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Email Supervision in the Practicum: What do student teachers think?

Rosie Le Cornu and Bruce White

University of South Australia

Paper presented at the British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, Cardiff University, September 7-10 2000

Contacts:
 rosie.lecornu@unisa.edu.au
bruce.white@unisa.edu.au 

This paper focuses on student teachers' perceptions of the use of email to support communication between university lecturers and student teachers during their final school experience. Two emerging trends from the 90's have contributed to this study. Firstly, changes have been made to how the practicum is conceptualised, structured and supervised as a result of funding problems and an increased awareness of the constraints associated with traditional practicum programs. Secondly, computer mediated communication has been used increasingly by tertiary institutions for course delivery however the application of ICT to the practicum is still a relatively new area. Our study was guided by the following questions: How can ICT be used most effectively in the practicum? For whom? In what contexts? What is the mode of thinking behind their use?

Introduction

Practicum reform, or ways of rethinking the practicum in order to enhance learning outcomes for all participants in the practicum, has been occurring in many professional education programs, both in Australia and overseas, in the last decade (Zeichner, 1990; Cochran-Smith, 1991; McIntyre, 1991). In teacher education in Australia for example, practicum programs have been reconceptualised and restructured based primarily on the concepts of reflection, partnerships and collaboration (Dobbins, 1993). It is only recently however that the use of ICT in the practicum is being seriously considered, beyond its relevance in the administrative area (Sumsion, 1997). Sumsion argued that given the "newness of the area" and given the "scarcity of relevant evaluative studies", there is a need to establish a research agenda in this field. This is beginning, with the literature containing discussions about the value of ICT in the practicum and research into aspects of its use (Schlagal, Trathen & Blanton, 1996; Thomas, Clift, & Sugimoto, 1996; Wentworth, Monroe, Orme & Lynes, 1999).

This paper makes a contribution to the research agenda. It is based on study which was guided by the following questions: How can ICT be used most effectively in the practicum? For whom? In what contexts? What is the mode of thinking behind their use? The study investigated the use of email between student teachers and university lecturers during their final practicum experience in a four year Bachelor of Education pre-service primary teaching course.

The paper begins with a review of the current literature in the areas of the practicum and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in university settings. We then set the context of the study, describe the methodology used and present the results. This is followed by a discussion which links the findings to the research questions and provides our insights into how email can be used effectively in the practicum.

Background/Literature Review

The practicum in preservice teacher education

The practicum is regularly reported by preservice teachers as the most important and valuable part of their teacher preparation (Britzman, 1991). Recent changes to the practicum have attempted to provide opportunities for student teachers to develop reflective professional behaviour whereby they think carefully about their teaching, question their previously held beliefs about teaching and rethink their teaching practices.

Such processes ensure that they develop a coherent philosophy of learning and connect their philosophy to classroom practices (Boyd, Boll, Brawner & Villaume, 1998; Metcalf & Kahlich, 1998).

However, it is recognised that reflection and the linking of field experiences to theory require a lengthy time commitment of both university lecturers and students (Wentworth, Monroe, Orme & Lynes, 1999). Amidst the current higher education context of reduction in government funding, higher student -staff ratios and increased expectations and demands on academics' time, school visits by university staff are becoming increasingly difficult to maintain. Even when students are seen in their school by a university lecturer, conversations are often short and usually focus on immediate classroom practices and events of the day (Wentworth et al, 1999). This is not a new problem faced by practicum supervisors (Tabachnick, Popkewitz & Zeichner, 1979-1980). However, such constraints, are not conducive to serious reflection on teaching. They do not allow the time to engage in the kind of discourse that is argued is necessary to facilitate the development of reflective, inquiry-oriented teachers (Schlagel et al, 1996).

Another problem recognised in the practicum literature is that of 'disconnection'. Placed in a classroom in a school, student teachers are often isolated from university lecturers and coursework, other classrooms as well as from their peers (Schlagel et al, 1996; Cohen, 1999). Again, a 'university supervisor' is often used to attempt to make some connections between the two contexts of school and university. A growing trend however, amidst the current climate, is that supervisory visits are made by non-tenured hourly paid staff who have not taught university coursework and so for them, making links between the two contexts is difficult. Moreover, school environments are becoming increasingly 'busy places' and so, even when students are placed in school groups, difficulties with pressured timetables and teachers' commitments do not lend themselves to peers working together or university lecturers engaging with teachers. These issues, together with the limited time available for university supervisors, continue to make practicum supervision problematic.

