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Virtual School Pedagogy

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0021628/00001

Material Information

Title: Virtual School Pedagogy Beliefs, Goals, and Practices of K-12 Virtual School Teachers
Physical Description: 1 online resource (175 p.)
Language: english
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2008

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: education, k12, pedagogy, technology, virtual
Teaching and Learning -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Curriculum and Instruction (ISC) thesis, Ph.D.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: K-12 virtual schools provide online opportunities that give students access to anytime, anywhere learning. The educational access offered to students by virtual schools also serves the nation's educational agenda by providing an additional option for enacting school choice legislation. Virtual school courses also introduce students to valuable skills, such as communicating and collaborating online and accessing information on the Internet, which help to prepare students for joining a global technological workforce. Just as teachers in face-to-face classroom settings, K-12 virtual school teachers serve as a cornerstone for online courses, directly impacting students' success through their orchestration of content, pedagogy, and technology. Understanding the instructional practices of virtual school teachers is vital to the field because of the increasing interest in virtual schooling and the important role teachers play in the courses offered. Although there is research-based evidence for the instructional practices used by teachers in face-to-face K-12 classrooms currently, there is little known about the practices of virtual school teachers. The purpose of this study is to form an understanding of the pedagogic practices of K-12 virtual school teachers. Gaining teachers' perspectives about the use of general, content-based, and technology-based practices in their virtual school courses developed this understanding. Using grounded theory methods, a recursive process of data collection and analysis was implemented in conjunction with the method of constant comparison to indicate repeating patterns and themes in participants' descriptions. The findings resulting from analysis highlight the relationship between the participants' beliefs, goals, and practices related to virtual school teaching. Furthermore, the outcomes of this study indicate several skill sets associated with virtual school teaching that have relevant implications for the training programs educating virtual school teachers, the developing body of policy underlying virtual schools, and future research.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Thesis: Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 2008.
Local: Adviser: Ferdig, Richard E.
Electronic Access: RESTRICTED TO UF STUDENTS, STAFF, FACULTY, AND ON-CAMPUS USE UNTIL 2010-05-31

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2008
System ID: UFE0021628:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0021628/00001

Material Information

Title: Virtual School Pedagogy Beliefs, Goals, and Practices of K-12 Virtual School Teachers
Physical Description: 1 online resource (175 p.)
Language: english
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2008

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: education, k12, pedagogy, technology, virtual
Teaching and Learning -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Curriculum and Instruction (ISC) thesis, Ph.D.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: K-12 virtual schools provide online opportunities that give students access to anytime, anywhere learning. The educational access offered to students by virtual schools also serves the nation's educational agenda by providing an additional option for enacting school choice legislation. Virtual school courses also introduce students to valuable skills, such as communicating and collaborating online and accessing information on the Internet, which help to prepare students for joining a global technological workforce. Just as teachers in face-to-face classroom settings, K-12 virtual school teachers serve as a cornerstone for online courses, directly impacting students' success through their orchestration of content, pedagogy, and technology. Understanding the instructional practices of virtual school teachers is vital to the field because of the increasing interest in virtual schooling and the important role teachers play in the courses offered. Although there is research-based evidence for the instructional practices used by teachers in face-to-face K-12 classrooms currently, there is little known about the practices of virtual school teachers. The purpose of this study is to form an understanding of the pedagogic practices of K-12 virtual school teachers. Gaining teachers' perspectives about the use of general, content-based, and technology-based practices in their virtual school courses developed this understanding. Using grounded theory methods, a recursive process of data collection and analysis was implemented in conjunction with the method of constant comparison to indicate repeating patterns and themes in participants' descriptions. The findings resulting from analysis highlight the relationship between the participants' beliefs, goals, and practices related to virtual school teaching. Furthermore, the outcomes of this study indicate several skill sets associated with virtual school teaching that have relevant implications for the training programs educating virtual school teachers, the developing body of policy underlying virtual schools, and future research.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Thesis: Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 2008.
Local: Adviser: Ferdig, Richard E.
Electronic Access: RESTRICTED TO UF STUDENTS, STAFF, FACULTY, AND ON-CAMPUS USE UNTIL 2010-05-31

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2008
System ID: UFE0021628:00001


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1 VIRTUAL SCHOOL PEDAGOGY: BELIEFS, GOALS, AND PRACTICES OF K 12 VIRTUAL SCHOOL TEACHERS By MEREDITH K. DIPIETRO A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQU IREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2008

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2 2008 Meredith K. DiPietro

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3 To Linda and Luther

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4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Completing a dissertation represents the culminating point o and the end of an experience through which one draws from academic and personal relationships for support and encouragement. I would have not made it to this point alone and it is with great humility that I take this opportun ity to express my appreciation. Throughout the dissertation process a graduate student s committee works with them to provide academic support, encouragement, and feedback. Dr. Richard Ferdig, the chair of my committee, is the core of my professional and academic support system Through watching his example, I have learned about the value of hard work, dedication and the importance of perseverance. Dr. Kara Dawson a committee member and professor in the educational technology department, has provided me with straightforward honest feedback that has been invaluable during this process I would like to thank Dr. Dawson for always keeping her door open to me for discussing any, and all issues. Dr. Mirka Koro Ljungberg and Dr. Tracy Linderhom also provided m e with extensive support throughout the dissertation writing process. I would like to thank Dr. Koro Ljungberg and Dr. Linderholm for the commitment and support they demonstrated to my research and work as it strengthened my determination to complete the dissertation process In addition to my committee, I am fortunate to have had the support of peers and colleagues in the educational technology program and would like to thank Erik, Jade and Kathryn. Over the past three years, Erik has been a comrade and colleague in the field of educational research. I would like to thank Erik for being a committed friend and providing me with unwavering encouragement and support I would like to thank Jade for her patience, she willingly listened to every story of trium ph, as well as frustration. Finally, I would like to thank

