approach is generally employed with children, rather than adults. This is not always the case with its successor strategy, cooperative learning. Despite these critiques, Wagner writes that Students learning through helping each other is a very promising alternative to learning through competing with each other ... cooperation as compared with competition, serves as a means of teaching respect for individual 38

PAGE 52

differences, teaches the ability to communicate effectively, helps in the cognitive development of the individual, develops empathy, and particularly, eliminates failure and its accompanying feelings. (p. 219) The emphasis on cooperation rather than competition in peer tutoring is also central to the peer-learning partnership model. Both approaches also speak to the empowering aspects of learning by teaching. However, some key differences exist in peer-learning partnerships, the emphasis is on mutual development, not remediation, and on personal goal-setting, not evaluation by an "external expert," the teacher. Peer CoachinglMentoring Peer coachinglmentoring approaches are referenced most often in the literature on teacher preparation for primary and secondary school education. These approaches generally seek to bring colleagues together in pairs or small groups for orientation or remediation purposes. Presented here are a few exemplary peer-based approaches used in pre-service and in-service teacher training. Joyce and Showers (1982) are often credited with being among the fIrst researchers to elevate the status of peer coaching. In an interview with Brandt (1987), Joyce states that skill development is not enough to facilitate learning transfer. "What was needed was companionship; especially companionship with peers" (p. 12). Joyce and Showers' 1980 examination of over two hundred studies of various training methods demonstrated that direct coaching is one of the strongest 39

PAGE 53

indicators of learning transfer (Batesky, 1991). In a subsequent study, Showers found "the creation of an atmosphere characterized by experimentation and collegiality" to be another key benefit of peer coaching (p. 16). Joyce and Showers (1982) suggest that the functions of the coaching team include providing companionship as an antidote to isolation and thinking through problems of mutual concern. Other functions include giving technical feedback and getting the side benefit of "receiv[ing] it vicariously while they observe it being given" (p. 7), and providing the personal facilitation necessary ''to help (team) members feel good about themselves" (p. 7), emphasizing mutuality and non judgmental feedback as underlying element of dyadic peer partnerships. Batesky (1991) elaborates on three particular peer-coaching models. First, in mirror coaching, one teacher asks another to observe her with regard to a specified method or behavior. It is then the observers' role to mirror back or give feedback on what he or she observed concerning only the designated method or behavior. The second model, collaborative teaching, takes the process one step further to the point where "the coach and teacher work together, as colleagues and partners, to jointly analyze the discuss the results" (p. 17). Third is the expert coaching model, which as the label implies, uses a more experienced teacher as the observer. Batesky emphasizes four prerequisites for success in developing a "positive attitude toward educational reflection and experimentation ... and ... a sense of professional collegiality"(p. 19). These prerequisites are (a) trust between 40

PAGE 54

partners, (b) a defmed lesson goals, (c) confidentiality, and (d) training support Perhaps most important is the principle that "[p Jeer coaching is of, by and for the teacher" (p. 19). In all cases, however, the process is distinguished by the observed teacher remaining "in charge" of her learning. Garmston, another leader in the field of preand in-service training for primary and secondary school teachers, is known for his Cognitive Coaching process. This method is designed to help teachers expand their latent abilities by guiding them to Explore the thinking behind their practices .. In Cognitive Coaching, questions asked by the coach reveal to the teacher areas ... that may not be complete or consciously developed. When teachers talk out loud about their thinking, their decisions become clearer to them, and their awareness increases. (Garmston, Linder, & Whitaker, 1993, p. 57) Cognitive Coaching focuses on critical reflection through dialogue and codiscovery. Modeled after clinical supervision approaches, this process, like many peer-based strategies, incorporates a pre-conference to set goals, an observation to collect data, and a post-conference for assessment in which ''the teacher, not the coach, evaluates the lesson's success" (p. 57). Another related model is that of the "critical friend" (Costa & Kallick, 1993). This approach combines many of the ingredients mentioned already. As the label implies, the critical friend is a trusted person who offers new perspectives on method or problem by posing provocative queries. Costa and Kallick state that 41

PAGE 55

A critical friend takes the time to fully understand the context of the work presented and the outcomes that the person or group is working toward. The friend is an advocate for the success of that work. (p. 50) This model departs from the others in two ways. First, it encourages the use of critique-a step that goes beyond mirroring and feedback. Second, it specifies the use of written feedback and suggestions. Coasta and Kalllick (1993) state that the writing requirement differs from the typical feedback situation because "the learner does not have to respond or make any decisions on the basis of the feedback. Instead, the learner reflects on the feedback without needing to defend the work to the critic" (p. 51). Professional Collegiality Harnish and Wild (1994) describe their peer mentoring and coaching as a "mutually helpful situation" in which both "participants have something of value to contribute and to gain from the other" (p. 191). They suggest that the "mutual expertise, equality and empathy frequently absent from traditional mentoring relationships" (p. 192) contribute to the potential of this process. They also believe that it is more likely to be realized if the peer mentor relationship is formalized and demonstrates that peer relationships can thrive between partners of various age and experience combinations. 42

PAGE 56

Weimer (1990) also sees considerable potential for colleagues to work together on professional improvement, but she reports that it is a sorely underutilized strategy. She writes that collegial relationships lend themselves to the discussion, analysis and exploration of teaching and learning. Despite this obvious potential, colleagues at most colleges and universities today contribute little to one another's instructional activities. (p. 111) Weimer discourages the practice of having peers evaluate each other because she believes that role shuts down dialogue about teaching. From her perspective, the most desirable option is to use colleagues as helpers. Weimer cites five helping activities in which colleague helpers can participate: "observing instruction, mentoring, reviewing course materials, team teaching and integrating and interpreting instructional information" (p. 119). She also espouses reciprocal observation to promote mutuality throughout the relationships, indicating that "mentoring ... is much less effective when it ends up being something done by one person to another" (p. 126). In sum, Weimer's ideas lend support to the notion of peers as authentic partners in learning. The contributions of all the authors cited thus far highlight the promise of peer collaboration in improving teachiIlg and learning. However, a clear definition of peer-learning partnerships is still lacking. As Saltiel (1998) notes, "[t]here is magic in a collaborative partnership ... [but d]esriptions of this type of relationship and its characteristics have defied precise portrayal" (p. 5). Nevertheless, she does 43

PAGE 57

identify the following elements in her work on collaborative learning partnerships: shared goal or purpose; trust, respect and loyalty; personality traits and qualities that are complementary; respect for each other; synergy between partners; and a valued relationship. Consistent with Saltiel' s work, the following defIning elements of peer learning partnerships were identified in this review: 1. Peer partnerships may occur informally or formally and they may involve dyads or small groups. 2. Peer partners are of equal rank (still some may differ in age, seniority, and gender. 3. Peer partners participate and choose their partner voluntarily. 4. Mutually enriching relationships are fostered when partners have a common or closely related learning objective that serves as the basis for their reciprocal learning. 5. Partners work together to gather context-specifIc information as a basis for joint inquiry, reflection, and discourse. 6. Learning partners generally function autonomously. 7. Partners alternate between helper and learner roles in order to achieve reciprocal learning. 8. The focus is on learning development, not evaluation or remediation. 44

PAGE 58

9. Optimally, bi-directional support for reciprocal growth and learning is grounded in a caring, trusting relationship, characterized by mutual respect and an appreciation of each partner's differences. The literature on nontraditional forms of helping relationship in learnihg suggests that these alternative models have an important role to play in facilitating adult learning. As noted by Harnish and Wild (1994), a gap occurs in the literature on ''the dynamic of 'peer' mentoring, where those in a mentor relationship are equals, colleagues or peers" (p. 191). Conclusion Interaction is at the core of effective distance-learning and is recognized as one of the components needing the most research. The dialogue-based conferencing platform has the potential to be aligned with constructivist principles-these discourse communities might be able to support individual and group learning that is purposive and personally relevant. Research suggests that a CMC based environment may facilitate the personal construction of knowledge (Jonassen et al.,1995) within a community oflearners and thinkers (Brown & Campione, 1990). Thus, distance education teclmologies support constructivist learning (Jonassen et aI, 1995). This teclmology may effectively merge the following into the learning environment: dialogue; group45

PAGE 59

based instructional strategies; high levels of student-student interactions; and, social and collegial factor. The need as outlined in the literature to understand the role of interaction and the ways that CMC facilitates peer-learning relationships have led to the fonnulation of this study. The main purpose of this study is to describe the nature of online peer interaction within this particular environment and to frame it in tenns of adult learning principles. 46

PAGE 60

CHAPTER 3 DESIGN OF STUDY This study sought to gain an in-depth understanding of the nature of online peer interaction in a principal/administrator licensure program. This study was undertaken with a view toward helping educators and researchers better understand (a) the use of CMC technologies as an instructional tool to support distance-learning and (b) the nature of online peer interactions in a natural setting. This exploratory case study used qualitative research methods to describe the particular phenomenon of online peer interaction among graduate students in a distance-learning program experience. Appendix B outlines the overall research design used in this study. The literature review presented in the previous chapter framed the research objectives, and an additional literature review of qualitative research method informed the methodological design of this study. The nature of peer interactions of 17 students were from a collection of online exchanges within the cluster groups and descriptive literature about the program available in the context of this study. Qualitative research methodology is most appropriate to this study for the following reasons. First, the study needed to be exploratory to allow insights to emerge from an ongoing recursive data analysis process. As the structured design 47

PAGE 61

was minimal, it was necessary to allow the emerging insights to drive the analysis process. The data were very dependent on "context," and the "case" needed to be studied as it naturally occurred with no control or manipulation of variables. Methodology under the qualitative paradigm typically uses no control or manipulation. Instead, it uses inductive logic, allowing categories, themes, and patterns and theories to emerge (Bogdan & Biklen, 1998). This approach provides rich, context-bound information that can lead to the discovery of ways to explore and describe the phenomena under investigation. It also facilitates the development of a complex, holistic picture formed through words that provides detailed descriptions of natural settings (Bogdan & Biklen, 1998). Merriam (1988), an advocate of the case-study method, defmes it as "an examination of a specific phenomenon such as a program, an event, a person, a process, an institution, or a social (p. 9) for the purpose of "illuminat[ing] a general problem" (p.13). She points out that "interpretation in context" (p. 10) distinguishes the case study from other research designs. Case study knowledge also differs from knowledge produced by other research in that it includes vivid material such as quotations and vignettes that resonate with the reader's own experience. This makes the findings more accessible and usable in the field. In addition, such knowledge is "more contextual" and more developed by "reader interpretation" (p. 15), thereby allowing the reader to participate in making meaning of the findings. 48

PAGE 62

In addition, research expert, Maxwell (1996) claims that cases demand an exploratory stance where the variables are highly complex, not precisely identified, and are very dependent on contextual features. Such were the variables (i.e., technology, peer-learning, and online interaction) of this study. They also state that understanding can emerge through a recursive process of data exploration and data analysis, as intended in this study. Research Design This study describes the online peer interaction among graduate students in a distance-learning experience. The primary goal of the study was to gain an understanding of the peer-to-peer online interaction by analyzing this communication process in its natural setting, distance-learning. During June 2000, research proposal was approved by the Human Subjects Committee (see Appendix C, p. 105). The UCD School of Education offered an ideal setting in which to conduct this qualitative case study. The context of the study was the first distance-learning licensing model in Colorado, and the timing and accessibility for exploration were ideal. The purpose of this exploration is to broaden understanding of how students learn through online peer interaction and how insights gained can be used to facilitate and strengthen cohort learning. At the closing gathering on July 2000, I met with the cohort participants to explain my study design and their involvement as 49

PAGE 63

outlined in the consent fonn (see Appendix D, p. 107). I successfully gained consent from all 17 participants. Use of grounded theory techniques and procedures (Strauss & Corbin, 1998) allowed insights to emerge from a recursive data analysis process (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). The primary data were analyzed with content analysis (Weber, 1994) of online communication within the five cluster groups. Data were collected from interactions over the entire year of the program. The research was bounded temporally (one-year long) and physically (only the online interactions of the cluster groups' communication). Initiated by grounded theory strategies, emerging categories, themes, and patterns were identified. Although some analysis was conducted by hand, QSR NUD*IST Vivo 1.1 (NVivo) for Microsoft Windows was used for the major portion of analysis. The intent was to understand the phenomenon of online interaction among students in tenns of peer interaction and the current principles of adult education, which parallel constructivist learning theory. Data analysis included a description of the phenomena as well as pertinent of the context-the peer-learning relationship and the technological environment. Also, by using an emergent qualitative framework (Bogdan & Biklen, 1998), exploration of the interactions and the relationships among all components (peer-learning, peer interaction, technology) allowed insights to emerge. 50