It is particularly problematic for those university supervisors who have themselves made a shift in their supervisory approach, as advocated by the changes being mooted in the last decade (Cochran-Smith, 1991; Smyth, 1993). These changes saw a shift from traditional, hierarchical supervision approaches where the university supervisor observed lessons and gave feedback, to the more recent facilitatory models where the university supervisor engages in 'learning conversations' with student teachers, to help them make sense of their learning and develop their reflective capabilities.

Supervision, employed by university lecturers, whether it be the more traditional approaches or the more facilitatory approaches, has depended on close physical proximity and placed high importance on the value of face to face communication. Our research sought to explore the possibilities of using ICT (specifically email and electronic bulletin board discussion groups) in university supervision.

ICT and preservice teacher education

There is no doubt that there has been an increasing use of ICT into the teaching activities of universities. We all know the challenges faced by our institutions in ensuring that there 'smart' lecture theatres with the latest technology and the challenges faced by lecturing staff in using the technology. Similarly we all know the challenges of preparing course materials for 'online delivery'. There is pressure also to ensure that our graduates possess amongst their qualifications the ability to utilise computer-based technologies. In Australia for example, the Australian Council of Deans of Education highlighted the need for graduates from teacher preparation programs to have an understanding of and ability to use information technology to facilitate learning, to assist with administrative tasks such as record keeping, and to interact with professional colleagues (Australian Council of Deans of Education, 1998).

Email has been one of the elements of "online delivery" employed extensively in higher education and research has indicted that it can bridge the physical separation between teacher and learner and that it allows the user to control time, place and pace of interactions (Evert & Ahern, 1994; Ahern & Durrington, 1995-1996). Jonassen (1996) commented on the increased time that learners have to develop their thoughts and arguments and Geer and Au (1998) found that while email has the potential to increase interaction and encourage a deeper understanding of the subject matter it needs to be supported.

However like the practicum, the area of 'ICT and preservice teacher education' is problematic. In a review of literature on information technology and teacher education, Willis and Mehlinger (1996) concluded that preservice teacher education is generally not preparing teachers to work in a technology rich environment. Moreover, Taylor (1999) made the point that much of the literature in the area either advocates or describes the use of ICTs in ways that uncritically focus on the technology. He agrees with Windschitl (1998), who argues for a more critical research agenda which raises such questions as 'How is the introduction of this technology changing pedagogical practices'? Taylor emphasises that while there is no doubt that the application of ICT results in new learning environments, it is necessary to understand the inherent complexities of these environments and draw on multiple perspectives, rather than merely extend the shelf life of old pedagogies.

Burbules & Callister (2000) extend this call, in their paper entitled 'Universities in Transition: The Promise and the Challenge of New Technologies'. They stress that university staff cannot carry on their activities as usual - they cannot ignore the potential of new technological resources for rethinking the practices and aims of higher education. They too argue for a focus on pedagogical change. They write:

What we are seeing, as the Internet becomes not only an archive of information, but an actual medium of communication and collaboration, is that the metaphors of "distance" and "delivery" (transporting some thing over a distance to give to someone) are less appropriate for the kinds of educational interactions that are possible within this new technological environment. Increasingly, the Internet is a working space within which knowledge can be co-constructed, negotiated and revised over time... (p. 5)

They highlight the creation of 'communities of inquiry', where the traditional mode of interaction between teacher and student changes and new pedagogical practices are required. This notion is consistent with the term 'learning communities' which is being used more frequently in the literature on teacher professional development and school reform (Riel & Fulton, 1998; McLaughlin, 1997).

The challenge for us, as teacher educators in pre-service education, becomes: How do we draw on what we know about learning to teach and ICT, to ensure that our pedagogical practices for the practicum are relevant and purposeful?

Context

University of South Australia

This study was centred on primary teacher education students completing their final practicum subject in a four year Bachelor of Education course. The subject ran for fourteen weeks, during which time the students had a three hour on-campus component for ten weeks and six individual days in their school setting followed by a four week practicum. The emphasis in the final practicum subject was on the students having increased autonomy and responsibility and increased ownership of their learning. To this end, they were expected to assume a major teaching role, investigate their own teaching behaviour using action research, write much of the final report in collaboration with their mentor and communicate regularly with a critical friend and their university lecturer. A change in nomenclature from 'student teacher' to 'pre-service teacher' was made to reflect the changes.