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5 Kathryn, who un selfishly gave up her time to provide me with valuable feedback and insight during the last stage of writing my dissertation. My most heartfelt thanks I extend to my family. To my mother Linda, who never let me doubt myself and provided me with the encouragement I needed to push on. indeed walking the path I should be, was a p riceless source of motivation. I would also like to thank my grandmother Annette, whose constant words reminding me to eat and make sure I got enough sleep encouraged me strive for personal balance throughout this process. I would also like to thank my aun t Barbara. Her uncanny instinct to say just what I needed to hear, just when I needed to hear it helped me put things in perspective to overcome frustration I t is with much gratitude that I acknowledge and thank my surrogate parents, my mother and fathe r in law Candace and Luther. comforting words and nourished me with many meals, making Gainesville feel more like home. Finally, I would like to thank my husband Luther, whose perseverance and determination in his life has been an inspiration to mine The unconditional love and support he gave nourished my soul and was a critical component in my ability to complete the dissertation process. He was am truly grateful for the encouragement he gave me when I wanted to give up, his willing to listen to the ups and downs of my day with an interested ear, the cup of coffee he brought me months of cooking, c leaning, washing and shopping he did during our first year of marriage

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6 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ .................... 4 LIST OF TABLES ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ 9 LIST OF FIGURES ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................ 10 LIST OF TERMS ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................... 11 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 12 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION ................................ ................................ ................................ ....................... 14 Background ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 14 Problem Statement ................................ ................................ ................................ ...................... 15 Purpose and Significance ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 22 Delimitations ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................... 25 Summary ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 26 2 LITERATURE REVIEW ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 27 Introduction ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ 27 Part 1: Literature Exploring the Pedagogical, Communication, and Instruction al Design Practices of Face to Face and Online Teachers ................................ ................................ .... 27 Pedagogy and Practice ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 28 Face to face teachers ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 28 Postsecondary online teachers ................................ ................................ ..................... 29 Communication ................................ ................................ ................................ .................... 31 Face to face teachers ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 31 Postsecondary online teachers ................................ ................................ ..................... 32 Instructional Design ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 33 Face to face te achers ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 33 Postsecondary online teachers ................................ ................................ ..................... 34 Part 2: Literature Exploring the Unique Practices of Postsecondary Online Teachers .......... 34 Pedagogy and Practice ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 35 Communication ................................ ................................ ................................ .................... 35 Instructional Design ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 36 Part 3: Literature Exploring Teacher Perspectives ................................ ................................ .... 37 Face to Face Teachers ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 37 Postsecondary Online Teachers ................................ ................................ .......................... 38 Part 4: Literature Exploring the Practices of K 12 Virtual School Teaching .......................... 38 History and Context ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 39 Best Practices in Postsecondary and K 12 Virtual School Teaching ............................... 41

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7 Implications of Literature ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 43 3 RESEARCH METHOD ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 47 Theoretical Framework ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 47 Study Design ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................... 48 Context and Background ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 48 Participants ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................... 50 Data Collection ................................ ................................ ................................ .................... 52 Data Analysis ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................... 55 Trustworthiness ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................... 60 Limitations ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 64 Theoretical Framework ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 64 Participant Sampling ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 64 Data Collection Methods ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 65 Triangulation ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................ 65 Researcher Subjectivity ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 66 Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 67 4 DATA ANALYSIS ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 69 Pedagogic Beliefs ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................ 72 Belief 1: Connecting With Students ................................ ................................ ................... 72 Belief 2: Fluid Practice ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 74 Belief 3: Engage Students With Content ................................ ................................ ............ 76 Belief 4: Managing the Course ................................ ................................ ........................... 77 Belief 5: Supporting Student Success ................................ ................................ ................. 79 Interpreting the Beliefs of Virtual School Teachers ................................ ................................ 81 Pedagogic Goals ................................ ................................ ................................ .......................... 84 Belief 1: Connect With Students ................................ ................................ ........................ 84 Goal 1: Effective communication ................................ ................................ ............... 84 Goal 2: Preventing misinterpretations ................................ ................................ ........ 85 Belief 2: Fluid Practice ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 86 Goal 1: Guide knowledge construction ................................ ................................ ....... 86 Belief 3: Engage Students With Content ................................ ................................ ............ 87 Goal 1: Make c ontent accessible ................................ ................................ ................. 87 Goal 2: Integrate technology ................................ ................................ ....................... 88 Belief 4: Managing the Course ................................ ................................ ........................... 89 Goal 1: Academic integrity ................................ ................................ .......................... 89 Goal 2: Keeping the course a safe place ................................ ................................ ..... 90 Belief 5: Supporting Student Succ ess ................................ ................................ ................. 90 Goal 1: Utilize support structures ................................ ................................ ................ 90 ................................ ................................ ...................... 91 Goal 3: Structure content to scaffold learning ................................ ............................ 92 Interpreting the Goals of Virtual School Teachers ................................ ................................ ... 93 Pedagogic Pr actices ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 97 Pedagogic Practices Related to Effective Communication ................................ ............... 97