PAGE 64

Case Study Participants By the end of the fIrst week of the program, 20 students were registered, and by the time this case study commenced 3 students had dropped out of the program for various reasons. The seventeen remaining members of the cohort agreed in July 2000 to participate in this exploratory study. The participant group included 10 females and 7 males. The group was diverse in age, a range from 28 to 45 years. The cohort had 16 Caucasians and one Native American All but two participants were married. Additionally, almost half of the participants already held Master's degrees; thus, their primary purpose for participating was to prepare for the principal/administrator license. Some of the completers also earned an Educational Specialist degree. Data Collection and Analysis Strategies This section concentrates on how the data were collected and analyzed. "Since collection and analysis should be a simultaneous process in qualitative research" (Merriam, 1988, p. 123), a recursive and dynamic strategy was practiced. Guided by suggestions of Bogdan and Biklen' s (1998), analysis of available data began as the data were being collected. 51

PAGE 65

The data sources were embedded in an overarching conference identified as the DL Cohort in the University's CEO system, which contained multiple subconferences, including those for each of the five cluster groups and each of the five instructional and applied domains. Each of the cluster-groups had an identifying name created by the group members themselves while each student had private mailboxes. General comments were made in the cluster-group subconferences and the individual messages are assumed to be made within their private mailboxes. For the purposes of this study, the sources of online peer interaction data were limited to the five cluster-group subconferences, which include (a) open discussions, (b) cohort participants' responses and interactions relative to instructional activities and questions, and (c) other online interactions. At the time of data collection, the program had essentially concluded. This allowed for complete data gathering. To ensure the safe keeping of electronic data, all data were recorded onto a data CD-Rom so that data sources were kept unchanged, thus reducing the likelihood of alteration and deletion. Additional data collection included document analysis to understand the overall programmatic structure. Research Questions The overarching research question of this study is "In what ways and to what extent are peer-to-peer interactions evident within online exchanges during the 52

PAGE 66

cohort program experience?" This research used one year of data collected from the practitioner/participant's online conference interactions and included their online correspondence. Guiding sub-questions are these : 1. What is the content of online interaction? 2. To what extent does peer support exist? 3. What form do peer support activities take in an online cohort group? Exploration of these questions was directed by the following assumptions: (a) one aspect of online interaction is peer support relationship--participants will foster collegial relationship where two or more students provide mutual support for each other; (b) peer support relationships can emerge naturally and are not always formally structured; (c) peer support relationships are promising because they are grounded in principles of adult educations-that is, they seek to engage participants in voluntary, self-directed, collaborative, relevant, and active learning; and, (d) learning in an online environment can be enhanced by constructivist strategies. Organization of Data The analysis of the online interaction data was ongoing as analysis informed further decisions on data exploration. As the intensive analysis continued, the online interactions were read and re-read numerous times. The source of this "online interaction" data was open discussions within the five cluster group subconferenes. Using the following organizing procedures (Miles & Huberman, 53

PAGE 67

1994), I (a) read raw data; (b) recorded researcher notes and memos; (c) developed coding scheme, reflecting on the emerging insights; (d) coded the online interactions; and (e) identified patterns and themes. Reading raw data. To initiate this exploration, I began open-reading, reading online content in chronological order of its origination, without any categories or expectation in mind, to establish a foundational overview of the online interaction. The data were organized according to the cluster groups of origination. Then, using the printed data, each message was identified as "initiated," "response," or "close." In addition, groups of threaded discussions and posted messages were sorted and labeled as Tl, T2, etc. and Ml, M2, etc., respectively. This labeling was readily accomplished by reviewing the subject lines of each message. This process was necessary to uncover the type of messages exchanged in the online environment to understand better the patterns of dialogue discussed in Chapter 4. Recorded researcher notes and memos. After the initial open-reading and labeling message types, I reviewed and recorded the varying contents of each message noting such factors as volume of exchanges and the quality of interaction. Messages generated within each cluster group subconferences were kept in tact to investigate the development and characteristic of each cluster group. Further, Miles and Huberman (1994) were consulted for a variety of approaches for analysis strategies. I began to note such ideas as frequency of particular topics, purpose of 54

PAGE 68

message, and tone of comments. This process allowed me to generate potential themes that parallel the conceptual framework and reflect on my initial assumptions. Developed coding scheme, reflecting on the emerging insights. After re reading the raw data, then sorted messages and my notes, I identified the following themes served as a starting point of the analytic induction: (a) self-reflection, (b) articulation, (c) mentoring, (d) sharing knowledge, (e) community building, (f) self disclosure, (g) social negotiation (h) collaboration, (i) knowledge construction, and G) inquiry. Three categories (content, peer support, and form) served as an organizational structure to parallel the three sub-questions. Coded the online interactions. Using the above mentioned categories and organizational structure, coding began. Berelson (Weber, 1994, p. 9) identified "describing trends in communication content" (p. 9) as one of many purposes of content analysis. "Words, phrases, or other units of text were classified into content categories" (Weber, 1994) using NUD*IST Vivo (NVivo) to conduct the content analysis of this research. Following the text encoding outlined by Weber (1994), the selected data were converted into rich text format, readable by NVivo. Each of these codes were identified under three categories identified as the following: content:se/f-disclosure,peersupport:mentoring, andform:inquiry. In some instances, every signified message segment was categorized into one or more organizational category. 55

PAGE 69

Identified Patterns and Themes. The data were indexed and coded using themes and patterns, and the interaction data were organized to describe what was perceived to be "going on" within this particular context. Reported description is supported with transcriptions of original messages only with minor editing to improve readability. Fictitious names were designated for each of the cohort members. Context of Study: The ALPS Program The context of this study a single cohort-based (Barnett & Muse, 1993), distance-learning program delivered through electronic communication and implemented by the Administrative Leadership and Policy Studies (ALPS) division within the School of Education at the University of Colorado at Denver (UCD). This particular program was a one-year (June 1999-July 2000), graduate-level principal/administrator licensing program. The ALPS division within the School of Education at UCD is one of seven higher education institutions authorized by the State Board of Education to offer training for aspiring school principals and administrators (Colorado Department of Education [CDE], 1997). Following the adoption of professional standards in 1994, the ALPS faculty progressively revised its leadership education program into a problem-based (Ford, Martin, Muth, & Steinbrecher, 1997), active-learning (Muth, 1999), portfolio-assessed (Muth, Murphy, Martin, & Sanders, 1996) model. The 56

PAGE 70

leadership preparation program transformed from a series of on-campus courses into unique off-campus cohorts developed through school district partnerships. As a standards-driven program (Ford, Martin, Murphy, & Muth, 1996; Murphy, Martin, & Muth, 1994), the goal is to endorse graduates as competent professionals ready to assume roles as school leaders. Cohort Model The faculty selected the closed cohort structure because it delivers instruction suited to the unique needs of adults (Mahoney, 1990), fosters collegial learning (Barnett & Muse, 1993), increases student retention and empowers students (Teitel, 1995). A closed cohort keeps students together as a group throughout the entire program (Basom, Yerkes, Norris, & Barnett, 1995) and provides ongoing peer support and professional collegiality (Barnett, Basom, Yerkes, & Norris, 2000). Because most cohorts are developed in partnership with local school districts, unique problems of practice emerge as potential projects and learning events (Martin, Ford, Murphy, & Muth, 1998). Curriculum The ALPS licensing program focuses upon all six performance standards and knowledge bases defined by the Colorado Principal and Administrator Professional Standards Board (Ford et al., 1996; Murphy et aI., 1994; Muth, 2001). 57

PAGE 71

The program is a sequence of four learning domains that concentrate on specific areas of school administration and connect to concurrent field internships. Each domain usually spans an entire semester. Individual and group activities within the domains or "content umbrellas" (Muth, 2000, p. 2) center around four broad topics: (a) leadership studies, (b) school environment including law and finance, (c) supervision of curriculum and instruction, and (d) school improvement. The fifth domain is a 135 clock-hour intensive internship as a practicing administrator Content learning is balanced with field experiences so that students gain clinical skill to recognize and solve problems of professional practice. Domains of study overlap both to integrate subject matter across domains and to take advantage of cycles of events in schools relevant to the domams and standards to be met (Muth, 2001). Course No. Sum Fall Spr Sum MAlEds Hours Total 5700 2 3 1 6 5710 2 3 1 6 5720 2 3 1 6 5730 2 3 1 6 5930 1 3 3 7 MAorEdS 9 9 Total 9 9 9 4 9 40 Note Division of Administrative Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Colorado at Denver program brochure (n.d.). Figure 3.1 Distance-Learning Administrator and Principal Licensing Program and MAorEdS. 58

PAGE 72

: j I 1 Information Technology The adoption of a sophisticated online communication system by the school of education opened myriad opportunities to integrate online instruction and learning into the school's licensing programs. The FirstClass Client e-mail and conferencing system, sold by SoftArc and dubbed Colorado Education Online (CEO), provides statewide service to the school, area districts, and educational associations (Muth, 2000). CEO "permits synchronous as well as asynchronous communications, easy file sharing, and Internet access" (Muth, 2000, p. 2). Additionally, this user-friendly system allows discussion sites known as conferences. Within a cohort conference, participants can post questions, comments, and responses viewed by all conference members. Sub-conferences facilitate completion of special online projects. In addition, CEO offers private electronic mail and live-chat opportunities. All program-related online communication housed in a conference is archived for three years. Assessment Mastery of learning is presented through defense of self-constructed portfolios (Muth et al., 1996). Artifacts created through cohort activities or products developed through professional experiences that link to specific benchmarks are 59

PAGE 73

presented in the portfolio as evidence of expertise. Students who complete all licensing program requirements and successfully pass the state-approved examination are eligible to receive a Provisional Principal License. Students in the ALPS licensing programs can earn a Master of Arts (MA) or Educational Specialist (EdS) degree by completing nine additional credits of specified coursework beyond the required 31 credits (Muth, 2000). Program Tenet The curriculum integrates problem-based learning and action research, exploration of problems of practice through group projects, online mentoring and instruction, and personal reflection (Muth, 2001). The cohort provides an evolving, adaptable learning environment that allows participants to empower themselves through practical applications of knowledge and integration of personal and professional experiences in their own learning (Napier & Lowry, 1999). On-campus Residency The structure of this DL cohort had a minimal campus residency component at the beginning of the program for eight days and at the end of the program for two days. Both of the sessions were held orr the UCD campus. The first face-to-face orientation session was held in June 1999 to foster and maintain a shared cohort culture and effective cluster groups. At this time, cohort members were directed to 60

PAGE 74

form their cluster groups. As a result, five cluster groups were formed based on geographic locale of the cohort members. Further, while the program is problem based, teaching faculty felt strongly that a clear foundation for each of the four domains and the internship was essential and thus scheduled lecture-type information sessions. In addition, hands-on training in the use of CEO was a central part of the on-campus sessions. Even though the CEO electronic-communication system is intuitive, chatting, transferring files, and managing subconferences were problematic for some; thus, more time for practice was provided. In July 2000, 17 of the original 22 students gathered for a two-day closing session to defend their portfolios and participate in exit interviews. Validity Issues Since this study's methods operated within a qualitative framework, where the researcher is considered the main instrument (Glesne & Peshkin, 1992), questions about the accuracy and validity of the data analysis and interpretation can be raised. Thus, the following effort was made to verify insights and categorizing decisions by triangulating researcher observations, reflections, and conclusions via (a) regrouping of data and reorganization of the categorization system, (b) methods of analysis (e.g., content analysis and analytic induction) (Denzin, 1978; Patton, 1990), and (c) sources of meaning making model (Jonassen et aI., 1995). Updated 61

