Date of Award

10-8-2008

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Middle-Secondary Education and Instructional Technology

First Advisor

Brendan D. Calandra - Chair

Second Advisor

Stephen W. Harmon

Third Advisor

Carolyn Furlow

Fourth Advisor

Douglas Williams

Abstract

This study used explanatory mixed methods to examine the effects of two computer-based reflection writing scaffolds, question prompts and writing process display, on preservice teachers’ levels of reflection in their online reflective journal writing. The scaffolds were embedded in a system simulating the Professional Accountability Support System Using a Portal Approach (PASS-PORT). The outcome measure was the level of reflection achieved in participants’ writing. The researcher collected data at the College of Education of a major southern university in the United States. Participants were undergraduate students enrolled in a technology integration course in fall 2007. Sixty-five preservice teachers participated in quantitative phase of the study; sixteen out of the 65 preservice teachers were purposefully selected to participate in qualitative phase of the study. The majority of the preservice teachers were white females between the ages of 20-29 in their junior year. During the quantitative phase of the study, participants in control group and two treatment groups were randomly and evenly assigned to one of three different Web pages associated with their treatment conditions. The participants reflected on a critical incident that happened during their practical teaching. Two raters, blind to the participants’ treatment conditions, coded the highest level of reflection achieved in their writing samples using the reflection rubric developed by Ward and McCotter (2004). The researcher employed ANOVA to assess the group differences in the highest level of reflection reached and in the length of the reflective writing in the number of words. The alpha level was set at .05 for all analyses. During the qualitative phase, the researcher conducted open-ended interviews with the participants as a follow-up to their reflection writing. The participants’ reflection writings and interviews served as data sources. Miles and Huberman's (1994) data analysis procedures guided the qualitative data analysis. The quantitative results indicated that computer-based scaffolds significantly enhanced preservice teachers’ levels of reflection in their online journal writing. Preservice teachers who used the scaffolds wrote longer reflection than those in the control group. Correlation analysis revealed that there was a positive relationship between the level of reflection and the length of journal writing. Three overarching factors emerged from the qualitative data analysis that explained how and why the computer-based scaffolds enhanced their reflective journal writing. The factors included (a) the specific requirements conveyed in the scaffolds; (b) the structure of the scaffolds; and (c) the use of the critical incidents to anchor reflective journal writing. How to improve preservice teachers’ critical reflection capability and skills remains an actively debated topic. Recent years have witnessed an emergence of research and development in Web-based educational systems to help prepare highly qualified teacher candidates. However, the articulative/reflective attribute of meaningful learning does not seem to be evident in most of these systems. Although there is considerable research on the potential for embedding scaffolds in technology-enhanced learning environments, mechanisms intended to facilitate reflective practice in such environments also seems to be lacking. In order to help fill this gap, it is hoped that the analyses and results of the current study can be used as a building block for research on how to leverage the affordances of computer-based scaffolds to enhance preservice teachers’ reflective practice in technology-enhanced educational systems.

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