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8 Pedagogic Practices Related to Preventing Misinterpretation s ................................ ........ 98 ....................... 99 Pedagogic Practices Related to Individualizing Lear ning ................................ ............... 100 Pedagogic Practices Related to Making Content Accessible ................................ .......... 101 Pedagogic Practices Related to Maintaining Academic Integr ity ................................ .. 105 Pedagogic Practices Related to Keeping the Course a Safe Place ................................ .. 106 s ................................ .............. 108 Pedagogic Practices Related to Structuring Content to Scaffold Learning .................... 109 Interpreting the Pedagogic Practices of Virtua l School Teachers ................................ .......... 112 Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ 118 5 DISCUSSION AND IMPLI CATIONS ................................ ................................ ................... 119 Introduction ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................... 119 Discussion: Findings and Implications ................................ ................................ .................... 120 Pedagogy ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................ 121 Communication ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 126 Instructional Design ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 129 Implications ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................... 132 Implications for Practice ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 132 Pedagogical Skills ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 133 Technical Skills ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 135 Interpersonal Communication Skills ................................ ................................ ......... 137 Implications for Research ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 139 Implications for Policy ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 142 Future Research ................................ ................................ ................................ ......................... 144 Recommendation for Future Research #1 ................................ ................................ ........ 144 Recommendati on for Future Research #2 ................................ ................................ ........ 146 Recommendation for Future Research #3 ................................ ................................ ........ 146 Recommendation for Future Research #4 ................................ ................................ ........ 148 Validity ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 149 Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ 149 APPENDIX A CODING TRAIL ................................ ................................ ................................ ....................... 1 51 B SAMPLE MEMOS ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... 156 C SAMPLE EMAIL TO VIRTUAL SCHOOL TEACHERS ................................ ................... 158 D INTERVIEW PROTOCOL ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 159 LIST OF REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ................................ ................. 160 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 175

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9 LIST OF TABLES Table page 2 1. Adaptations of p ractice ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 45 2 2. K 12 virtual school administration/ program m odels ................................ ........................... 46 3.1. Sampling m atrix ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 52

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10 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 3.1. Three levels of sampling ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 51 4.1. Theoretical diagram ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 71 4.2 Relationship between focused and initial codes ................................ ................................ ... 71

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11 LIST OF TERMS Asynchronous Online learning in wh ich interaction between instructors and students occurs intermittently with time delays. Examples are self paced courses taken via the Internet or CD ROM, mentoring, online discussion groups, and e mail (Moore & Kearsley, 1996). Communication Tool The sync hronous or asynchronous telecommunication tools that are used in a virtual school course to facilitate student teacher and student student communication (Rice, 2006). Distance Education Formalized instructional learning where the time/geographic situation constrains learning by not affording in person contact between student and instructor (King, 2001). Online Teacher A teacher leading a course that is delivered online for postsecondary or higher education students. Synchronous Online learning in which i nteraction between instructors and students Web conferencing software (Moore & Kearsley, 1996). Virtual Education Instruction during which students and teachers are separated by time a nd/or location and interact via computers and/or telecommunication technologies (NCES, 2006). Virtual School A public or private school that offers only virtual courses and generally does not have a physical facility that allows students to attend classe s on site (NCES, 2006). Virtual Teacher A teacher leading a course that is delivered online for elementary, middle, or high school students.

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12 Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Parti al Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy VIRTUAL SCHOOL PEDAGOGY: BELIEFS, GOALS, AND PRACTICES OF K 12 VIRTUAL SCHOOL TEACHERS By Meredith DiPietro May 2008 Chair: Richard E. Ferdig Major: Curriculum and Instruction K 12 virtual schools provide online opportunities that give students access to anytime, anywhere learning. The educational access offered to students by virtual schools also serves the ng school choice legislation Virtual school courses also introduce students to valuable skills, such as communicating and collaborating online and accessing information on the Internet, which help to prepare stude nts for joining a global technological workforce. Just as teachers in face to face classroom settings, K 12 virtual school teachers serve as a success through their orchestration of content, peda gogy, and technology. Understanding the instructional practices of virtual school teachers is vital to the field because of the increasing interest in virtual schooling and the important role teachers play in the courses offered. Although there is research based evidence for the instructional practices used by teachers in face to face K 12 classrooms currently, there is little known about the practices of virtual school teachers. The purpose of this study is to form an understanding of the pedagogic practi ces of K 12 based, and technology based practices in their virtual school courses developed this understanding.

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13 Using grounded theory methods, a recursive process of data collection and analysis was implemented in conjunction with the method of constant comparison to indicate repeating the relationship between the particip teaching. Furthermore, the outcomes of this study indicate several skill sets associated with virtual school teaching that have relevant implications for the training programs educating virtual school teachers the developing body of policy underlying virtual schools, and future research.

