TLINC in 2012

March 22, 2012

Here’s a bit about our involvement with this important project. TLINC has a long history with the University of Memphis. We have gone through several iterations of this project, with each version having its own area of focus. In past years we have concentrated on mentoring and building the careers of teachers in the field. However, for the past two years we have focused exclusively on teachers-in-training. The primary reason for this change is the ongoing instability in the school districts in our immediate region. I will describe that issue briefly, as it has been widely documented in local news reports, and it is an ongoing legal issue. Our largest and closest school district is Memphis City Schools (MCS), which is also the most common placement district for our teacher education graduates. Within our same county is the Shelby County school district, which is generally more suburban and rural. These 2 districts are attempting to merge. If successful, it will be the largest district merger in United States history, in terms of number of students. Some of the small cities surrounding Memphis are attempting to create their own school districts. This effort is counter to what the larger districts are trying to achieve. Consequently, local district personnel have been less willing to take on initiatives that do not pertain to the merger, or might be unsustainable after the merger. MCS has also had some leadership changes that have made it difficult for TLINC to maintain our connections there. So, we at the University of Memphis have focused on the teachers that we do have access to–in this case pre-service teachers.

So, we are working within the structure of a course–IDT 3600 Integrating Technology in Instruction. Every teacher candidate takes this course. Our 3600 instructors have set up a communities in edWeb, and are engaging the teacher candidates in discussions related to using technological means for professional development.

In past versions of TLINC we have taken different approaches. One year we employed an overarching “theme question” for all the mentoring discussions. That theme was about how to set expectations for student achievement. In other years we based discussions around the different content areas, such as language arts, special education, etc. Interestingly, in the recent past, almost all our mentoring discussions were conducted using synchronous tools (mostly text chat). This year with edWeb we have been entirely asynchronous.

I’ve been pleased so far with the work of our instructors, in terms of the conversations they are leading. We have some veteran instructors such as Carmen Weaver, who you may know has been closely involved with TLINC for three years.


TLINC funded by FIPSE

June 22, 2011

The TLINC project has been funded for 2011-2012 by the U.S. Department of Education Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE). We look forward to connecting more early career teachers for support and professional development.

Great semester for TLINC!

December 17, 2009

The Fall 2009 semester was a great success for TLINC! Here is a quick recap of highlights!

1. TLINC began its partnership with Pearson. Pearson is working to develop an online platform that meets the needs of our mentoring groups!

2. Mentors met with their student teachers throughout the semester to provide support and encouragement during their student teaching.

3. Pressing issues that student teachers are facing were identified through analysis of the transcripts of their online meetings.

4. Memphis TLINC is being revamped based on the research findings and feedback received during this amazing semester.

We are looking forward to TLINC Spring 2010!!

TLINC Presented at AECT

November 1, 2009

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 ( 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.

Online Social Networking Breaking the Culture of Professional Isolation: The World’s Largest English Department

October 6, 2009

-Teacher Magazine; October 1, 2009

This spring, 10 days after completing her bachelor’s degree in secondary English education from the University of Tampa, Laura Abercrombie was hired to teach 8th grade language arts. Anxious about what might be awaiting her in the fall, Abercrombie did what any self-respecting digital native would do: She took her troubles to the Web. She searched “language arts” and stumbled upon The English Companion Ning, whose tag line read, “where English teachers meet to help each other.”

Having created a Ning network in ed school, Abercrombie was familiar with the social networking platform and excited by the materials and ideas on the site. “I saw all these amazing YA literature resources, which I needed to know for my job,” says Abercrombie, referring to books for the young adult market. But staring at pages of groups, forums, curricula, and multimedia resources, she also started to panic. Without the benefit of any guidance, it was like being dropped in a foreign country without a map. “I didn’t know who to talk to or who could help me,” she explains.

To read the full article, click here.

TLINC Mentor quoted in Commercial Appeal

August 27, 2009

TLINC Mentor Denise Winsor was quoted in a story in the August 26th Commercial Appeal.

Rule ends retention in Pre-K through 3rd grade

By Jane Roberts (Contact), Memphis Commercial Appeal
Wednesday, August 26, 2009

As Memphis City Schools administrators install a new no-flunk policy for children in the earliest grades, community criticism is ringing in their ears.

To read the article, click here.

Opinion: Finding the Elusive Best Teacher

August 27, 2009

-Orlando Sentinel; August 24, 2009

As another school year starts, and students get to know their new teachers, two major national studies remind us that the single most important factor in a student’s achievement is the quality of his or her teacher. Reports by The National Council on Teacher Quality (“Increasing the Odds,” 2005) and The New Teacher Project (“The Widget Effect,” 2009) agree with this finding, which probably surprises no one.

Who does not remember a teacher who transformed his attitude about school and, in the process, his life?

So how do we find these teachers? Authors of “The Widget Effect” write that, except for word of mouth, no one can tell you. A survey of 15,000 teachers and 1,300 school administrators by The New Teacher Project found, “A teacher’s effectiveness — the most important factor for schools in improving student achievement — is not measured, recorded or used to inform decision-making in any meaningful way.”

What are these reports telling us — that the public education system in this country has no rational process for measuring teacher effectiveness and provides insufficient, if any, mentoring programs to facilitate teacher success and thus the students’ success? Unfortunately, the answer appears to be a resounding “yes.”

Schools rarely collect data on effective teachers, and even when they do, that data is not used to help struggling teachers improve or reward those who are making a difference in student learning.

Beginning teachers, and therefore the students of beginning teachers, seem to suffer most. They receive little or no guidance in their initial years in the classroom, and yet, The New Teacher Project study concludes, these beginning years are the most crucial in the development of teachers.

The evidence is also increasingly clear that ineffective teachers — those who don’t make a difference in student achievement — are rarely told so. The National Council on Teacher Quality observed, “More than 99 percent of teachers receive the satisfactory rating.” And “at least half of the districts studied have not dismissed a single nonprobationary teacher for poor performance in the past five years.”

Both of these important studies debunk a number of other myths about teacher effectiveness.

To view the full article, click here.