PAGE 75

literature in the field was also consulted for fresh perspectives (Glesne & Peshkin, 1992). This study used Guba and Lincoln's (1989) criteria for judging the validity of qualitative approaches. What follows is a brief adaptation of their criteria that addresses these strands and how to address validity issues. I checked for Guba and Lincoln's (1989) concept of "credibility," which parallels traditional "internal validity" through: 1. prolonged engagement and persistent observation (via revisiting and reorganizing raw data); 2. use of peer consultations from fields of methods, instructional technology, peer-supported learning, and constructivism; 3. searching for mUltiple instances of examples within case; 4. searching for negative and discrepant examples within case; 5. use of different approaches analysis in response to the ideas that may emerge form different ways of exploring and reorganizing the data. This study also addressed the traditional concept of "external validity," which Guba and Lincoln (1989) call "transferability." That is, I considered whether the reader of the fmdings and conc1usioJ;ls would be able to determine whether this particular situation in this particular context transfers to another particular situation and context. This was accomplished by (a) rich description, which offers details for 62

PAGE 76

comparison (Maxwell, 1996), and (b) a detailed chain of evidence (Guba & Lincoln, 1989). Limitations This study contained certain limiting conditions that are inherent in most qualitative research and some that were a result of this situation. In general, limitations on generalization exist because nothing was controlled and random sampling was not used. This case was very context-specific, due to the uniqueness of the program structure and delivery system. Also, the participants might be considered representative of only similar students in similar programs (e.g., graduate level, K -12 educators living in geographically dispersed areas). This study attempted to allow things to exist naturally and to control for nothing. Other restrictive weaknesses include a reliance on the textual data provided by the students' written online interaction. These data were very case specific and only provided written communication. Though this may be an advantage in many ways, it did not include other types of data (e.g., perceptions elicited through interviews, messages from private mailboxes, transcripts ofline chats). Last, since the analysis rested with the analytic choices and thinking of the researcher, the findings as a result of these processes could be subject to other interpretations. Nevertheless, I gave careful thought to these limitations, and the methods used and 63

PAGE 77

the infonnation gained are valid, useful, and enlightenIDg. The strengths and significance of the study far outweigh potential weaknesses. 64

PAGE 78

CHAPTER 4 EMERGING THEMES, ISSUES, AND POSSIBILITIES In this chapter, I report the nature of online peer-to-peer interaction among cohort participants in a principal licensure program. One-year's worth of the participants' online dialogue in their cluster group subconference folders was the source of data for analysis. As mentioned in the previous chapters, students self organized into five cluster groups. Members of these small groups were assigned a subconference within the overall distance-learning (DL) conference in the Colorado Education Online (CEO) cOnferencing system. The 17 program participants generated a total of 683 files of online dialogue that were available for analysis. Of those files, 590 were generated within the five cluster group subconferences, which served as the primary source of data for this study. The remaining 93 message files were from the general cohort-wide conference where administrative information exchanges occurred. The cluster-groups messages were the primary data source because they addressed the phenomenon of interest, namely online peer interaction. This data set was captured in two ways. First, each individual message was printed and organized according to the chronological order of origination and kept within the five cluster groups. The purpose of this method was to allow easy access for open reading and management of all the online interactions. Second, these files 65

PAGE 79

hosted by the CEO server were downloaded to my local computer. Using the "summarize related messages" function within the "conference" tool of CEO, I selected all the files maintained within each cluster group's subconference by gathering all the messages into rich text format (RTF). Then, these five RTF files were recorded onto a data CD-ROM to preserve this information in its original state. Rich text format was selected because it was compatible with NVivo qualitative application. The findings of analyses are organized in three sections: content, peer support relationships, and patterns of dialogue, corresponding to each of the subquestions. In addition to the subquestions, focused reflective questions were developed to guide data organization as shown in Table 4.1. These questions above allowed me to stay open and responsive to new perspectives and ideas. They also helped to facilitate the huge task of organizing and categorizing the data. Content Guided by the overarching research question and its sub questions, I analyzed the content of the online peer interactions. Using grounded theory strategies, the initial categories of data were first constructed by open reading of the data. As I read these messages, I made rough on recurring themes and ideas. First, I selected one data set and began to manually code to understand the content .66

PAGE 80

Table 4.1 Development Reflective Questions. Subquestions Reflective Questions 1. What is the content of Were certain topics and particular words more online interaction? prevalent/frequent? (content) 2. To what extent does mentoring exist? (peer support relationships) What was the "purpose" of the comment: inquiry, puzzlement, sharing, complaining, directing, problem solving? Was the interaction social, academic, reflective, and/or collaborative? Did students support each other, offering advice and solutions to problems? Was trust and mutuality evident? Did a sense of community arise? 3. What form do peer To whom was the response directed? support activities take in an online cohort Was it connected to another comment? group? (patterns of dialogue) What was the "tone" of the comments? Did changes in communication patterns occur? of the peer interaction. Meanwhile, a fellow researcher and I created a coding scheme for a conference paper as presented in Table 4.2, which was applied to this study as well. This coding scheme became my preliminary guide for exploring the rest of the data. 67

PAGE 81

Table 4.2 Coding Key for Message Content Code Description a Reference to assignment (clarification, redirection, reminder, wrap-up) g Greeting and/or closing c Reference to cohort activities and/or studies p Reference to personal matter and/or personal message r Reference to professional responsibilities and/or experiences s Self disclosure: I agree, I believe, I disagree, I feel, I found, I think t Reference to technical support and/or trouble Analysis indicated that 87% of 590 files made some reference to an assignment. This included the learners' need for clarification, criteria, academic discourse, report of mdividual progress, and reminders. From this descriptive data, it was interesting to notice minimal discussion regarding the topical content; instead, the majority of the interaction dealt with the logistical issues related to completing the assignment. For example, Valerie, Hi, Well I am very upset right now. I read your chat with [Instructor] about the articles, and I guess I didn't understand her syllabus very well, but I didn't read where the articles had to be research based. I have already read and written both of them. They are neither one actually research based, but both of them have other references and they were really good articles. But, I'm glad you asked the questions about the guidelines that she made note of, I couldn't find it either. 68

PAGE 82

As for student's comments, they were transcribed with minor editing to improve readability and pseudonyms are used to honor the privacy of all students. The next example illustrates the ease of information exchange this online environment allowed. As many of the assignments were requested to be posted in the cohort conference, cohort members were able and encouraged to review the products of other groups submitted for assessment. Often this venue was used as a guide or affirmation of their own understanding. Here is an example of what cluster group (CG) 5 noticed from another CG's posting to justify the progress of their own project. Hi I read the [CG 4] improvement plan that they have already turned in, but they did the whole thing in outline format. Ours may be shorter, but we are using the whole page by writing it out in text. I think it would be a "wash" as far as amount of information. The number of greetings, suggestions for action, and reference to personal and profession matters varied greatly among the five cluster groups, expression of selfdisclosure and technical issues were consistent throughout the cluster groups, as discussed in the following sections. Topic of Conversation The first theme that emerged from the data was technology. While intensive, hands-on training to learn and practice the use of the CEO system was offered during the cohort's eight-day during the first summer, the data 69

PAGE 83

indicate that students had many technical difficulties. For example, exchanging attached files of course work became a great nuisance, especially at the beginning of the program. Here is an example of a threaded discussion on this issue: [Reply to a message Thread 2] I could not get your attachment docwnent to open in Word 97. It copied into a file folder, but will not come up on Word 97?? What kind of computer and word processor are you using? What did you save it as? [Thread 3] I'm not sure what is happening. "I have an [IBM], with Windows 98 and a processor called WordPad, it is supposed to be compatible to WordPerfect 6.0. Who knows? I'll wait and see what is going on with Ronald and Karen. I did save this file under My Docwnents, lawsacenario. This example was representative of the general level of technical difficulties and troubleshooting abilities displayed in the message. While this threaded discussion ends at this point in the public conference, I suspect that issues of transferability of data files were addressed and that this type of problem was resolved in private mailboxes as demonstrated by comments like the following: I just hope the people who need to read everything can. I sent all my stuff in a text file, so I hope they can .... As part of their interactive course activities, live chats were also encouraged and assigned as an integral component of this program. However, numerous technical difficulties were reported by Karen: I wish I could read other peoples stuff [attachments] but [ someone] is working on it. Darn Macs anyway! !! I am also having trouble getting on chat lines, is anyone else?? My computer completely locks up won' t do another thing. When I open the invite button there is nobody on the list of 70

PAGE 84

choices and the[n] it is locked. I really don't want to miss our cyber FAC [Friday Afternoon Club] tonight!!!! Even a week later, she was still dealing with her technical accessibility. I can't get anything out of attachments yet because my word processor won't read them. I tried FAC and my computer FROZE!! I am having some difficulties to say the least. .. However, by the sixth week (mid-August), the majority of the technical problems subsided. A more pressing topic of discussion was the upcoming projects. An overwhelming need for clarification on the academic requirements caused quite a stir in these online exchanges and persisted throughout the program. Concerns included need for clarification of due dates, group work versus individual work, and other specifics of assignments. Here is an example of a part of a threaded discussion focused on clarifying an assignment between Ronald and Carolyn: [Ronald] The first Dumb question!!! The assignment that we are to do .. Is this the assignment that we do by ourselves or do we do it as a cluster .. Sorry I am still a little unsure what we are to do together and by ourselves. [Carolyn] Thanks for scaring the begeebees out of me. I forgot I was doing the Law assignment on my own. So when you asked about the scenario assignment being a group thing, I was very confused. Now I am o.k. Then the student outlined the upcoming assignments and asked whether it should be the work of the cluster group or individual 71

PAGE 85

Soon after a threaded discussion like the one above arose, CG 5 designated a person to outline the upcoming due dates. Hi everyone, Just checking to see if all of you are on the same "page" as I am for assignments DUE, I did get the syllabus from UCD, but am just a little nervous today I guess. 5700, #3B Leadership Read and Materials provided 5700, (pg 5C) Leadership Continue threaded discussion on article with partner 5700, (pg. 5A) Read Leadership book for cafe Anything else? ... [a member of this cluster group replies] You have all of the assignments .that I have .... I used NVivo to organize the data into themes and patterns. NVivo offered a means of coding to identify and bring together the data passages that seemed to belong together (Richards, 1999). Once manual coding during the open reading phase was finished, the conceptual framework of this study was reviewed and that generated the next round of categories that responded to the meaning-making model (Jonassen et aI., 1995) as follows: (a) self reflection, (b) community building, (c) social negation, (d) group reflection, (e) articulation, (f) metacognition, (g) collaboration, (h) professional social-negotiation, (i) mentoring, (j) inquiry and exploration, (k) sharing knowledge, and (1) professional reflections. Another common issue among the participants was professional socialnegotiation. As most of the students juggled a career while seeking preparation for 72

PAGE 86

professional advancement, often holiday times and traditional school activities such as open house, parent conferences, athletics, homecoming, and prom prompted exchanges about time management: [Vernon comments] I don't know about you all, but I missed so much last week, it's taken me all day to get things caught up for last week. [Referring to the required face-to face-orientation component of the program.] All I have done is read the handout. ... [Valerie shares her plans] The end of August is looking busy so I'm going to try to get a headstart on a few of those [assignments] this week and next week if time. [Carolyn replies] I am like you, I am trying to get ahead. [Marilyn expresses her concern] With school starting I am feeling stressed. I have not done anything last week and a half because of having to work! !! Here is another example of a threaded discussion as this group shares their confusion. [Thread 1] Is anyone besides me feeling a bit stressed about the new assignments that weren't on the calendar? One a week? I was just beginning to feel like I was going to be o.k. with what I knew about. UGH!!! !! !!!!!! !!!!!!! !!!!! !! !!! !! !! !! !!! !! !! !!!!!!!!! !! !!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I!!!!!!!!!!!!!! [Thread 2] WHAT? Assignments do each week. I have no Idea what you are talking about. I have just been following the calendar. Help me out with this, PLEASE!!!!!! 73