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14 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Background There are currently 90,000 student attending K 12 virtual schools across the United States (Watson & Ryan, 2007) These students can enroll in courses that span a variety of subjects from personal health and fitness to Japanese (SREB, 2006) K 12 virtual high schools afford ac cess to educational opportunities that local, face to face schools are unable to provide. They expand curricular offerings (Blomeyer, 2002; Cavanaugh et al., 2004; Olson & Wisher, 2002; Waxman, Lin, & Michko, 2003) enable students to experience technology rich interactions during content delivery (Berman & Tinker, 1997) and provide access to remedial and extended learning opportunities (NE A, 2006) Teachers are critical to supporting student learning not only in face to face settings (Darling Hammond & Youngs, 2002; Prawat 1992) but also in online learning environments (Beaudoin, 2002; Kurtz, Beaudoin, & Sagee, 2004) experiences and learning through their use of pedagogy and technology to match course content and the medium of delivery eil, 2006; Schoenfeld Tacher & Persichitte, 2000) While researchers have developed a strong body of knowledge regarding the instructional practices of face to face teachers, K 12 virtual schooling still lacks a strong research base from which to inform p olicy and practice (Blomeyer, 2002; Cavanaugh et al., 2004) Therefore, it is critical to begin forming an understanding of the pedagogic strategies used by K 12 virtual school teachers (Yang & Cornelious, 2005) Investigating the role of face to face teachers has been va luable for understanding their instructional practice (Leinhardt, 1990) However, teaching online requires skills that are unique from those used in face to face settings. Exploring the perceptions and practices of successful K

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15 12 virtual school teachers can further develop the body of work exploring the best practices for teaching courses in the online medium. This study will address the need for unde rstanding the pedagogical practices associated with virtual school teaching by exploring the perspectives of successful K 12 virtual school teachers. Problem Statement K 12 virtual schools provide access to online opportunities that are critical for giving students access to anytime, anywhere learning (Joy & Garcia, 2000) The educational access additional option for enacting school choic e legislation (Cavanaugh et al., 2004; NCES, 2005; Watson, Winograd, & Kalmon, 2004) Virtual school courses also introduce students to valuable skills, such as communicating and collaborating online and accessing i nformation on the Internet, which help to prepare students for joining a global technological workforce (US Department of Education, 2005; Watson & Kalmon, 2006) Just as teachers in face to face classroom se ttings, K 12 virtual school teachers serve as a cornerstone for online courses, through their orchestration of content, pedagogy, and technology (Pape, Adams, & Ribeiro, 2005) Understanding the instructional practices of K 12 virtual school teachers is vital to the field because of the increasing educational need for virtual schools (Sadik, 2003; Rice, 2006) and the important role teachers play in the courses offered. Although there is research based evidence for the instructional practices used by teachers in face to face K 12 schools (Cobb, McClain, de Silva Lamberg, & Dean, 2003; Porter, 2002 ; Shulman, 1986) there is currently little known about the practices of K 12 virtual school teachers (Garrison & Anderson, 2003) A number of studies suggest a similarity between the successful teaching strategies used in postsecondary

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16 online settings and face to face educational settings (Bennett & Bennett, 2002; Goodyear, Salmon, Spector, Steeples, & Tickner, 2001; Ragan, 2000) The emphasis placed on content knowledge expertise (Shulman, 1986; Lee & Hirumi, 2004), effective use of communication strategies (Chic kering & Gamson, 1987; Woods & Baker, 2004), and implementation of instructional design principles (Reigeluth, 1983; McLoughlin, 2002) to support student learning demonstrate points of similarity between research conducted in postsecondary online and face to face settings. Research on face to face K 12 teachers provides a basis for understanding the skills and competencies associated with good instructional practice. One of the most important factors influencing good instructional practice in face to face c breadth of content related knowledge (Brophy, 1982; Land & Smith, 1979) In addition to content area expertise, teachers must demonstrate organizational skills in how they deliver content and communicate with students (Anderson, Evertson, & Emmer, 1980; Good, 1979) Als o addressed by postsecondary online learning research is the importance of content knowledge and organizational skills for supporting and structuring student learning (Koszalka & Bianco, 2001; Ferdig, 2006; Kidney & Puckett, 2003). Closely linked with a te organizational skills is the ability to implement appropriate classroom management techniques. This includes minimizing student disruption (Ornstein & Levine, 1981) transitioning between topics effectively (Brophy & Evertson, 1976) and monitoring student behavior (Brophy, 1983) Classroom management is addressed in postsecond ary online research through the suggested use of course policies that acquaint students with what appropriate interactions looks like in the online setting (Waterhouse & Rogers, 2004) and the provision of instructional strategies for minimizing inappropria te or disruptive behavior (Davis, Farnham, & Jensen, 2002).

