Teachers' perceptions about electronic communication and professional community in schools
Karen Vida Berner, The University of Utah, United States
The University of Utah . Awarded
The purpose of this study was to explore teachers' perceptions about electronic communication and professional community in an electronically wired private high school in the southwestern part of the United States. Findings are based on results of a survey of 33 teachers, 4 administrator interviews, and 2 teacher focus groups. A previously developed research-based model served as the focus for examining teachers' perceptions as to whether electronic communication fosters or hinders each of the five dimensions of the professional community construct (collaboration, reflective dialogue, deprivatization of practice, focus on student learning, and shared values). Besides the finding that teachers perceive e-mail moderately impacts collaboration, there is minimal evidence across the other four dimensions that teachers perceive electronic communication fosters professional community.
Teachers perceive that e-mail fosters collaboration because e-mail is a convenient way to communicate information and a precursor to discussion among teachers. Electronic communication allows for the exchange of more information about student achievement and more immediate feedback about students' learning problems. Teachers can more accurately discuss and more closely monitor the behavior and academic achievement of students and advisees by using e-mail. Because of their ability to communicate electronically, teachers perceive they have more accountability for student achievement goals. However, in spite of high levels of electronic connectivity among parents, teachers, administrators, and students within the school community, teachers expressed strong concerns about their belief in the need for face-to-face discussion among teachers to achieve joint understanding.
Teachers perceive that electronic mail is creating a more risky communication environment because of an inherent potential for misunderstanding and miscommunication. By creating more ambiguity and uncertainty in the communication environment, e-mail may potentially hinder collaboration and the development of shared values in a school community. Teachers expressed concerns about the increased visibility and access to e-mail and electronic gradebook information. In light of the findings, ethical and practical implications for schools are discussed for each of the five dimensions. The bibliography contains 100 references to research and theory about computer-mediated communication, school-based professional communities, and teachers' use of electronic communication in schools and networks.
Berner, K.V. Teachers' perceptions about electronic communication and professional community in schools. Ph.D. thesis, The University of Utah.
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