PAGE 87

[Thread 3] Yeah; are you talking about the finance ones? There aren't others that aren't on the calendar are there? Let us know right away please [Thread 4] Yes my dear, there are more assignments that are not on the calendar. Look in the environment file. :) In addition to sharing their concerns and strategies regarding their program obligations, many disclosed other professional development issues such as job search and job interviews. [Karen shares her situation] I had my job interview yesterday and it went very well. They said I would have to talk with Central Office about negotiating $. I heard that it has been done. We'll see. Let me know about the Central one too. I am on a time frame though cuz I have to resign before July 15 or I am docked a month's pay. YIKES Talk soon-. [She reports her decision with her fellow cluster members] By the way, I did get the Guidance Director position. It isn't administrative, but it is a foot in the door, I think. It will count as supervisory years on an administrative pay scale they tell me, so that is good. Anyway, we'll be talking soon, I hope. "Purpose" of the Message Frequent requests for help, advice, and information were made. Students freely asked their colleagues for these things and usually received quick responses. Often in proximity to these requests for help were responses that contained advice, empathy, solutions, and encouragement (Rorty, 1991). Such responses contributed greatly to the overall atinosphere of collegiality (Lave & Wenger, 1991). 74

PAGE 88

[Thread 3] Yeah, are you talking about the finance ones? There aren't others that aren't on the calendar are there? Let us know right away please [Thread 4] Yes my dear, there are more assignments that are not on the calendar. Look in the environment file. :) In addition to sharing their concerns and strategies regarding their program obligations, many disclosed other professional development issues such as job search and job interviews. [Karen shares her situation] I had my job interview yesterday and it went very well. They said I would have to talk with Central Office about negotiating $. I heard that it has been done. We'll see. Let me know about the Central one too. I am on a time frame though cuz I have to resign before July 15 or I am docked a month's pay. YlKES Talk soon-. [She reports her decision with her fellow cluster members] By the way, I did get the Guidance Director position. It isn't administrative, but it is a foot in the door, I think. It will count as supervisory years on an administrative pay scale they tell me, so that is good. Anyway, we'll be talking soon, I hope. "Purpose" of the Message Frequent requests for help, advice, and information were made. Students freely asked their colleagues for these things and usually received quick responses. Often in proximity to these requests for help were responses that contained advice, empathy, solutions, and encouragement (Rorty, 1991). Such responses contributed greatly to the overall atmosphere of collegiality (Lave & Wenger, 1991). 74

PAGE 89

Following is an example of a threaded discussion toward to the end of the program with the subject line of "Work Session." Hello Everyone! I don't know about all of you, but ... I cannot seem to get going. I've only been doing what I absolutely have to at this moment in time. Would any of you be interested in have a two-three hour work session with beer, pizza and work on our portfolio articles. I would like to compare what I am doing, and I would also like input on some of my articles. Since we seem to be in a lull right now, maybe it would be a good time to do this. Let me know if you think this is a good idea. HAPPy VALENTINES DAY!!!!!!!!! [Response 1] Great idea! Count me in. [Response 2] Hi-That sounds GREAT to me. Not only am I not able to get going but I miss everyone!!!! Let me know. Actually, I am off Fri. and we don't play B.B until 5:00 Sat. night. Sunday is OK. The weekend after this one is taken with Districts, BACK to Steamboat. That will make my 3rd trip this year! !!, but. .. who is complaining. Anyway, just let me know. I will be looking forward to it. Have a GREAT Valentines Day!!! [Response 3] Sounds like a good idea tome. I could use a little motivation too. I am in as well. Sundays are ok with me at this time in my life. Let me know which Sunday you all want. Meri' s place sounds good as well. I promise NOT to eat any veggie pizza. In fact you all let me know and I will pick it up. You all LOOOOOVE the Meat Lovers Don't you! I know Carolyn does. She will eat anything! HE! HE! HA! HA! Carolyn. 75

PAGE 90

[Response 4] Sunday sounds good to me. Let's go for it. See everyone there. That is this Sunday, right? [Closing message by initiator] OK. I'll see you all at my house Sunday at 3:00. I'm counting on you all to set me straight and clear the muddle from my mind. Although many discussions dealt with academic issues, personal issues and crises were shared and supported by their peers. The following example depicts how one group handled a personal crisis: [Thread 1] Guys, My dad had a heart attack this morning about 10. Still waiting to see if they will fly him to Albuquerque. I will try to stay up with things. Pretty scary, used paddles just like on TV. Longest drive back from Perry Creek I've ever had even though I was going 90 in the snow I'll keep in touch Thanks. [Thread 2] Dennis, forget about the school and be with your dad. Everything else isn't important right now! I'll be praying for you. [Instructor] was very understanding when my niece was killed this summer & I'm sure she will be like that with your crisis. Let me know if you need a babysitter or anything. [Thread 3] My prayers are with you and you dad. Don't worry about school, family always come fIrst. Let us know (or I'll call) to se if you need anything. Patterns of Dialogue To understand the students' online interactions, it became important to understand how the communication pattern evolved. First, I focused on the quantity 76

PAGE 91

number of files exchanged varied quite a bit. The initial number of 20 students was distributed fairly evenly in each cluster group : one group had three members, three groups had four members, and the remaining group had five members. While the number of students in the cluster groups was relatively equal, the quantity of the online dialogue differed considerably. Table 4.3 Distribution of Membership within Cluster Groups. Cluster group (CG) Size of membership Number of (Number of students) files exchanged CG 1 4 35 CG2 4 63 CG3 5 67 CG4 3 81 CG5 4 344 To differentiate between non-responsive messages and threaded discussions, messages were classified by connecting patterns of the response messages and identifying the last message posted within the discussion. The display format of messages within CEO allowed me to discern quickly the differences between threaded discussions and non-responsive messages. Therefore, the first message posted in each of the subconference was classified either as a non-responsive 77

PAGE 92

message (M) to which no written reply was made or as a group of messages within a threaded discussion (T). All files within a threaded discussion were linked and coded as one threaded discussion. The messages were coded as either M or T and numbered in chronological order by date beginning with the first message to appear in the conference. Table 4.4 Distribution of Threaded Discussions and Non-responded Messages. Cluster group (CG) Threaded Discussions Non-responded Messages CGl 8 2 CG2 10 19 CG3 14 16 CG4 20 21 CG5 77 51 No pattern of distribution between the number of threaded discussions and non-responded postings was identified. While two groups had a greater number of threaded discussions, another two had more posted messages. One group had an equal number of each. Based on my reading and analysis of cluster group interaction, groups with a greater number of threaded discussions seemed to show better group cohesion. This was evident by the total number of messages exchanged 78

PAGE 93

and the topics of discussion. In particular, CO 5 expressed the greatest level of communication: They shared more personal and professional progress and held more face-to-face meetings. Face-to-face meetings were most prevalent within CO 5. In addition to the two face-to-face gatherings required by the program, students from this group appeared to have met most frequently of all the groups. They met "frequently to work on projects," as stated by one of the group members. She described the peer interaction of her cluster group to be "very supportive" and found it to be the greatest aspect of her experience. She also felt that friendships had emerged out of this interaction. The tone of responses had distinguishable attitude to them, as if spoken. This was fairly typical across all cluster groups. A personality tended to come across in the messages, perhaps due to the informality of mail messaging-as opposed to course papers that tended to be more formal, following certain guidelines and expectations. The online writing clearly had a voice that revealed emotion and personality. Here is an example that demonstrates the personality of one cluster group: [Subject: Congratulations] Congratulations we have made it through week two. I see I am the last one to submit my critique. [Dennis], I can tell you were burning the midnight oil. Did you have [your newborn] in one hand and typing with the other? 79

PAGE 94

[Roberta], please take a nice long shower. I am taking my kids to the water world. Of course, I am taking my lap top computer. It's waterproof you know. See Ya, Uno Dean The following excerpt is from another cluster group: [Subject: Weekly Check-up] Hello everyone! How are things going? Anyone besides [Karen] and I having a difficult time getting registered for Fall? This week we have assignment #3 for curriculum and Instr. due and that should be it. I am doing o.k. Getting the assignments done but am having difficulty getting the internship log and portfolio stuff in. Anyone interested in joining Karen and I for a law presentation Fest? We could all get together one morning for brunch or an evening for dinner and do our presentations to spouses, cluster people and friends. .. Let me know who wants to join. I would like to try and do it around the fIrst of October. Hope everyone is doing all right. WE ARE GOING TO MAKE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! [Response] Hi All of you-Gee, I haven't heard anything from any ofyou--could it be that school has started and you are all just as busy as me? This is crazy!!! Thanks for the checkup, [Carolyn]. I am caught up to this point, but no longer ahead. That stresses me a little bit, or ALOT. I am really having trouble understanding the outline for the legal topic presentation. I don't understand all of her parts. Can anyone else put it in clearer terms for me? Please!!! .. I am using all kinds of other information, though and nothing really fIts into her outline thing. I have 5 cases to brief. I think that is alot, but [Carolyn], I really feel for you. Some of those cases are pretty involved. I am doing one at a time. 80

PAGE 95

Maybe that will work. It will be tough to reflect on all the others. Maybe [Carolyn] and I could work together on those. What do you think, [Carolyn]? YES [Responding to "WE ARE GOING TO MAKE IT!!!" comment.] Hope school is going well for all of you-Football starts Friday, MONTROSE, .. Anyway, that will take even more of the "spare time" I have, away from these classes. Hope to hear from all of you very soon. Good bye for now!! [Another response] Hi [Carolyn]; The law presentation fest sounds convenient. (If everyone can stand three hours of law!) '" Let's do it. Evidence of voice increased over as the students became more comfortable with the system and with each other. People were not as shy as one might suppose. People used expressive devices, such as writing in all capitals (often used in online text for emphasis), and strategically used space, punctuation, emoticons (e.g., a smiley face turned sideways), and color. Following are five examples: [Example 1 attempting to replicate echoing of sound] HELLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO anyone out there? Am I the only one trying to communicate? A lot less stress now, huh? [Example 2 expressing state of emotion] Subject: AAACK! I'm Back! [Example 3 setting a tone of casual conversation] I think I might take the test in May too, that way I can take it again in July, if I need. Ya know! !:) ... I have been SOOOOO busy at school that I have had a struggle with keeping up on assignments; I am doing the reading, but 81

PAGE 96

can't find the time to sit and do the work. I hope she understands!!! Is anyone else THERE with me???? [Example 4 responding to a decision] CHI C KEN !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :) [Example 5 -sharing excitement] Just think, July 23rd and this is allover!! YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!I!!!!!!!!! Clearly, the students were aware of audience when communicating and were also open about giving and accepting critical comments on the topic of online communication. Peer-Learning Relationships One element that was prevalent in all of the messages was an atmosphere of collegiality. The students' dialogue maintained an openness that enabled them to complain, ask questions, confer with colleagues, and exchange ideas, advice, critique, and encouragement. This collegial interaction was more evident in the messages that contained professional and academic topics. Following is an example of a threaded discussion to complete an assignment: [Thread 1] Hello everyone, Are we ready for another? Too bad, if you're not. I propose we meet this Saturday, 9:30 a.m. at Barnes & Noble to talk about and plan for this assignment. I'm afraid we can't wait too long as we only have 3 weeks. I also propose that we use the school we designed for the School Improvement assignment last summer. Ifthere's no objection, I'll send it to [Marilyn] and [Jennifer]. 82

PAGE 97

I will go ahead and put a short draft together for #2 -then everyone can give me input when we meet. [Thread 2] [Valerie], I agree, we need to start meeting. I will be out of town on Saturday, but will be around the rest of the month .... Just let me know what you need me to do. We definitely need to meet to get a plan going and then set up some other times to work on it. This looks rather complicated. [Thread 3] Hi, Can [Jennifer] & I be part of this? I told [Instructor] that we had divorced our original cluster and were working with you guys. He said that was fme. (Of course he would.) Anytime is good for me. [Marilyn] [Thread 4] Absolutely, I just count you two in on everything. See you on Saturday. [Thread 5] I am in. Just let me know where and when. Thanks. [Thread 6] Sat. works for me. See ya there. [Thread 7] Hi again, I just finished #2. I'll attach and if anyone has time (ha, ha, read and give me feedback ... I reviewed Chap. 15. Then wrote it. Is it too long? Too polly-anna? Doable? Are your schools using this process? [Message that followed] Duh -I forgot to attach. [Thread 8] What can I do? I will try to do something before Saturday. Vicki, where did you find the time to write number two up? It looks very good. I am struggling trying to get all of the reflections on law topics in by Monday. 83