Each university lecturer teaching in the subject had a workshop group of approximately 27 students, with whom they worked in a structured on-campus program and then were responsible for them when they went into the practicum. The university lecturer's role was to support the pre-service teachers in reflecting on their learning and in the implementation of their action research project via email. The university lecturer also made phone contact with the school twice during the practicum to discuss the pre-service teacher's development with the mentor. Subject booklets were provided to mentors, in which their roles and the roles of the pre-service teachers and university lecturers were outlined. A 'face-to-face' session was also held prior to the practicum, for mentors to explore issues.

The mentor's role was to facilitate their pre-service teacher's professional growth. We encouraged a 'collaborative mentoring' approach which involved the following practices: systematic reflection, focused sharing, collaborative planning, negotiated observations, constructive feedback and learning conversations (McCann & Radford, 1993). Reflecting and 'talking about teaching' were seen as important components of the mentoring role and so students were expected to be involved in 'learning conversations' which focused on the questions, what?, why? and for whom?

The study investigated pre-service teachers' experiences with 'email supervision'. This model of supervision required the pre-service teachers to email their university lecturer twice throughout the practicum (end of weeks one and three), and make weekly contact with a peer, known as a 'critical friend'. Before the students emailed their lecturer, they needed to reflect on their learning from the practicum thus far, from both their teaching and researching. They were given the following questions to guide their responses:

What has been significant in my learning about teaching and being a teacher? Why?

How is this placement enriching my professional skills and knowledge?

How successful am I? How do I know? (provide indicators)

Schools in South Australia

There has been an increasing awareness of the impact of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) on students' learning in the school system in South Australia. The Department of Education, Training and Employment (2000) implemented a project called DecsTech 2001 which had as its aim "Technology is able to be an embedded, integrated part of learning activities, and technological applications will be, at all levels, curriculum driven" (DETE 2000). To this end there was a substantial ($85.6 million) investment in infrastructure and training and development for government schools in the state. One part of this plan was the development of sa.edu which is the gateway through which schools are connected to the Internet. This provides World Wide Web (WWW) and email access to teachers and students, which is managed at the school level. While much of the infrastructure is in place, many teachers are grappling with the implementation phase. There is a wide range of skill and comfort levels within the teaching population and this has led to sporadic integration of ICT in the classroom and use of email.

Methodology

The study had two stages. In 1999 a pilot study was conducted with twenty students, involving the use of focus groups varying in size from two to five. The focus groups were conducted several months after the students had completed their practicum and revolved around questions which explored pre-service teachers' experiences with ICT in the practicum, what helped and what hindered and their perceptions of using email as a form of communication in the practicum. The focus group data were analysed and three key issues were identified. These were:

The second stage of the study focused on the 2000 cohort of 124 students who went to 84 schools for the practicum. A questionnaire, based on the issues highlighted from the focus groups and the literature, was administered to the students on completion of their practicum. The data from the questionnaires were then entered and analysed using SPSS.

Results

Background of Students

As we know from the literature confidence with the use of computers is an indicator of their level of use (Chen, 1986; Kinzie & Delcourt, 1991). This was certainly confirmed by the findings from our study. When the students were asked to rate their confidence on a 5 point likert scale 98.3% rated themselves as at least 'reasonably confident', with 92% of students indicating that they used a computer at least once or twice a week. Despite this overall confidence and usage level, 20% of students indicated that they rarely or never used email apart from university requirements. In terms of access almost half of the students (45.1%) used email from home, with 31.1% accessing from their school setting, with the remainder of the students accessing from other unnamed locations. Access was rated as 'easy' or 'very easy' by 88.9% of the students with only five students (4.3%) rating it as 'very difficult'.

Perceptions of 'email supervision'

In the results ninety-three (76.2%) of the pre-service teachers surveyed regarded 'email supervision' as appropriate for the final practicum. Reasons given included reduction of stress associated with a university lecturer visiting, effective use of technology, being final year students (increased independence), being treated as a professional and flexibility/ease of access. These reasons are depicted in the following quotes:

"Allows student teacher to focus on practicum and not worry about when UBTE (University Based Teacher Educator) is coming in. SBTE (School Based Teacher Educator) also don't have to worry about UBTE coming into school, which some SBTE stress about."

"It is of great value to incorporate this new technology into the life of the teacher. Teachers should practise these skills when given opportunities. "

"We are about to enter the teaching profession so it was good that we were treated that way."

"It is often difficult to arrange a time to meet people while teaching at a school. It is much easier to e-mail."

The access issue was particularly relevant for pre-service teachers undertaking a placement in the country. For example,

"Email communication...allowed me the medium to express my concerns and ask for help if required. This was particularly important because I did a country prac. and felt geographically isolated."

