The Roles of Facilitators and Peers in an Online Support Community for First-Year Teachers
The first year of teaching can be especially difficult for novice teachers. Teachers often have little opportunity to meaningfully reflect on their practice with others who are experiencing similar challenges. The Lighthouse Project used a telecommunications network to provide 12 beginning teachers with a forum for engaging in professional problem solving with mentors, university faculty, and each other. The research questions for this preliminary study included examining the types of issues the teachers discussed as well as how they and the mentors and university faculty used the online forum to provide emotional, social, and intellectual support. Over a 6-month period there were 48 initiating messages that were coded and grouped into 8 content categories. The 394 responses were coded into 5 categories that described their function; that is, the type of response that was provided. The content analysis indicated that replies consisted primarily of fostering a sense of community (34.8%) or providing advice (21.3%). Other responses were coded as sharing knowledge (20.1%), relating a personal experience with the issue (16.0%), or encouraging reflection (7.9%). An analysis of variance was conducted to determine if the beginning teachers and faculty differed in how often they provided each of these types of responses. The results indicate that the first-year teachers were more likely to respond with messages that related a personal experience while the faculty was more likely to share knowledge or encourage reflection. The results of this study suggest that beginning teachers and faculty serve different functions in an online teacher support community.
Babinski, LM; Jones, BD; DeWert, MH
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