PAGE 98

How about I do the Title page? ... Just joking about the title page. I will do more.:) I strongly suggest I not have anything to do with the math and numbers part of it. How about I do number three, which includes parts a-g. I think I can use what we have just developed at chs for the infonnation. The rest I can adjust. Let me know, I will try to get an outline to everyone before Saturday. The students seemed to have no inhibitions about venting in order to express frustration and problems ranging from technical to time-management to conceptual. For example, a student asked: Is anyone besides me feeling a bit stressed about the new assignments that weren't on the calendar? One a week? I was just beginning to feel like I was going to be o.k. with what I knew about. UGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!I!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! A definite element of empathetic behavior occurred throughout the program, especially prevalent when problems, concerns, and frustrations were being expressed. Empathy was often directed to one person's problem or inquiry. Usually this person had expressed some kind of frustration, problem, or concern. Peer empathy was directed to a colleague, and group empathy was directed to the community of learners or practitioners. In the cluster-group subconference, the group encouraged a student or the colleCtive group and at times a sincere camaraderie developed. People became group spokespersons, attempting to capture 84

PAGE 99

an individual plight or a group experience and shed some light on it or offer encouragement. The students were quick to respond to and offer an empathetic ear. Much discourse was aimed at getting through this particular online learning experience, as it had its own set of unique troubles and was new to the great majority of students. [Karen states] I read that syllabus and hit a real low. I just wonder ifI can do another one. I know it is the last class, but I am SOOOOO stressed right now. Zac is doing EVERYTHING, and I have costumes to make, games to go to, registration is right around the comer here, and I still have kids to see about that. I haven't even thought about the paper, and I haven't written anything for weeks!! I know I am WHINING, but I am really down right now. JUST TOO MUCH!!! HELP!!! [Marilyn quickly replies] Hi [Karen], I'm feeling much the same as you. Here is what I decided to do. I am going to just keep putting one foot in front of the other. I'll just do what I can do .. I was getting so freaked out at having to have everything finished by July that I started spending more time worrying about the work than actually doing it. Take care of your family and YOURSELF. You have to attend to the health trinity of nutrition, exercise and rest. If you don't, everything else starts to fall apart. Now, when I write you in a big panic next week, remind me of my own advice, OK. [Valerie] Well, I'm with you [Karen]. Right now fInishing the whole program seems way overwhelming. [Marilyn] has some good advice. I am also trying to take 1 or 2 weeks at a time so that I don't go over the deep end. I have tried to keep up with a log by scheduling time to update every 2 weeks. Then I just review my planner so I am documenting the things that would be a part of my internship .... .I have still been unable to work on artifacts. I'mjust hoping that between Spring and Summer school, we'll have a bit of time to 85

PAGE 100

pour into that portion of the program. I figure I'm doing the best I can with the daily responsibilities of work and family. Hang in there! Here is another example, Hello All, I am totally confused about the assignment for Oct. 2. What in the WORLD are we to do? I tried to look it up and cannot figure it out for the life of me. Help me! Help me! [Responded by Carolyn] I just noticed that too. I'm not sure exactly what she wants. Is this supposed to be like the case study we did that she assigned. Do we just work with teacher problems, or what? How long, and do we have to have answers for everyone? Just a reminder: Chapter 2 in the law book was to be read last week Critical Issues in Public school Finance due this week I think if we can get through this month. Nov. and Dec. will be a little lighter. We also have Christmas break to get a head start on the next tenn [Responded by Karen] Hey-Thanks for the encouraging words. Montrose School Dist. hasn't done a CDE-18 fonn for 2 years. They can't even find a copy of the last one they did. It must be kinda obsolete. I don't know. The case study for [Instructor] is a decision making scenario that we make up so that everyone can respond and then we respond to their response, you know that routine!!! Chapter 2 is really tough to read, I have started, but haven't finished. Pretty DRY!!! I don't know, I think we have some LONGGGGG!! Stuff to write in Oct. Many nights of typing. I really am dreading my 15 pages of personal philosophy. Are we still doing law presentations on Oct.9? Let me know right away!!! 86

PAGE 101

[Jennifer] I may show my ignorance, but I thought we were suppose to come up with a scenario for the rest of the class to come up with a solution for. But I am never sure. Does anyone else have an idea. [Karen] Hey-Yes, I agree, in fact that is what I did. It is one of those response, then respond to the response things. Have a good week!!! The concept of empathy and its frequent partner, encouragement, definitely added to the community-building environment. These students and educators had a support network that was evident in their online interaction. Conclusion The online peer interaction was fairly orderly, well written, interesting, and not too wordy. The students mostly stayed on task, and the conversations did not diverge much. The dialogue contained a constant social element as well as a collegial tone. The interaction was a lively representation of varying roles: student, friend, collaborative group member, family member, online community member, educator, and fellow human. One of the most interesting observations was the ability of this electronic display of the online peer-learning relationships to reflect all of that, adding voice to the online peer interaction. Students repeatedly talked online as if they were thinking aloud. Almost every comment contained something more than just writing. Many responses involved some mention of someone else's 87

PAGE 102

response (using their name or referring to the topic specifically). The online communication appeared similar to face-to-face communication even though their exchanges were written. A sense of community was clearly present. This social element was contained in the language. The students used others' names in referring to past comments. They also used polite parts of speech and expressions (e.g., emoticons, graphics, and color) to go beyond mere typing of information on a screen. The social elements did not usually take the students too far off the particular course-related topic, however. In a thread on an academic topic, the social element might be a quick aside, a funny remark, a comment meant to throw in a little humor or to lighten an otherwise serious situation, such as a problem or complaint. While cluster groups behaved differently, many students were quick to help each other. Those who were actively engaged created a community of learners and professionals. As a community of learners, they were helping each other on issues related to the DL program. As professionals, they readily helped each other become more informed educators. Overall, this online program had a considerable amount of professional sharing and helpful peer-learning relationships, which promoted an atmosphere of collegiality. 88

PAGE 103

CHAPTER 5 CONCLUSIONS This study examined the nature of online peer interaction in a distance learning principal licensure program. This chapter presents conclusions and recommendations that are grounded in the analysis and synthesis of the study's findings. These conclusions and recommendations are grouped into two sections: a discussion of research findings and a summary of recommendations. Discussion of Research Findings One of the most surprising discovery is the amount of online interaction generated within the cluster groups. While in most cases, the students in this study were open and supportive with each other, online peer interaction available in cluster group subconference were much less in quantity than I anticipated. Due to the nature of a distance-learning program, I suspected greater interaction to have occurred online. Nonetheless, they expressed their feelings, emotions, problems, and concerns. While frequent expressions of dismay, confusion or other negative responses to instructional or technical were articulated, they were acknowledged and supported by peers with empathy, understanding, encouragement, advice, and solutions. 89

PAGE 104

Students regularly displayed social manner, humor, and personal sharing, which demonstrated social awareness. A sense of community among online participants was clearly present. The cohort members were conscious of the social aspects of communication, aware that they were speaking to each other although their exchanges were written. This social element was contained in the language; that is, almost every e-mail message contained something more than just writing. Many responses involved some mention of someone else's response and included references to peers' names or a specific topic. A feeling emerged that people were "talking" to someone directly and not simply writing for the sake of expression. Cohort members used polite parts of speech and other symbols (e.g., emoticons, graphics, and color) to express themselves. While each cluster group behaved differently, in general all cohort members were quick to help each other. Online communication within the DL subconference showed evidence of a community of learners and professionals. As a community of learners, they were helping each other with issues related to the coursework of this program. This distance-learning program demonstrated relative amount of professional sharing and helpful peer-learning relationships. These promoted an atmosphere of collegiality and demonstrated interaction that was knowledgeable and supportive among a group of professionals. The concept of community, a typical component of constructivist learning environments (Lave & Wenger, 1991; Rogoff, 1994) was prevalent in this online 90

PAGE 105

experience. It was clear, as mentioned before, that the social element in the DL cohort was a crucial component and perhaps the single most salient feature across all messages and most responses. Without the community aspect, the conversations might have been much more sterile and seemed like mere reporting of activities. In contrast, the responses reflected a conversational environment. Clearly, the computer conferencing system and instructional design and strategies of the DL cohort promoted community-building interaction. Peer-to-peer interactions conveyed a willingness and a need to communicate with one another. The online communication within the DL cohort very capably supported social interaction, which is an important part of facilitating constructivist learning environments (Jonassen, 1991; Wersch, 1991). It appeared that the students needed and desired it. Many participants appeared to utilize the CEO conferencing system but not all students took full advantage of its capabilities. As identified in Table 4.3 (see p. 77), cluster groups generated a great range in the number of interactions, from as few as 35 to as many as 344 files during the time frame studied. Over the course of the program, the composition and community of cluster groups changed. For example, the group with the least number of interactions dissolved by the end of the third month. Two members of this group found new support by joining other cluster groups as honorary members and then ultimately as fully participating members. While the specific reasons for these changes in group 91

PAGE 106

membership were not evident in the online interactions, groups that arranged face to-face meetings also had greater online interactions. Some students identified the cluster group format as the best aspect of this program structure because of support gained from peers. Generally, the interaction within the online communication appeared to be as if students were just thinking aloud. Students' interactions typically contained evidence of activity and thinking that fit under a constructivist epistemology and adult learning principles. However, identification of the types of relationships evidenced in the online interaction was extremely difficult. The students shared ideas, opinions, evaluative comments, information, advice, support, and encouragement, but these types of could not be characterized as mentoring or tutoring relationships. Instead, their online communication reflected general peer-learning partnerships. Nonetheless, analysis of the data suggests that most students in this DL cohort participated as engaged members of a learning community. Overall, the students, many social elements of a learning community were evident in the students' outline communication. Woven throughout the threaded discussions were examples of peer discussion, debating, evaluation, and reflecting about the their thoughts and ideas. Even without complex categorizing of all e-mail exchanges, evidence of a constructivist-based learning environment within the DL 92

PAGE 107

cohort emerges. The data reveals that the students interacted with their peers in multiple ways: 1. Their own thinking: ideas, opinions, and thought processes. 2. Their own learning: style, preferences, and learning processes. 3. Their own personal, social, and professional stories and experiences, hopes and ideas, and reflective thinking. 4. Many issues of personal relevance that ranged from personal, to social, to professional. 5. Issues concerning all aspects of school administration, and how these have affected, were affecting, and might affect them personally and professionally. Problems, concerns, emotions, feelings, and issues that had personal, social, and professional relevance concerning a wide range of topics-the dialogues had an atmosphere that was comfortable enough for them to be fairly open in their expression. Clearly, throughout the program this was an integral part of "community-building. Summary of Recommendations: Peer Support The DL cohort members, particularly those in CG 5, appeared to enjoy the social aspect of the online environment. This was evident in the learners' online interactions where many of them openly sought and provided peer support. Several students shared personal challenges and issues with their peers and sought advice 93

PAGE 108

and support. Group members rallied around each other to achieve group success and personal support. Written exchanges suggest that students enjoyed sharing, discovering, and discussing new ideas, resources, and methods that help them grow professionally. Duffy and Jonassen (1992) suggest that these types of collegial interactions, where students are quick to help each other and share things that might be useful, are important aspects of constructivist learning. Analysis of the DL cohort's online communication suggest that students constructed knowledge using a variety of peer-initiated and peer-supported strategies. The students conversed about a wide range of topics during the program. The items with the most interaction were concerned with the following themes: (a) social interaction, (b) reflection, and (c) questions and problems with both technical issues and program related issues. The most common themes of content across all responses were: 1. Social awareness and social communication 2. Asking for and giving technical help, advice in general, and support and encouragement 3. Articulation of reflective thinking and ideas and opinions in general Peer interaction among students fostered collegial relationships although the closeness of collegiality differed. As reported by the students, some identified support from their group to be the best aspect of their program experience while 94

PAGE 109

some expressed that the online environment did not satisfy their preference for face to-face interaction. Overall, supportive peer relationships were evident in this study. Peer interactions were characterized by the presence of trust, closeness, and mutuality. Such qualities foster authentic, non-threatening, interaction between peers. Cohort members appear to have felt free to share ideas and invite assistance without fear of negative consequences. They were also able to confront concerns because they were willing to take some risks with the confidence that their respective peers would hear them out. The online interaction appeared to represent a form of thinking aloud from multiple perspectives. The students pondered, critiqued, asked, helped, articulated, reflected, negotiated, exclaimed, joked, laughed, and even smiled online. As a cluster group, they did it with dialogue, polite manners, social awareness, and with an awareness of themselves going through a shared educational experience. What has been described in this study reflects an environment that appears to identify peer support as a critical component of online learning. The peer-learning partnership model is not a well recognized strategy. Llittle attention is given to the benefits and applications of other learning partnership models and often it is confused with the more popular mentoring model. Since many people experience peer-learning relationships incidentally, rather than formally, the benefits of such a process are likely to be taken for granted or 95