Thirteen students (10.7%) did not regard the email supervision model as appropriate with sixteen (13.1%) not answering that question. The main reason for not regarding the model as being appropriate was the lack of personal contact, as depicted in the following comments:

"I didn't feel supported enough."

"Teaching is 'face to face'. I don't want to be a number."

A number of pre-service teachers highlighted the 'hidden message' depicted. Many of the students expressed a similar view to the following quote :

"Shows we can be trusted. It was made our responsibility."

However, for one student, it was a different message:

"I believe we deserve the same time as any of the other teaching students, to me this says that we are not that important!"

These messages exemplify the 'hidden curriculum of the practicum' (Dobbins, 1995). The hidden curriculum has been shown to have a powerful influence on how student teachers interpret and what they learn from the practicum (Zeichner & Tabachnick, 1981; Goodman, 1986).

While the main focus of the study was on the pre-service teachers' perceptions of the email supervision model, because of the knowledge base which has long since established the importance of the mentor-student teacher relationship (Fuller & Brown, 1975; Zeichner, 1980; Goodman, 1985), we were also interested in finding out what the pre-service teachers thought their mentors' response to it was. Almost half (45.9%) of the students thought their mentors viewed email supervision as appropriate, a little over one third (35.2%) could not tell and thirteen (10.7%) said they thought their mentors did not regard it as appropriate. On closer examination of the data it was found that there was a high correlation (sig .000) between the pre-service teachers' perceptions of the model and whether they thought their mentor regarded it as appropriate. This again reinforces what we know about the influence of the mentor in a practicum setting.

It was clear from some of the students' responses that their mentors made it very obvious to them what they thought of email supervision, while for others it was less clear resulting in them guessing what their mentors were thinking. For example,

"I think she would have preferred at least one visit or opportunity to talk to someone face to face. "

"I think the coordinator felt that we should still have someone observe us give a lesson - perhaps he would prefer face-to-face discussion."

Another point made was the perception that email would need to be supplemented with personal contact if any students were having problems. For example:

"Email supervision was great BUT if problems arose it would be better to have face to face contact."

"I think that it was suitable for those who were coping BUT if a student appears to be having any problems there should be personal contact straight away. Email does not help."

From these findings that ICT can be perceived positively by pre-service teachers in the practicum. For these final year students, the increased autonomy and increased responsibility which were expectations of this practicum, were congruent with 'email supervision'. The majority of students saw the absence of the university lecturer in the school setting as recognition of their status as someone soon to join the teaching profession.

Relationship with the University

It is clear from Table 1 that the majority of pre-service teachers considered it to be important to keep in contact with the university during the practicum.

Yes

No

Count

%

Count

%

Was it important to you to keep contact with the university during your practicum?

89

75.4%

29

24.6%

You were required to email your lecturer twice. Would you have done this if you did not have to?

44

38.9%

69

61.1%

Did the email process help you reflect on your learning in the practicum?

90

81.1%

20

18.0%

Table 1

As noted before, they regarded email as a good way to do this. Reasons included their perception, of themselves as final year pre-service teachers and that it was less threatening than traditional supervision. Comments included:

"It allows the freedom that is applicable to student who will be beginning teachers next year, while still supporting us during the placement."

"It was a lot more comfortable than having a uni supervisor "watching" our lessons."

"It wasn't as threatening experience as personal contact. ie Uni. supervisors breathing down your neck."

Most of the students (86.1%) considered it important to receive an email response from their university lecturer. This point is supported by the fact that almost all of the students (except two) read their lecturers' email responses. Students' comments included:

"As I did a prac in the country, it was great to still have contact and support. I waited eagerly for responses. I felt that the feedback was excellent."

" I felt relaxed doing this and believe that without this I would have felt a little cut off and not really felt as confident as I did after receiving feedback from e-mails."

A few students were critical in their comments about the lecturers' short responses. For example,

"...The responses I thought were brief and undetailed from supervisors."

"More feedback from uni. lecturer would have been better."

When asked how important it was to have an established relationship between their workshop lecturer and themselves, 90% rated it as 'reasonably important', 'important' or 'very important'. This was highlighted by some of the students' comments:

"I felt comfortable talking openly with my lecturer"

"I think the email process would be more useful if you had a well established relationship with your lecturer. My concern would be that a lecturer may not place my face with an email."