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17 Research underlying instructional practice in face to face K 12 settings also address the use of skills directly related to structuring and delivering content. A primary task for designing instruc (Gagn, 1977) This includes the structuring and scaffolding of student learning by providing multiple opportunities for the students to interact with content and apply their knowledge (Gagn, 1977; Reigeluth, 1983) Equally emphasized in research exploring the instructional design strategies of effec tive postsecondary online courses is the selection of appropriate course tools (Koszalka & Ganesan, 2004) and pedagogic strategies (Kramer & Schmidt, 2001; Abel, 2005) that are necessary in order to maximize the effectiveness of the course environment. Fee dback and responsiveness also emerge as important aspect s of the teaching learning process in both face to face and online environments. As students engage in the content and practice applying their knowledge, teachers must be responsive to accommodate gap understanding by providing prompt, corrective feedback (Good, 1979; Powell, 1978; Anderson, 2004 b ) Equally emphas ized in both face to face and postsecondary online research is the need progress in the course (Swift & Gooding, 1983; Swan, Shea, Fredericksen, Pickett, Pelz, & Maher, 2000) It is important to acknowledge the consistent appreciation and use of practices associated with some of the basic elements influencing student learning in b oth face to face and online settings. However, it is equally important to acknowledge that the direct transference of good instructional practice from face to face settings does not always translate to good teaching in online environments (Davis & Roblyer, 2005) Therefore, it is important to recognize the different sets of skills for teaching in postsecondary online learning environments. One such skill

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18 is the ability of online teachers to be able to modify the instructional practices and pedagogical techniques used in face to face settings to match the medium of delivery in online environments (Boston, 2 002; Lazarus, 2003; Savery, 2005; Tallent Runnels et al., 2006) Often, this requires online teachers to incorporate additional skills into their roles, such as those of interaction facilitators and instructional designers (Easton, 2003) Online teachers must also develop skills to foster interaction and communication with and between students during the online learning experience. This requires the utilization of pedagogic techniques t hat draw on and integrate the available telecommunication tools to support student collaboration and knowledge acquisition (Rovai, 2001; Swan et al., 2000) Volery (2001) identifies postsecondary communication tool s to foster a high level of interaction as an important factor in facilitating student learning in online environments. function as a point of intersection for pedagogy, technology, and content (Russell, 2004; Savery, 2005) The selection and coordination of pedagogy, technology, and content is a primary task for teachers in order to provide students with quality online learning opportunities (Kurtz et al., 2004; Olson & Wisher, 2002) Implementing these new strategies associated with the use of pedagogy, t echnology, and instructional design can require teachers to undergo a major shift from what they have experienced in face to face, offline settings (Coppa, 2004; Lee & Hirumi, The fact that ther e is currently no standard for preparing preservice or in service teachers for the unique demands of teaching in an online environment presents a challenge to new virtual school teachers (Hsi, 1999; Cavanaugh & Blomeyer, 2007) Some researchers have begun documenting the demands and challenges of postsecondary online teaching. While this research draws from the experiences of postsecondary online

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19 teachers, the findings provide a context for understanding the demands and challenges experienced by K 12 virtual school teachers. Coppola (2002) found that postsecondary online teachers experience an increase in their teaching work load after making the transition from a face to face classroom to an online setting. The outcomes reported by Schoenfeld Tacher & Persichitte (2000) elaborate on this finding, attributing the increase in the workload experienced to the adaptations teachers had to make to their existing knowledge and skills related to face to face teaching for the online setting. Research also indicates an increase in the effort that online teachers have to invest during the preparation and delivery of their course and course content ( McKenzie, Mins, Bennett, & Waugh, 2000; Smith et al., 2004; C. Wilson, 2001) In addition, postsecondary online teachers report an increase on the demand of their time to satisfy the managerial and administrative requirements of their role (Kurtz et al., 2004; Schoenfeld Tacher & Persichitte, 2000) In addition to the demands postsecondary online teachers experience, these teachers also confront new challenges associated with their instructional role. The lack of pe dagogical preparation and access to technical support is a common challenge identified by online teachers. While surveying online teachers for faculty satisfaction, Smith (2004) found that many reported not feeling prepared for teaching online, particularl y in regard to the design and delivery of content that was best suited for the medium. In addition to the design and delivery of content, online teachers reported the need for preparation in the theoretical and pedagogical concepts associated with online t eaching (Husman & Miller, 2001; G. Wilson & Stacey, 2004) Coupled with the need for more theoretical and conceptual knowledge is the need for technical knowle dge, since online teachers identified the lack of technology related support as a barrier to effective online instruction (Bonk, 2001; Frederickson, Pickett, Swan, Pelz, & Shea, 2000;

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20 Hartman, Dziuban, & Moskal, 2000 ) Donlevy (2003) specified the critical nature of technical support for virtual school teachers, emphasizing it as a necessary compon ent for supporting their success. The lingering questions related to the demands of teaching postsecondary online courses are equally important to consider in relation to the K 12 virtual school context. K 12 virtual schooling is developing as a field of r esearch (Cavanaugh et al., 2004) Because this body of work lacks a developed foundation of knowledge regarding virtual school teachers and their instructional practices, many of the claims made draw from research investigating postsecondary online teaching (Blomey er, 2002) Aside from the demands and challenges associated with teaching in postsecondary online settings, research suggests that virtual schools demonstrate a complexity that distinguishes them from other online learning contexts (Ferdig, DiPietro, & Papanastasiou, 2005) Therefore, further investigation needs to be conducted in order to understand these distinctions in relation to the teaching and learn ing process engaged within these environments (Vrasidas, Zembylas, & Chamberlain, 2003) A primary area of K 12 virtual schooling that needs research to begin forming an understanding for its distinguishing characteristics is the instructional practices of successful virtual school teachers. In face to face settings, instructional practices are made up of the strategies, ac tivities, and (Gauthier, Dembele, Bissonnette, & Richard, 2005) Serving the selection of instructional strategies, and pedagogical knowledge (Shulman, 1986) Teachers draw from their knowledge of pedagogy and their understanding of the content to develop a set of instructional practices that demonstrates the best fit for both the student and the lea rning context. Ideally, this consideration