PAGE 110

completely overlooked. Making the peer-learning partnership model more visible across settings should encourage greater application of this strategy. Defining the strategy more clearly as a distinctive bi-directionallearning approach with its own unique benefits and applications to online learning environments also seems necessary. Another needed area of study is comparative research on the impact of different versions of the peer-learning partnership model and varied applications of this modality. Summary of Recommendations: Online Learning Communities Social awareness was present in almost every response across all messages. The students were very aware of their membership in an online community. This awareness seemed to help them get through problems and the demands of the program. It also helped expand their learning because the students were comfortable with each other and supportive of one another. Their e-mail exchanges clearly indicate their willingness to offer help, advice, critique, feedback, support, empathy, and encouragement, all learner activities that Rogoff (1990) and Lave and Wenger (1991) found to be important in the development of effective learning communities. Creating a learning community is one of the most important issues in distance-learning. Community building deals with the social aspects of learning, the learners, and other constructivist concepts that are prevalent in today's educational 96

PAGE 111

research. Findings from this study support the need for further research on the importance of peer-learning relationships in online educational settings. One implication is that an online environment may facilitate the phenomenon of interaction as thinking because much of the online interaction had the characteristics of thinking aloud. DL students wrote their thoughts to peers living geographically apart. This process changed typical peer interaction. Electronic interaction among learners may stimulate productive thinking, reflection, and articulation of ideas and opinions. Thus, the constructivist notion of "negotiation" may well thrive in this kind of environment. Electronic interaction captures student thinking and holds great possibilities for many educational situations. If a goal of an instructional experience is to increase and improve thinking, then communication not only effectively stimulates participant learning, but also preserves it for outsider evaluation and scrutiny. Another needed area of research is the development of leadership in online environments. While peer interaction is based on communication among equal partners, research is needed about how leadership is developed and demonstrated in an online learning community. 97

PAGE 112

Summary of Recommendations: Instructional Design Issues Instructional design issues include topical content, structure, instructional strategies, and role definitions. These areas can affect student interest, motivation, achievement, and learning. Obviously, this is crucial because our society is moving toward more and more integration of technology and education. Data from this study suggest that students need special "places" for specific activities and a designated "place for socializing online." While each cluster group subconferences was active, a "place" to socialize with the entire cohort seemed to be desired. Further this may broaden the online community to include the entire cohort, rather than limiting exchanges to only cluster groups. This may be accomplished by dedicating a place for reflection and a place to get technical help for the entire cohort to access and participate in. Another aspect of student needs concern the "roles" they assumed as they communicated online. It appeared that DL cohort members interacted both as learners and practitioners. They needed to write about a range of issues (personal, social, and professional). As practitioners who sought self-improvement, they were engaged in professional development exchanges, an inherent feature of building and maintaining a community of practitioners. The cohort successfully created a sense of community, both as learners and as professional educators. Based upon findings 98

PAGE 113

from this study, instructional design for future distance-learning cohorts needs more clarification for students about the importance of peer support and collegiality. Providing a means to overcoming technical problems is a third need. Online educational experiences are based on advanced technology and must take into account the problems that this mode of learning creates. A technical support structure within the program seems to be crucial. Despite technical difficulties, instructional challenges and limited online interaction, it is noteworthy to recognize the high completion rate of cohort members. One explanation for success may be supported by student retention research such as Tinto's model (1975, 1987), which focuses on the student's interaction with the environment of the university (peers, faculty, and the administration). Based on theory that value integration and collective affiliation is necessary, Tinto assumed that the student either assimilates with the institution or becomes isolated and leaves. In the case ofDL cohort members, both value and affiliation seem high, as UCD this is the one of the few options these rural professional have access to and the cohort structure, while not for every student, provided enough connection to keep them engaged in the program. Faculty-student interaction appeared to be a factor that positively influences a student's institutional experiences (Hines, 1981; Pascarella, 1980, 1985; Terenini and Wright, 1987; Tinto, 1975). Pascarella (1980) suggested that the most influential informal contacts between students and faculty may be those that extend 99

PAGE 114

the intellectual content of the fonnal academic program into the students' non classroom life. Examples of such contact include infonnal discussions on intellectual issues, values, or career concerns. Infonnal contact contribute to both academic and personal development, extending intellectual interactions with mentors and are most influential on achievement (Pascarella, 1980, 1985; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1978, 1980; Terenzini & Pascarella, 1980; Terenzini, Theophilides, & Lorang, 1984). While this study focused on peer interaction, faculty-student interaction in a distance-learning context appears to be another critical topic of research. Overall, this list is not nearly exhaustive of the possibilities for future research ideas concerning peer support and online learning that utilize advanced CMC technologies. Different factors and variables could be used to build a matrix of possible topics that includes learner characteristics and perceptions, content and structure of program, instructional strategies and activities, learning relationships, and mix of technological components. The ultimate goal of further research should be to examine the factors that lead to successful delivery of outstanding technological educational experiences for students. 100

PAGE 115

APPENDIX A: SUMMER ORIENTATION SCHEDULE 101

PAGE 116

Schedule for June Il-June18 Distance-Learning Summer Session Time June 11 (Fri.) June 12 (Sat.) June 13 (Sun ) June 14 (Mon.) Blocks CU-Bui/ding St. Francis St. Francis St. Francis Room 490 Center Center Center (4-9 p.m ) (8 a m -9 p .m.) (3.-9 p.m ) (8 a.m.-9 p .m.) 8 to 12 Getting to know the FREE TIME 8-1 0 resource time program (domain (NC 5032) round tables) 10-12 leadership Domain 12 to 1 lunch on own lunch on own lunch on own 1 to 5 1-2:30 1-2:30 1-2:30 Technology lab Technology lab Technology lab (NC (NC 5032) (NC 5032) 5032) 3-5 Getting to know 3-4 Internship 3-5 leadership the program planning domain (domain round tables cont.) 4 p.m. arrival 4-5 leadership domain 5to 7 Cohort Dinner 5-6 Resource time Dinner on own Dinner on own 7 to 9 Getting to know FREE TIME leadership domain Environment Domain: one another school finance, budgeting Time June 15 (Tues.) June 16 (Wed.) June 17 (Thur.) June 18 (Fri.) Blocks St. Francis CU-Building Room CU-Building Room Center St. Francis 490 490 (8 a.m.-9 p.m.) Center (8 a.m.-9 p m ) (8 a.m.-2p.m.) (8 a.m.-9 p.m.) 8 to 12 Environment 8-10 Curriculum! Action research 8-9 Program review domain: law Supervision domain (cont.) and assessment 10-12 School 10-12 9-11 Improvement Technology lab Technology lab (NC domain (NC 5032) 5032) 12 to 1 lunch on own lunch on own lunch on own Cohort lunch 1 to 5 1-2:30 1-2 : 30 1-2 : 30 Depart at 1 Technology lab Technology lab Technology lab (NC 5032) (NC 5032) (NC 5032) 3-5 3-5 Curriculum! 3-5 School Environment Supervision domain Improvement domain domain: law 5to 7 Rockies game Action research Resource time 102

PAGE 117

APPENDIX B: RESEARCH DESIGN OVERVIEW 103

PAGE 118

Research Design Overview July 2000 July 2001 < Complete Dissertation compose fiIlal doc:umem < 5yzrthcsize Findings compaR IIIId cbcck for validity L..-------.I
PAGE 119

APPENDIX C: HUMAN SUBJECTS COMMITTEE APPROVAL 105

PAGE 120

University of Colorado at Denver HUMAN SUBJECT RESEARCH COMMITTEE University of Colorado at Denver Campus Box 129, P.O. Box 173364 Denver, CO 80217-3364 DATE: TO: FROM: SUBJECT: MEMORANDUM June 9, 2000 Cynthia Choi Deborah Kellogg, HRC Chair Human Research Protocol #641 Nature of online social interaction in a distance learning leadership education program I have reviewed your protocol, using an expedited process and have approved it as non-exempt. This approval is valid for one year from this date after which time you should contact the HSRC for an extension. If you change your protocol or have further questions please contact the HSRC. Good Luck with your research. 106

PAGE 121

APPENDIX D: CONSENT FORM 107

PAGE 122

UCD Hwnan Research Comminee C. CONSENT FORi\1 Memorandum of Understanding and Consent Form 1 have been selected to take pan in a research study based on my participation in the University of Colorado at Denver (UCD) School of Education leadership education (principal licensure) distance learning (Dr.) cohort. This research is in support of a doctoral dissertation currently titled Nature of Online Social Interaction in a Distance Learning Leadership Education Program. The purpose of this study is to gain an understanding of peer to-peer online social interaction. Contents of online discussion in the DL conference in Colorado Education Online (CEO) will be analyzed to explore this interaction in its natural distance-learning setting. I understand that Cynthia Choi is a doctoral student in the UCD School of Education, and that she will serve as the principal investigator of this study. She can be reached at Cynthia_Choi@ceo.cudenver.edu or 303-750-5955. I, _________________ ---" agree to: ./' Grant access to past records of my CEO exchanges with faculty and students, ./' Respond to occasional questions and clarifications via CEO, mail, or telephone, ./' Compete written instrument(s} which may include, but not limited to, demographic information, technological skills self-assessments, and reflective questions on personal relationship and interactions ./' Participate in one or more interview during the study, if I chose to volunteer. I have been informed that: Any information exchanged will be kept confidential. Every effort will be made by Cynthia Choi to ensure complete confidentiality of the participants. No identifiable reference to my school or me will be made to any members of the cohort, including either students or faculty. All data collected in this study will be kept in the possession of the researcher for a minimum of three years and will be destroyed properly when no longer needed. Participation in this study will require minimal time outside of program requirements to complete the written instrument(s). For some volunteers, additional time at mutually determined times or methods for interview may be necessary. When appropriate, my interview may be tape recorded and transcribed, Transcripts will be made available to me at my requeSt, and I am allowed to make additions, deletions, clarification, or corrections as needed to any reponing of my interviews. There exists the potential risk of psychological discomfort to a research subject while responding to the questions posed by the researcher in written instrument(s} andlor private interview(s}. However, it is not the intention of the researcher to cause any discomfort to the participants, and every effort will be made to eliminate or minimize potential discomfort. Findings from this study may have limited benefits to the participants, depending upon the extent to which findings are made pUblic General findings of this study will be published as a dissertation, possibly shared with the DL cohort, and information may be used in additional profession presentations(s) and publication(s). Participant in this study is strictly voluntary. Refusal to participate or withdraw from the study will present no penalty or loss of benefits to the participants. Questions related to the specific focus of the research will be answered following data collection and analysis. Participants may contact ht Office of Academic Affairs, CU-Denver Building, Suite 700, 303-556-2550, with questions about their rights as a research subject. In addition Dr. Rodney Muth, dissertation advisor may also be contacted for further questions at 303-556-4857 or via CEO (Rod_Muth@ceo.cudnerver.edu). A copy of this consent form will be given to the panicipant, if so desired. Under the conditions listed above, I agree to participate in this research study. Participant: ______________________________________________ __ Date: _________________ 1 108

PAGE 123

APPENDIX E: COMPARISON OF HELPING RELATIONSHIPS IN LEARNING 109

PAGE 124

Types of Helping Relationships Characteristics Peer Tutor Mentor Collaborative Peer Learning Group Partnership (Topping, 1988) (Jacobi, 1991) (Batesky, 1991) (Kram & Isabella, 1985; Shapiro et aI., 1978 Structure usually dyadic usually dyadic; usually 3 or usually dyadic; and fonnal maybe fonnal more; maybe maybe fonnal or or infonnal fonnalor infonnal infonnal Status of learners peers with junior person peers and peers of equal differing and senior parities of mixed rank abilities person levels Partner selection paired by usually maybe usually teacher, based voluntary, voluntary or voluntary, based on ability based on assigned, based on common rapport on common goal learning goals Learning/teaching tutoring guidance joint problemco-inquiry, comethods solving or discovery support through through praxis, praxis or discourse, discussion reflection Source of direction teacher-directed mentor-directed team-directed partner-directed (external) (hierarchical) (teamwork) (mutual) Guiding model Deficit-one Deficit-novice CollaborativeInterdependent student needs needs expert's each member peers act as both other's help advice contributes to learners and the whole helpers Focus uni-directional uni-directional multi-directional bi-directional help to advice to help help learning to support for remediate poor novice develop project reciprocal perfonner completion or learning. group support 110