It is interesting to note that despite the students' strong support of maintaining contact with the university during practicum, from Table 1 it is also evident that more than half of the students would not have emailed their lecturer unless it was a subject requirement. Some of the students elaborated:

"If it wasn't a requirement I would have thought that I didn't have time to do it."

"It's helpful for those students having trouble. I flew through the prac. so it was an extra thing to do."

"I would like to email my lecturer but not at given times - more as I felt the need - or have something to write."

Our findings support what we know about the importance of relationships in the practicum (Campbell-Evans & Maloney, 1997; Beattie, 1997). Students wanted to know the lecturer they were emailing, rather than being seen as anonymous. However, our study does challenge the assumption that all practicum relationships have to be developed, face to face.

Reflection in the Practicum

In the final practicum the pre-service teachers' reflection on their learning was considered a central element. They were encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning, maximise it and reflect on it. The process of reflection has been developed in the student teachers from their first year practicum experience in the Bachelor of Education course, with SBTEs, UBTEs and their peers. It is acknowledged by the university teaching team as an essential component of the 'learning to teach' process. As can be seen from Table 1, the majority of students (81.1%) considered the email process helped them reflect on their learning. The students' written responses provided insights to this. Reasons given included the writing process itself, taking time to stop and think about what was happening and the challenge of reflection and focusing on achievements as well as the challenges. These are depicted in the following:

"By writing the email I was really thinking about what I had learned, it was a great way to reflect."

" Made me stop and acknowledge what had been happening instead of being caught up in fast pace of the prac."

"I found it hard to sit and think about what to write but it made me think clearly and succinctly about what the important issues were."

"It made me stop and think about the sorts of things that I learnt and developed about me as a teacher. Towards the middle of Wk 3 I was feeling quite down and it made me realise that I had been successful and achieved a lot."

There was inevitably a difference of opinion:

"Email is an impersonal style of contact not suitable for reflection."

An interesting related issue is how students perceived the emailing process itself - as a written or verbal mode of communication. The majority of students saw it as written (65.8%), with more than half the students (71.3%) proof reading their email before they sent it. The comments indicated that the students saw it more as a formal 'professional' process and allowed them time to construct their response. For example:

"Writing is different to speaking. Good to have 'professional' and 'independent' dialogue."

"I was able to sit down on the weekend and really think about what I would write rather than just babble on the phone. It was useful for me to reflect on the week and be quite open about what I wrote. I definitely prefer written contact than oral/verbal."

However a small number likened email to the spoken word and regarded it as a much less formal process. This was exemplified in the following:

"Email is a verbal form of communication, and it was like speaking personally of successes and failures. It was less formal than a written response, which allowed honesty and reflection."

"As I saw it as a verbal mode of communication, I was able to really engage."

From these results it can be seen that regardless of the students' perception of the nature of email, they were able to engage with the medium. Of course there is the issue of audience which this comment by one of the students reminds us:

"I guess you were a little more conscience of what you were writing, because it was to your lecturer. There are only certain things that lecturers want to hear. It is not a truly open forum as you would have us believe."

There were two additional support mechanisms established for students to aid in the reflection process. As a result of the 1999 pilot study, where students indicated that they were concerned about what to write in their email responses to their lecturers, it was decided to provide guiding questions in the 2000 subject booklet. The results showed that 90% of the students found these questions very useful in structuring their email responses. Their written comments supported this finding:

"Having questions to guide my reflection encouraged me to actually think through what was important in my learning and development as a teacher. It encouraged me to identify areas of significance, and critically reflect on these."

" Yes. The questions that I needed to respond to made me critically reflect on my teaching - not just give an overview."

The students were asked to rate the effectiveness of the dialogue with their mentor, critical friend and the university lecturer, on a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 was 'ineffective' and 5 was 'very effective'.

 

Mean

Std. Deviation

dialogue with my mentor

4.5084

.7421

dialogue with my critical friend

4.1780

.8611

email dialogue with my workshop lecturer

3.9957

1.0245

Table 2

From Table 2 it can be seen that students found all three sources of dialogue useful in terms of their learning. The most useful dialogue identified by the students was not surprisingly with their mentor, but the level of satisfaction with both their critical friend and their university lecturer was still very high.

One student found it all a bit much, as seen in this comment:

"Between my critical friend, my mentor, my lecturer and my 'outside' friends I was all "reflected" out."