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21 its selection and integration to facilitate student learning (Ferdig, 2006) This research demonstrates an understanding of the knowledge that directs the decisions and justifications made by face to face teachers for the practices they use Without a de veloped body of research focused on the practices of K 12 virtual school teaching, the field of virtual schooling lacks an understanding for the knowledge and decisions directing the practice s K 12 virtual school teachers use In order to understand the p ractices of successful virtual school teachers, there is a current need for research that explores the perceptions held by K 12 virtual school teachers in regard to their instructional practice (Frydenberg, 2002; Kur tz et al., 2004; Rice, 2006) Research in face to for understanding the relationship between their beliefs about teaching and their instructional practices (Feiman Nemser, 2001; Prawat 1992; Winne & Marx, 1982) Research exploring the translation of beliefs into practice has been a critical component for understanding the n and implementation of instructional practice s (Kagan, 1992) The perspectives of virtual school teachers remain relatively unexplored, leaving a gap of understanding ab out how their beliefs translate to the pedagogic practices they use in the virtual course setting. Exploring this area of research is not only valuable for understanding instructional practice in K 12 virtual school settings, but also valuable for identify ing the best practices associated with the preparation of K 12 virtual school teachers and recommendations for the developing policy surrounding virtual schools. In order to contribute to this area of research, the following question was developed in order to direct the design and implementation

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22 Purpose and Significance This study aims to expand the existing body of research for virtual schooling by focusing on an und roles and instructional practices. Teachers are the figureheads in virtual school courses, yet there is currently little known about the instructional practices of succ essful teachers in these environments or their firsthand perceptions of the roles they fill (Kurtz, Beaudoin, & Sagee, 2004; Rice, 2006). Successful is defined by teaching experience and certification status. Defining successful virtual school teachers thi s way draws support from research that indicates a positive relationship between the amount of experience a face to face teacher has, along with the certifications held, and the success of their instructional practices (Darling Hammond, Berry, & Thoreson, 2001; Darling Hammond & Youngs, 2002; Kagan, 1992) Given that there is no research defining success in terms of K 12 virtual school teaching, these criteria will serve as a starting point, after which success will be defined further using the research outcomes associated with this study. Understanding the instructional practices of successful online teachers by acknowledging their roles from a firsthand perspective can make a significant contribution to the develo ping body of research focused on teachers in the K 12 context of virtual schooling. This study, valuable insights into what makes a successful online teacher within the K 12 context of online education. The knowledge gained from investigating the perspectives of successful virtual school teachers has significant impact on four areas of virtual school research. The first area of impact is on the preservice teac her preparation and education programs. Although national organizations have published best practices documents to guide the use of instructional practices by teachers of virtual school courses, these recommendations are not

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23 research based. The building bo dy of research focusing on virtual schooling is in need of evidence on teaching in these settings to support the development of programs to prepare new teachers for the virtual school teaching experience (Da vis & Niederhauser, 2007; Yang & Cornelious, 2005) This study addresses this gap in the literature by sampling and interviewing participants who are currently engaged in online teaching in an effort to explore their instructional practices. Exploring the instructional practices of virtual school teachers can provide an understanding of the nuances of teaching in these environments and reveal elements novice tea chers for the experience of online teaching. A second area of impact is on the current understanding for the role of course content in directing the selection of practices virtual school teachers use in the courses they teach. Sampling participants that teach different content area subjects provides an opportunity to gain insight into how course conten t they are teaching Current best practices publications provide a good starting point for virtual school teachers to select and implement practices, but do not address differences or variations for how the practices may be used within the context of a specific content area course T h e outcomes of th is study can indicate variations in the practi ces virtual school teacher s select and implement based on the course content they are teaching. Gaining knowledge about the content based practices of virtual school teachers will be relevant for understanding the role content knowledge in the translation The importance of exploring differing practices in relation to content area also has significance for a third aspect of virtual school research: professional development.

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24 A third area of impact is on the content of professional development programs offered to K 12 virtual school teachers. The content addressed by professional development programs varies across state led virtual schools. Yet, these programs are a cornerstone of the support and learning opportunities available to virtual school teachers. The outcomes of this study will inform the curriculum of professional development programs by address ing the pedagogic practices of K 12 virtual school teachers, as well as the technology based skills required to faci litate the delivery of instruction in virtual course environments Although all virtual school courses are delivered online, there are no criteria facilitating the selection of courseware tools and online resources to support student learning in general or in regards to various content areas (Ferdig et al., 2005) The findings of this study will provide a basis for extending in service out the selection of pedagogy and technology that are appropriately matched to the content and medium of delivery (Russell, 2004) Finally, the fourth area impact ed by the results of this study is the developing body of policy and legislation surrounding virtual schools. Researchers have started documenting the adaptation of face to face instructional practices for virtual course settings in the guidelines and standards produced by leading organizations in teaching and learning. The principles of online teaching addressed in best practices literature are similar to those from face to face settings based on the mutual emphasis placed on content area expertise, communication skills, and instructional design. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT, 2001), Sloan C (Sloan C, 2002), and the American Distance Education council (ADE, 2003) has each published recommendations and handbooks for teaching online courses that identify general practices associated with course effectiveness. In 2006, the South Regional Educational Board (SREB, 2006) and the National Education Association (NEA, 2006) released similar guidelines