PAGE 125

BIBLIOGRAPHY Anderson, J., & Lee, A. (1995). Literacy teachers learning a new literacy: A study of the use of electronic mail in a reading education class. Reading Research and Instruction, 34(3), 222-238. Barnett, B. G., Basom, M. R., Yerkes, D. M., & Norris, C. J. (2000). Cohort in educational leadership programs: Benefits, difficulties, and the potential for developing school leaders. Educational Administration Quarterly, 36(2), 255-282. Barnett, B. G., & Muse, I. D. (1993). Cohort groups in educational administration: Promises and challenges. Journal of School Leadership, 3, 400-415. Basom, M., Yerkes, D., Norris, C., & Barnett, B. (1995). Exploring cohorts: Effects on principal and leadership practice. Paper presented to the Danforth Foundation, St. Louis, MO. Bates, A. (1995). Technology, open learning and distance education. New York: Routledge. Batesky, J. (1991, June). Peer coaching. Strategies, 15-19. Barker, B. O. (1995). Strategies to ensure interaction in telecornmunicated distance learning. In M. Beaudoin (Ed.), Distance education symposium 3: Instruction (pp. 5-12). University Park: Pennsylvania State University. Barker, B. 0., & Dickson, M. W. (1994). Aspects of successful practice for working with college faculty in distance education programs. Education at a Distance, 8(2), 6-10. Beaudoin, M. (1995). Introduction. In M. Beaudoin (Ed.), Distance education symposium 3: Instruction (pp. 1-4). University Park: Pennsylvania State University. Beller, M., & Or, E. (1998). The crossroads between lifelong learning and information technology: A challenge facing leading universities. Journal 111

PAGE 126

of Computer-Mediated Communication, 4(2). Retrieved December 30, 1999 from the World Wide Web: http://www.axcusc.org/jcmc/voI4/ issue2lbeller .htm! Bernt, F. L., & Bugbee, A. C. (1993). Study practices and attitudes related to academic success in a distance learning program. Distance Education, 14(1),97-112. Bogdan, R. C., & Biklen, S. K. (1998). Qualitative research for education: An introduction to theory and methods. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. Boice, R. (1992). The new faculty member: Supporting and fostering professional development. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Bonk, C. J., & King, K. S. (1998). Electronic collaborators: Learner-centered technologies for literacy, apprenticeship, and discourse. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Brandt, R. S. (1987, February). On teachers coaching teachers: A conversation with Bruce Joyce. Educational Leadership, 12-17. Bresler, L. (1990). Student perceptions ofCMC: Roles and experiences. Journal of Mathematical Behavior, 9, 291-307. Brookfield, S. D. (1986). Understanding and facilitating adult learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Brookfield, S. D. (1990). The skillful teacher: On technique. trust and responsiveness in the classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Brookfield, S. D. (1995). Becoming a critically reflective teacher. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Bruner, J. (1966). Towards a theory of instruction. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Candy, P. (1991). Self-direction for lifelong learning: A comprehensive guide to theory and practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Collis, B. (1996). Tele-Iearning in a digital world: The future of distance learning. London: International Thomson Press. 112

PAGE 127

Collison, G., Elbaum, B., Haavind, S., & Tinker, R. (2000). Facilitating online learning: Effective strategies for moderators. Madison, WI: Atwood. Colorado Department of Education. (1997, September). Rules for the administration of the Education Licensing Act of 1991. Denver: Author. Cookson, P. S. (1995). Analyzing interaction in audioconferencing: A progress report. In M. Beaudoin (Ed.), Distance education symposium 3: Instruction (pp. 29-39). University Park: Pennsylvania State University. Costa, A. L., & Kallick, B. (1993, October). Through the lens of a critical friend. Educational Leadership, 51 (2), 49-51. Cox, R. (1999). Web of wisdom: A field study ofa virtual learning community. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Palo Alto, CA: Institute of Transpersonal Psychology. Daloz, L. A. (1986). Effective teaching and mentoring: Realizing the transformational power of adult learning experiences. San Francisco: Jossey Bass. Daloz, L. A. (1999). Mentor: Guiding the journey of adult learners. San Francisco: Jossey Bass. Dehler, C., & Porras-Hernandez, L. H. (1998). Using computer mediated communication (CMC) to promote experiential learning in graduate studies. Educational Technology, 38(3), 52-55. Denzin, N. K. (1978). Sociological methods: A sourcebook. New York: McGraw-Hill. Duffy, T., & Cunningham, D. J. (1996). Constructivism: Implications for the design and delivery of instruction. In D. H. Jonassen (Ed.), Handbook of research for educational communications and technology (pp. 170-198). New York: Simon & Schuster Macmillan. Duffy, T., & Jonassen, D. H. (Eds.) (1992). Constructivism and the technology of instruction: A conversation. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. 113

PAGE 128

... -------.--_._. Ford, S., Martin, W. M., Murphy, M. J., & Muth, R (1996, August). Linking standards to a problem-based approach in the preparation of educational administrators. Symposium presentation at the annual meeting of the National Council of professors of Educational Administration, Corpus Christi, TX. Ford, S., Martin, W. M., Muth, R, & Steinbrecher, E. (1997, February). The Denver Schools Leadership Academy: Problem-based learning to prepare future school leaders. In J. Reyhner (Ed.), Partnerships in education: Preparing teachers for the twenty-first century (pp. 123-132). Flagstaff, AZ: Northern Arizona University. Garmston, R, Linder, C., & Whitaker, J. (1993, October). Reflections on cognitive coaching. Educational Leadership, 51 (2), 57-61. Garrison, R (1993). Quality and access in distance education: Theoretical considerations. In D. Keegan (Ed.), Theoretical principles of distance education. New York: Routledge. Gayol, Y. (1995). The use of computer networks in distance education: Analysis of the patterns f electronic interaction in a multinational course. In C. C. Gibson (Ed.), Distance education symposium 3: Learner and learning (pp. 61-70). University Park: Pennsylvania State University. Gibson, C. C. (1990). Learners and learning: A discussion of selected research. In M. G. Moore (Ed.), Issues in American distance education (pp. 121135). New York: Pregamon Press. Gibson, C. C. (1995). Introduction. In C. C. Gibson (Ed.), Distance education symposium 3: Leamer and learning (pp. 1-3). University Park: Pennsylvania State University. Glaser, B. G., & Strauss, A. L. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. Chicago: Aldine. Glesne, C., & Peshkins, A. (1992). Becoming qualitative researchers: An introduction. While Plains, NY: Longman. Gonzalez, P. (1995). Teaching in two environments: A case study comparing face to face and online instruction. In M. Beaudoin (Ed.), Distance 114

PAGE 129

education symposium: Instruction (pp. 40-50). University Park: Pennsylvania State University. Green, K. (1996). Campus computing, 1996: The seventh national survey of desktop computing and information technology in American higher education. Los Angeles: University of Southern California, James Irvine Foundation Center for Scholarly Technology. Guba, E. G., & Lincoln, Y. S. (1989). Fourth generation evaluation. Newbury Park, CA: Sage. Guernsey, L. (1997, October 17). E-mail is now used in a third of college courses, survey fInds. Chronicle of Higher Education, p. A4. Gunawardena, C. N. & Zittle, R. (1995). An examination of teaching and learning processes in distance education and implications for designing instruction. In M. Beaudoin (Ed.), Distance education symposium: Instruction (pp. 51-63). University Park: Pennsylvania State University. Harasim, L. M. (Ed.). (1990). Online education: Perspectives on a new environment. New York: Praeger. Harasim, L., Hiltz, S. R., Teles, L., & Turoff, M. (1995). Learning networks: A fIeld guide to teaching and learning online. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Harnish, D. & Wild, L. A. (1994). Mentoring strategies for faculty development. Studies in Higher Education, 19(2), 191-201. Harper, G., & Kember, D. (1986). Approaches to study of distance education students. British Journal of Educational Technology, 17(3),212-222. Heller, M. P., & Sindelar, N. W. (1991). Developing an effective teacher-mentor program. Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation. Heim, M. (1993). The metaphysics of virtual reality. New York: Oxford Press. Henri, F. (1992). Computer conferencing and content analysis. In A. Kaye (Ed.), Collaborative learning through computer conferencing (pp. 117136). Berlin, Germany: Springer-Verlag. 115

PAGE 130

Hillman, D. C., Willis, D. J., & Gunawardenda, C. N. (1994). Learner-interface interaction in distance education: An extension of contemporary models and strategies practitioners. American Journal of Distance Education, 30-42. Hill, M. S. (1995). Educational leadership cohort models: Changing the talk to change the walk. Planning and Changing, 26(3/4), 179-189. Hiltz, S. R. (1994). The virtual classroom: Learning without limits via computer networks. Norwood, NJ: Ablex. Hines, E. R. (1981). Academic advising: More than a placebo? NACADA Journal 1(2), 24-28. Holden, M., & Wedman, J. F. (1993). Future issues of computer-mediated communication: The results of a Delphi study. Educational Technology Research and Development, 41(4), 5-24. Huang, C. A., & Lynch, J. (1995). Mentoring: The Tao of giving and receiving. San Francisco: HarperCollins. Hummel, H. G. (1993). Distance education and situated learning: Paradox or partnership? Educational Technology, 33(2), 11-22. Jacobi, M. (1991). Mentoring and undergraduate academic success: A literature review. Review of Educational Research, 61(4),505-532. Johnson, D., & Johnson, F. (1991). Active learning: Cooperation in the college classroom. Edina, MN: Interaction Book Company. Johnson, D., & Johnson, F. (1997). Group theory and group skills. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. Jonassen, D. (1991). Objectivism versus constructivism: Do we need a new philosophical paradigm? Educational Technology Research and Development, 39(3), 5-14. Jonassen, D., Peck, K. L., & Wilson, B. G. (1999). Learning with technology: A constructivist perspective. Upper Saddle, NJ: Prentice-Hall. 116

PAGE 131

Jonassen, D., Davidson, M., Collins, M., Campbell, J., & Bannan-Haag, B. (1995). Constructivism and computer-mediated communication in distance education. American Journal of Distance Education, 9(2), 7-26. Joyce, B., & Showers, B. (1992, October). The coaching of teaching. Educational Leadership, 40(1), 4-11. Kasten, K. (1992). Students' perceptions of the cohort model of instructional delivery. Paper presented at the annual convention of the University Council for Educational Administration, Minneapolis, MN. Kaye, A. (1989). CMC and distance education. In R. D. Mason & A. R. Kaye (Eds.), Mindwave: Communications, computers, and distance education (pp.3-21). Oxford: Pergamon Press. Kaye, A. (1992). Collaborative learning through computer conferencing: The Najaden papers. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. Kearsley, G. (2000). Online education: Learning and teaching in cyberspace. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. Keegan, D. (1986). The foundations of distance education. London: Croon Helm. Kerr, E. B., & Hiltz, S. R. (1982). Computer-mediated communication systems: Status and evaluation. New York: Academic Press. Khan, B. (Ed.). (1997). Web-based instruction. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology. Kiesler, S., Siegel, J., & McGuire, T. W. (1994). Social psychological aspects of computer-mediated communication. American Psychologist, 39, 11231134. Kirby, D., & Boak, C. (1987). Developing a system for analysis. Journal of Distance Education, 2(3), 31-42. Knowles, M. S. (1980). The modern practice of adult education: From pedagogy to andragogy. New York: Cambridge University Press. 117

