Videoconferencing as a Professional Development Learning Environment
Reports show that numeracy standards of K-7 students living in geographically-isolated areas of Western Australia are lower than those of their metropolitan counterparts (Nelson, 2005). One significant reason for this is that teachers of students in rural locations have less exposure to best practices and fewer opportunities for professional development. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that country schools tend to attract recent graduates who are most in need of support to establish sound teaching practices. Despite exposure to these practices in their pre-services courses, the pressures of the first year result in many new teachers teaching from texts rather than to clearly-defined numeracy needs.
This paper discusses the findings of a project that aimed to support newly-appointed rural teachers in implementing mathematics curriculum with students in Years 2 to 7. Following face-to-face assistance in the identification of their students' numeracy needs, seven teachers in three schools were then supported by means of fortnightly videoconference sessions on mathematics curriculum that addressed these needs. It was anticipated that regular contact with teacher educators would give them confidence in implementing a task-based (rather than a text-based) curriculum. Qualitative methodology was used to obtain insights into the value of this form of professional development. Data were collected via teacher interviews and transcribed videoconference sessions over two terms. Findings suggest that, while not without its problems, videoconferencing can be used to support recent graduates teachers develop professionally.
Steketee, C., & McNaught, K. (2007). Videoconferencing as a professional development learning environment. Paper presented at the 23rd National Conference for the Society for the Provision of Education for Rural Australia (SPERA). Perth, WA.