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25 specifically targeting online teaching in secondary education. Although the SREB and NEA documents provide a basis for understanding instruction al effectiveness and course design for online settings, the adaptation of face to face practices contained in these documents fails to address the unique skills required to teach virtual school courses, thereby indicating the need for research that focuses on the in structional practices of teachers in K 12 virtual school settings. Although the concern for preparing quality instructors in face to face settings is mirrored by the concerns of virtual schools (SREB, 2003) in online environments this concept is complicated by the unique skills required of virtual school t eachers. As new policy and legislation is written that will influence the formation of state led virtual schools, research is needed that defines the characteristics of quality virtual school teachers (Watson & Kalmon, 2006) Because this study focuses on successful virtual school teachers, indications of quality are a potential outcome and can impact policy by providing a basis for establishing virtual school teaching as an area of professional certification. Delimitations In order to explore the firsthand experiences of teachers in virtual schools, this study is based on data collected through a series of qualitative interviews conducted with individuals currently teaching virtual school courses. The design of this study is ad dressed in detail in selection of these teachers is an important element of the research design, and consideration of sampling is, therefore, a key issue. A samp ling strategy was designed in relation to a number of key qualities, including the amount of experience participants had with both face to face and online teaching, the content area of the courses they taught, the grade level of the student audience, and w hether the courses taught were general or advanced placement.

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26 Interviews were conducted using a telecommunication technology that supports real time exchanges between individuals in order to emulate the flow of conversation in face to face interview scen arios. In addition to providing a means for conducting the interviews, the telecommunication software also recorded the conversations, capturing the communication of the participants, including their vocal intonations and inflections as well as any textual communication transmitted using the instant messaging feature. Capturing these subtle forms of communication was valuable for the qualitative analysis that was conducted on the data collected. A discussion of the methodological issues associated with the use of this software is presented in chapter 3. Summary In this chapter, an argument was presented that established the need for research exploring the practices of K 12 virtual school teachers. This study will begin addressing this need by forming an unde rstanding of the pedagogic practices of successful virtual school teachers by acquiring the perspectives of those currently teaching K 12 virtual school courses. Certification status and teaching experience serve to define the term successful in this study and provide a basis for the selection criteria described in chapter 3. The results of this study, which will provide a means for understanding the pedagogic practices of successful K 12 virtual school teachers, has implications for preservice and in servi ce training, the developing body of policy underlying virtual schools, and future research.

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27 CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW Introduction Teachers are critical factors that influence student success in K 12 virtual school courses. While the body of research as sociated with virtual schooling continues to grow, few investigations have examined the perspectives and instructional practices of successful K 12 virtual school teachers. The goal of this chapter is to explore the current state of virtual school research by establishing it within the context of existing research that addresses the instructional practices and perspectives of teachers in face to face and postsecondary online settings. To achieve this goal, the chapter is organized into four parts. The first part introduces research underlying the instructional practices of face to face and postsecondary online teachers based on three areas of continuity: pedagogical technique, communication, and instructional design. The second part introduces research from the field of postsecondary online research to identify the unique characteristics associated with the practice of teaching in postsecondary online settings The third part focuses on research investigating the an d their instructional practices in face to face and postsecondary online settings. Finally, the fourth part examines literature relating to virtual schools and K 12 virtual school teaching. The review of this literature will establish a historical context for virtual schooling and provide a basis for discussing the elements that distinguish virtual school teachers from online teachers in postsecondary settings. This chapter concludes with a summary of the literature and a discussion regarding its relevance for this study. Part 1: Literature Exploring the Pedagogical, Communication, and Instructional Design Practices of Face to Face and Online Teachers There are similarities between the practices associated with successful teaching in face to face settings an d successful teaching in postsecondary online environments. These similarities

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28 can be categorized within three areas of instructional practice, which are included as subheadings in this section: pedagogical practices, methods of communication, and instruct ional design strategies. The first presentation of literature outlines the adaptations of successful face to face pedagogical practices associated with these three areas that have been successful in online educational environments. The second and third sub headings follow the same format and introduce literature on communication and instructional design to illustrate the relationship between the use of practices in face to face and postsecondary online settings. The conversations associated with each of thes e subheadings provide a basis for understanding the commonalities among practices used in face to face and postsecondary online settings and sets the stage for introducing the unique skills required for teaching postsecondary online courses. Pedagogy and P ractice Fa ce to face t eachers Pedagogical practices are strategies that teachers implement to facilitate the content knowledge development of students. The amount of knowledge teachers have about the content they are teaching is a foundational prerequisit e for the use of pedagogical practices and strategies that effectively support student learning (van Driel, Verloop, & de Vos, 1998). The experience of content (Fenstermacher & Richardson, 2005; Gudmundsdottir, 1990; Shulman, 1999). McCombs and Whisler (1997) provide one such example that identifies the role of content know ledge as a centered strategies, which are techniques used to focus instruction on the interests and needs of the student. The use of learner centered strategies requires teachers to draw together knowledge of content and student background to deliver instruction in a way that preemptively addresses the common