PAGE 132

Knowles, M. S. (1984). Andragogy in action: Applying modem principles of adult learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Knox-Quinn, C. (1993). David Bohm's dialogue, the freewrite dance, and "aspects." Writing Notebook: Visions for Learning, 10(4),6-8. Kram, K., & Isabella, L. (1985). Mentoring alternatives: The role of peer relations in career development. Academy of Management Journal, 28(1), 110-132. Larson, J., & Jacobs, G. E. (2001, April). Building a professionalleaming community: First year discussion. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Seattle, W A. Lave, J., & Wenger, W. (1991). Situated leaming: Legitimate peripheral participation. New York: Cambridge University Press. LeBaron, J. F., & Bragg, C. A. (1994). Practicing what we preach: Creating distance education models to prepare teachers for the 21 st century. American Journal of distance education 8(1),5-19. Lebow, D. (1993). Constructivist values for instructional systems design: Five principles toward a new mindset. Educational Technology Research and Development. 41(3), 4-16. Leithwood, K., Jantzi, D., & Coffin, G. (1995). Preparing school leaders: What works. Toronto: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Levinson, D. J. (1978). The seasons ofaman's life. New York: Knopf. Lewis, L., Snow, K., Farris, E., & Levin, D. (1999). Distance education at postsecondary education institutions: 1997-98. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Nations Center for Education Statistics. Lowry, M., Koneman, P., Osman-Jouchoux, R., & Wilson, B. (1994). Electronic discussion groups: Using e-mail as an instructional strategy. TechTrends, 39(2), 22-24. Marland, P., Patching, W., & Putt, I. (1992). Thinking while studying: A process tracing study of distance learning. Distance Education, 13(2), 193-221. 118

PAGE 133

Mahoney, V. L. (1990). Adverse baggage in the learning environment. In R. Hiemstra (Ed.), Creating environments for effective adult learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Mason, R. (1994). Using communications media in open and flexible learning. London: Kogan Page. Maxwell, J. A. (1996). Qualitative research design: An interactive approach. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. McCormick, N. B., & McCormick, J. W. (1992). Computer friends and foes: Content of undergraduates' electronic mail. Computers in Human Behavior. 8,379-405. McDonald, J., & Gibson C. C. (1998) Interpersonal dynamics and group development in computer conferencing. American Journal of Distance Education. 12(1), 7-25. Merriam, S. B. (1988). Case study research in education: A qualitative approach. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Merriam, S., & Caffarella, R. (1991, 1999). Learning in adulthood: A comprehensive guide. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Moore, M. G. (1994). Autonomy and interdependence. American Journal of Distance Education. 8(2), 1-5. Moore, M. G. (1989). Three types of interaction. American Journal of Distance Education, 3(2), 1-6. Moore, M. G. (1973). Towards a theory of independent learning and teaching. Journal of Higher Education, 44(9),661-679. Murphy, J. (Ed.). (1993). Preparing tomorrow's school leaders: Alternative designs. University Park: University Council for Educational Administration. 119

PAGE 134

Murphy, M. J., Martin, W. M., & Muth, R. (1994, October). Matching performance standards with problems of practice: Problem-based learning in a standards environment. Symposium presentation of Problem-based learning, Performance Standards, and Portfolios at the annual meeting of the University Council for Educational Administration, Philadelphia, P A. Muth, R (1999, August). Integrating a learning-oriented paradigm: Implications for practice. Paper presented at the annual conference of the National Council of Professors of Educational Administration, Jackson Hole, WY. Muth, R (2000). Learning at a distance: Building an online program in educational administration. Educational Leadership and Administration: Teaching and Program Development, 12,59-74. Muth, R (2001, forthcoming). Scholar-practitioner goals, practices, and outcomes: What students and faculty need to know and be able to do. Manuscript accepted for publication in of the inaugural issue of Scholar Practitioner Quarterly, 1(1). Muth, R, Banks, D., Bonelli, J., Gaddis, B., Napierkowski, H., White, C., & Wood, v. (1999, April). Toward an instructional paradigm: Recasting how faculty work and students learn. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Montreal, Canada. Muth, R., Murphy, M. 1, Martin, W. M., & Sanders, N. (1996). Assessing knowledge and skills through portfolios. In J. Burden (Ed.), Prioritizing instruction (pp. 216-231). Fourth Annual Yearbook of the National Council of Professors of Educational Administration. Lancaster, PA: Technomic. Napier, L. A., & Lowry, M. (1999, October). Empowering for change: Continuing the vision. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Leadership Association, Atlanta, GA. Nielson Media Report. (1999). Retrieved December 30, 1999 from the World Wide Wide: http://www.commerce.netlresearchlstats/stats.html Nipper, S. (1989). Third generation distance learning and computer conferencing. In R. Mason and A. Kaye (Eds.), Mindweave: 120

PAGE 135

Communications, computers, and distance education (pp. 74-85). Oxford: Pergamon Press. Norton, M. S. (1995). The status of student cohorts in educational administration preparation program. Paper presented at the annual convention of the University Council for Educational Administration, Salt Lake City, UT. Ohana, C. (2000). Preservice teacher cohorts and their implications for mathematics and science education. Madison, WI: National Institute for Science Education. Otto, M. L. (1994). Mentoring: An adult developmental perspective. In M. A. Wunsch (Ed.), New directions for mentoring: An organizational development perspective (New directions for Teaching and Learning, No, 57). (pp. 76-98). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Paccagnella, L. (1997). Getting the seats of your pants dirty: Strategies for ethnographic research on virtual communities. Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, 3(1). Retrieved December 30, 1999 from the World Wide Web: http://www.ascuse.org/jcmc/vo13/issuel.paccagnella. html Pascarella, E. T. (1980). Student/faculty informal contact and college outcomes. Review of Educational Research, 50, 545-595. Pascarella, E. T. (1985). College environmental influences on learning and cognitive development. In J. C. Smart (Ed.), Higher education: Handbook of Theory and Research (pp. 49-101). New York: Agathon Press. Pascarella, E. T., & Terenzini, P. T. (1978). Student-faculty informal relationship and freshman year educational outcomes. Journal of Educational Research, 71, 183-189. ; Pascarella, E. T., & Terenzini, P. T. (1980). Predicting freshman persistence and voluntary drop-out decisions form a theoretical model. Journal of Higher Education, 51, 60-75. Patton, M. Q. (1990). Qualitative evaluation and research methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 121

PAGE 136

Perraton, H. (1988). A theory for distance education. In D. Sewart, D. Keegan, & U B. Holmberg (Eds.), Distance education: International perspectives (pp. 34-45). New York: Routledge. Phillips, G., & Snetsinger, W. (Eds.). (1995). Creating a real group in a virtual world. Interpersonal Computing and Technology, 3(4),42-56. Picciano, A. G. (2001). Distance learning: Making connections across virtual space and time. Upper Saddle, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Rappaport, M. (1991). Computer mediated communication. New York: John Wiley & Sons. Reddick, R., & King, E. (1996). The online student: Making the grade on the Internet. New York: Harcourt Brace. Rheingold, H. (1993). The virtual community: Homesteading on the electronic frontier. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley. Rice, R. E., & Love, F. (1987). Electronic emotion: Socioemotional content in a computer-mediated communication network. Communication Research, H.. 85-108. Richards, L. (1999). Using NVivo in qualitative research (2nd ed.). Bundoora, Victoria, Australia: Qualitative Solutions and Research. Richardson, J. A., & Turner, A. (2001). Collaborative learning in a virtual classroom. National Teaching and Learning Forum, 10(2). Retrieved March, 28, 2001 from the World Wide Web: http://www.ntlf.org Roberts, L. (1988). Computer conferencing: A classroom for distance learning. ICDE Bulletin, 18, 35-40. Rogoff, B. (1990). Apprenticeship in thinking. New York: Oxford University Press Rogoff, B. (1994). Developing understanding of the idea of communities of learners. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 1(4),209-229. Romiszowski, A. J. (1997). Web-based distance learning and teaching: Revolutionary invention or reaction to necessity? In B. H. Khan, (Ed.), 122

PAGE 137

Web-based instruction (pp. 25-37). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications. Romiszowski, A. J., & de Haas, J. (1989). Computer-mediated communication for instruction: Using e-mail as a seminar. Educational Technology 29(10), 7-14. Romiszowski, A. J., & Mason. (1996) Computer-mediated communication. In D. H. Jonassen (Ed.), Handbook of research for educational communications and technology. New York: Simon & Schuster. Rorty, R. (1991). Objectivity, relativism, and truth: Philosophical papers. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press. Saltiel, I. M. (1998). Defining collaborative partnerships. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 79, 5-11. Saltiel, I. M., & Sgroi, A. (1996, November). The power of the partner in adult learning. Paper presented at the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education conference, Charlotte, NC. Saltiel, I. M., Sgroi, A., Brockett, R. G. (Eds.). (1998). The power and potential of collaborative partnerships (New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education No, 79). San Francisco: Jossey Bass. Schon, D. A. (1987). Educating the reflective practitioner: Toward a new design for teaching and learning in the professions. San Francisco: Jossey Bass. Seaton, W. J. (1993). Computer medicated communication and student self directed learning. Open Learning, 8(2),49-54. Shedletsky, L. (1996). Minding computer-mediated communication: CMC as experiential learning. Educational Technology, 33(12),5-10. Shedletsky L. (1997). Teaching with computer-mediated communication. Retrieved December 27, 1999 from the World Wide Web: http://ceLhagg. umke.edulcommlfaculty/aitkenlsctlsctb.htm Sheehy, G. (1976) Passages : Predictable crises of adult life. New York: Bantam. 123

PAGE 138

Short, J., Williams, E., & Christie, B. (1976). The social psychology of telecommunications. London: Wiley. Shuell, T. J. (1986). Cognitive conceptions oflearning. Review of Educational Research, 56(4),411-436. Smith, J. K. (1983). Quantitative vs. qualitative research: An attempt to clarify the issue. Educational Researcher, 12(3),6-13. Smith, M. A. (1992). Voices from the WELL: The logic of the virtual commons. Unpublished master's thesis. UCLA Department of Sociology. Retrieved December 27, 1999 from the World Wide Web: http://www.sscnet.ucla. edu/soc/ csoc/papers/voices/ Sorensen, C., & Baylen, D. (2000). Perception versus reality: Views of interaction in distance education. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 1(1),45-58. Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Teitel, L. (1995). Understanding and harnessing the power of the cohort model in preparing educational leaders. Peabody Journal of Education, 72(2), 66-85. Terenzini, P. T., & Pascarella, E. T. (1980). Student/faculty relationships and freshman year educational outcomes: A further investigation. Journal of College Student personnel, 21, 521-528. Terenzini, P. T., & Wright, T. M. (1994). The transition to college: Diverse students, diverse stories. Research in Higher Education 35(2),57-74. Terenzini, P. T., Theophilides, C., & Lorang, W. G. (1984). Influences on students' perceptions of their academic skills development during college. Journal of Higher Education, 55, 621-636. Thornburg, D. D. (1991). Education, technology and paradigms of change for the 21 st century. London: Starsong. 124

PAGE 139

Tinto, V. (1975). Dropout from higher education: A theoretical synthesis of recent research. Review of Educational Research, 45, 89-125. Tinto, V. (1987). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Topping, K. J. (1988). The peer tutoring handbook: Promoting cooperative learning. London: Croon Helm. Tough, A. (1979). The adult's learning projects: A fresh approach to theory and practice in adult learning (2nd ed.). Toronto: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Learning Concepts. Tucker, R. W. (1995). Distance learning programs : Models and alternatives. Syllabus, 9(3), 42-46. Vella, J. (1994). Learning to listen, learning to teach: The power of dialogue in education adults. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Waggoner, M. (1992). A case study approach to evaluation of computer conferencing. In A. Kaye (Ed.), Collaborative learning through computer conferencing (pp. 137-146). Berlin, Germany: Springer-Verlag. Wagner, L. (1982). Peer teaching: Historical perspective. Westport, CT: Greenwood. Watkins, B. (1980). Training educational opportunity researchers: Some sobered thoughts on mentoring, some optimistic thoughts on community. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Boston, MA. Weber, R. P. (1994). Basic content analysis (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Wedemeyer, C. A. (1981). Learning at the back door: Reflections on nontraditional learning in the lifespan. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press. Weimer, M. (1990) Improving college teaching: Strategies for developing instructional effectiveness. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 125

PAGE 140

---.---.------------_ .......... Weise, K. R. (1992). A contemporary historical study of the Danforth program for preparation of school principals at the University of Houston. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Houston, TX: University of Houston. Wertsch, J. (1991). Voices of the mind: A sociocultural approach to mediated action. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press. Wuncsh, M. A. (1994). New directions for mentoring: An organizational development perspective. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 126