Our study supports the importance of the mentor's role in facilitating reflection in practicum experiences. As noted earlier, mentors in this program were encouraged to use a collaborative mentoring approach that valued 'learning conversations' about teaching. The high level of support for dialogue with critical friends and university lecturers as well leads us to support the notion of 'learning communities', where the barriers of time and place are broken down by the use of ICT. In this way, preservice teachers have the opportunity to be challenged by a wider range of values and beliefs about teaching.

Discussion

One of our research questions was, 'What is the mode of thinking behind the use of ICT in the practicum.' Implicit in this question is: 'What is the mode of thinking behind the use of any supervisory model utilised in the practicum?' The pre-service teachers' perceptions of the email process in this study, and indeed, the perceptions of the mentors, were influenced by their expectations of 'supervision' in the practicum. All of the pre-service teachers and the mentors in the study had previously experienced 'face to face' supervision. Thus, they made comparisons between the two processes. For some students it was a question of which was better: 'face to face' or 'online' and their answer depended on their previous experiences. Some of the pre-service teachers obviously had not liked their previous supervisory experiences and had found the visits from university staff stressful and threatening. This issue is a recurring theme in the practicum literature (Yee, 1971; Zeichner & Tabachnick, 1981; Dobbins, 1994). Some students however had enjoyed their previous experiences and wanted the personal contact with university staff.

Burbules & Callister (2000) highlighted the problems that exist when students and staff adopt the either-or mentality with regard to face to face and online teaching. The situation with 'supervision' is not dis-similar. Burbules et al (2000) made the point that on-campus, face to face teaching relations are not the best option for every student, especially as some students experience such teaching as high-pressure, uncomfortable and even exclusionary. They also asked the question 'what is being compared here?' and highlighted that often face to face teaching experiences are romanticised and are based on outdated often mythical views rather than the reality of face to face teaching in the current climate. We suggest that the same might be said in regard to face to face supervision. We would argue that teacher educators need to be clear about the underlying assumptions upon which any 'supervisory' practices for the practicum are based, and then look at how ICT can be used to support such practices.

Our underlying assumptions were:

the relationship between university based teacher educators and school based teacher educators is important for effective practicum experiences;

the mentor ('supervisory teacher') plays a crucial role in supporting pre-service teachers' learning in schools;

pre-service teachers reflecting on their learning during their practicum is an essential component of 'learning to teach';

final year pre-service teachers need to experience increased independence in the school setting, while still having support from the university;

teacher educators need to ensure that their pedagogical practices keep pace with the advances in ICT;

the 'hidden curriculum' of the practicum needs to be as congruent as possible with the explicit curriculum.

The other research questions that guided our study were: How can ICT be used most effectively in the practicum? For whom? In what contexts? Overall the results have supported the use of 'email supervision' for this particular group of students. It was suitable in all contexts, but particularly for country placements and where there was support from the mentor for the use of email. The email process clearly supported the professional development of students who were preparing for taking on the responsibilities of beginning teachers. Further research needs to be conducted to ascertain its applicability for students in other stages of their teacher education course.

This study has provided insights into how ICT can be used effectively in the practicum. Based on our findings, we propose the following:

A relationship between the university lecturer and the pre-service teacher needs to be established prior to practicum, which has been developed ideally, as a result of face to face on-campus work;

Peer support is important in the practicum and needs to be organised prior to it commencing;

During the practicum, email contact from student to lecturer needs to be part of the explicit university requirements;

There needs to be some guidance given as to the content of the email responses;

University lecturers need to respond to all email communication from students;

Flexibility needs to be built in to funding arrangements to allow for face to face supervision by university lecturers if needed.

Our work continues. As teachers become increasingly comfortable with computers and using email, we see the use of email in the practicum expanding to involve university lecturers and teachers emailing directly and the development of 'practicum learning communities'. This is a natural evolution, as a few teachers did use email to contact university staff during the 2000 study. We are interested in how this communication can best be facilitated and how the learning communities can most effectively operate.

Conclusion

This study has shown that 'email supervision' can be used very effectively by student teachers and teacher educators.

More importantly however, from conducting the study, we now realise that it is not simply a matter of a model of supervision incorporating ICT. The availability of ICT provides the opportunity for those involved with teacher education to re-examine and re-think their beliefs and practices for the practicum. It is time that we challenge some of the underlying assumptions of the practicum; that it needs to be 'supervised' by the university and this supervision needs to be face to face. The focus needs to shift to pedagogy rather than supervision per se. The new question becomes, as noted earlier: How do we draw on what we know about learning to teach and ICT, to ensure that our pedagogical practices for the practicum are relevant and purposeful?

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This document was added to the Education-line database on 18 September 2000