Training teachers through technology A case study of a distance-based teacher training programme

University dissertation from Umeå : Umeå universitet

Abstract: This thesis’ main theme is the relationship between teacher training, distance education, ICT and community. These aspects of an educational practice are conceptualised within a hermeneutical approach as aspects of edukation. The thesis consists of eight articles. These are all related to one specific teacher training programme, in the thesis considered as being one demarcated social context, and treated as a single case. In articles I-III, different theoretical conceptions are elaborated upon both in relation to the discipline of Education (in Swedish Pedagogik), and in relation to the hermeneutical approach. Articles IV-VIII reports on the analysis of several data-gatherings, understood as being parts of an embedded case study. Teacher trainees on the programme have responded to a questionnaire, and have been interviewed. Teacher trainers organising the programme have been interviewed, and governmental and local policies concerning both teacher training and distance education were included. The data were gathered with the intention of enabling an understanding of the conditions through which the teacher trainees understand their societal commission, as a strive for upholding and developing legislated constitutive values, such as multiculturalism, equity, democracy and freedom. All in all, the aim of the thesis is to present an overall understanding of the process of edukation, the establishment of an educative relationship between the individual and the society in distance-based teacher training. The analysis points towards an understanding that emphasises the possession by trainees of competencies that include self-sufficiency, self-direction in their learning and self-confidence providing independence from their fellow trainees, their trainers and society at large. Being assessed primarily on an individual basis does not seem to encourage the trainees to take a collective responsibility for their learning. The trainees seem to associate the social dimensions in the programme primarily to feelings of being at ease, rather than to aspects of learning. Seen as an overall aspect of a process of edukation, the norms and values developed when the trainees negotiate meaning and values appear, in this context, to promote individuality. Additionally, this understanding seems to apply to aspects of democracy as well. Having been able to regard the teacher training programme from different theoretical positions over time, and to consider the teacher trainees and their studies as belonging to a learning community; the Online Learning Community that intersects the issues of learning and technology with the issues of values and society, one might ask; is this then a story of community? If the trainees’ views on education and learning stem from a sense of community, then it might be that of a community as a place of belonging. This could be why the trainees regard the sense of being at ease in the study-group as being more important than the aspects of learning in the study-group. Learning might incorporate conflicting views and contrasting standpoints that potentially challenge the study-group and their sense of belonging. Feeling at ease and taking an inclusive stance might then be one way of ensuring that the group provides what it promises: a safe and warm place. This could be contrasted with the way community implies a strong normative tendency to embrace while disciplining, or as the trainees put it; you may belong here if you adjust to the norms of the group. This in turn begs the question: what is the ethical stance taken in a community, society or study-group? In this thesis, one possible interpretation of this matter is provided.