TLINC Presented at AECT

TLINC Project Manager Carmen Weaver and veteran TLINC Mentor Jennifer Nelson presented the findings of the 2008-2009 TLINC research at the Association for Educational Communications and Technology International Convention. This year’s convention was held October 27 -31 in Louisville, KY.

Read the proposal for the presentation that was presented:

Data collection for this presentation is occurring through May 2009 with analysis completed by October 2009.

The Teachers Learning in Networked Communities (TLINC) project was developed by the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF) with the goals of improved teacher retention and accelerated proficiency for new teachers. TLINC seeks to prevent the reported isolation felt by pre-service and novice educators when beginning their teaching careers. Currently, NCTAF and the TLINC project are partnered with three US universities to help build online communities of teachers.

Beginning teacher attrition is a serious problem facing America’s schools. Teacher attrition is not isolated to any specific region. The high rate of teacher turnover can be observed across all sectors of education. The effect of this mass departure from teaching means that in the average school, almost half of the teachers have less than three years of experience.

One reason for teacher attrition is the isolation felt by beginning educators. In a Teacher Education Program (TEP), students are prepared apart from the schools where they will serve. They are then placed as “stand-alone teachers in self-contained classrooms” (NCTAF, 2006). When a teacher leaves the TEP, they often leave behind a support system of teacher educators and peers. TLINC seeks to address this reported isolation by focusing on three areas of need identified by novice teachers: access to high-quality teaching resources, frequent access to experts (mentors and coaches), and ongoing peer support (Silberstein, Martindale, & Young, 2007).

These three areas of need can be met through the implementation of collaborative mentoring groups. Face-to-face groups have traditionally been used to meet these needs. However with the large number of responsibilities teachers have to fulfill and the sprawling physiology of some school districts, face-to-face meetings are not always a possibility. In these situations, online collaborative groups can have a great impact. They can serve to enhance the benefits of collaborative groups by overcoming the limitations of geography and fixed timetables.

The TLINC project is working to expand on the idea of online collaborative groups by using the platform Tapped In (www.tappedin.org) with each of its three partner sites. The TLINC project seeks to achieve the five following outcomes through these networked communities: 1) improved teacher retention; 2) accelerated proficiency for new teachers; 3) opportunities for all teachers, administrators, and university faculty to become engaged in a learning community that continues to evolve; 4) establishment of partnership capacity-building structures and processes that assure sustainability; 5) identification of the elements of TLINC that are the source of its power, to identify the essentials for replication and scaling.

Through a grant award from the Fund for Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), the TLINC project is in its second year of growth and implementation at the three partner sites (It will be in its third year at the time of the convention). Online mentoring and peer collaboration is taking place in groups of pre-service and in-service teachers. Data is currently being collected using surveys, qualitative data from focus groups and interviews conducted through site visits, and quantitative data from the Tapped In site in order to gauge usage and growth.

While most of the research in the field documents participants’ perceptions and use of the mediums used in online collaboration, there is very little published conversation analysis. Through ongoing research we are obtaining transcripts of the online, synchronous conversations student teachers are having with a mentor during their clinical practice assignment. Data is currently being collected and analyzed. We plan to present the findings of this conversation analysis during the convention.

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