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29 preconceptions and misconceptions students have for a particular topic (Feiman Nemser, 2001; implement practices based on their extensive content multifaceted approach to developing student learning (Leinhardt, 1990; van Driel et al., 1998). In 1987 Chic kering and Gamson reviewed and synthesized research focused on the successful practices associated with teaching in face to face, postsecondary settings. Chickering and Gamson presented the outcome of the synthesis in the form of seven recommendations for implementing learner centered strategies. Based on research investigating face to face teaching in postsecondary settings, the following list summarizes important points to consider for implementing successful instructional practices: (1) encouraging conta cts between students and faculty, (2) developing reciprocity and cooperation among students, (3) using active learning techniques, (4) giving prompt feedback, (5) emphasizing time on task, (6) communicating high expectations, and (7) respecting diverse tal ents and ways of learning. This list justly represents some of the skills associated with successful instructional practices. However, other skills should also be considered, such as those associated with organizational and managerial abilities. Anderson, Evertson, and Emmer (1980) found that organizational skills are closely tied to manage the classroom, which includes monitoring student learning and giving feed back to students throughout the learning process, also demonstrates a positive effect on student outcomes (Brophy, 1983; Emmer, Evertson, & Anderson, 1980). Postsecondary online t eachers The foundational techniques utilized by successful teachers in face to face settings are resonant in those used by successful teachers in postsecondary online settings. In some cases, there is a direct application of successful face to face practices, without any adaptation for use in

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30 online settings (Ragan, 2000). In pos tsecondary online learning environments, content practices with the topic of study (Anderson, 2004a, 2004b). In addition, extensive content knowledge supports th correct student misconceptions of content and scaffold the learning process (Anderson, 2004a; Anderson, Rourke, Archer, & Garrison, 2001). In their study of online learning environments his or her depth and breadth of content knowledge. The knowledge and organizational abilities of an online instructor form the foundation of instructional p ractice and facilitate the use of learner centered teaching strategies (Goc Karp & Woods, 2003; Graham, Cagiltay, Craner, Lim, & Duffy, 2000). The organizational ability of online teachers not only supports student learning, but also has a direct impact o n course effectiveness and student satisfaction (DeBourgh, 1999; Lee & Hirumi, 2004; Savery, 2005; Volery, 2001). Bellon and Oates (2002) identify the organization of a course and course content as critical factors for establishing student confidence and s upporting abilities of an online instructor come together and support the use of learner centered teaching strategies (Schoenfeld Tacher & Persichitte, 2000). T he ability to apply learner centered strategies in order to account for the variation of learning styles in a course is critical for supporting student success (Graham, Cagiltay, Lim, Craner, & Duffy, 2001). In 2001 Graham et al. adapted Chickering and Gam for the postsecondary online environment, providing a good example of how traditional practices have been adapted to better suit an online setting (Graham et al.). In order to illustrate how the

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31 principles were adapted, Table 2.1 presents the original seven and those adapted by Graham et al. (2001), which specified conditions for their implementation. Communication Face to face t eachers The student teacher interaction that takes place in onl ine course environments lies at the core of learning (Richmond, Gorham, & McCroskey, 1987; Gorham, 1988). While there are many ways to support this interaction using a variety of technologies, t here are some core concepts related to student teacher interac tion that have demonstrated effectiveness in face to face classrooms. One such concept is the ability of teachers to communicate content related information clearly with students by using their disciplinary knowledge to design instructional messages that a ccount for the multiple ways students can interpret them (Land & Smith, 1979; Winne & Marx, 1982). In addition to being clear communicators, teachers in face to face classrooms must closely monitor student understanding by using strategies to guide intera Rosenshine & Stevens, 1986). Wait time is an instructional strategy for monitoring student knowledge that utilizes a pause before providing an answer to a question that a teacher has posed to a class. Research indicates that the use of wait time increases student responses by providing an opportunity for students to think about the question and formulate a response, hence demonstrating their knowledge (Powell, 1978; Swift & Gooding, 1983). Teachers in face to face classrooms also use strategies that foster the formation of student community, which implies the cooperation of students during the knowledge building process (Bryk & Driscoll, 1988; Chickering & Gamson, 1999).

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32 Postsecondary o nline t eachers Consistent with face to face sett ings, both the utilization of strategies to support student to student cooperation (Graham et al., 2000) and the utilization of activities that engage students as active learners are valuable to supporting learning (Keeton, 2004; Lin, 2003; Palloff & Pratt 1999). Having an extensive base of content knowledge allows online instructors to structure content in a way that provides students with multiple opportunities to interact with the content, with instructors, and with each other by making variations of th e information accessible (McCombs & Vakilia, 2005; Scheines, Leinhardt, Smith, & Cho, 2006). The utilization of a learner centered framework serves to integrate the interests of students into the process of learning (Richardson, Long, & Woodley, 2003). Thi s process is enhanced by student teacher communication (Anderson, 2004a; Liu, Bonk, Magjuka, Lee, & Su, 2005) and encourages teachers to build relationships with students to foster academic success (Coppola, 2002). All teachers, whether teaching face to f ace or postsecondary online courses, need to be clear communicators in order to provide instruction and feedback in an understandable manner to students (Chickering & Ehrmann, 1996). However, it is suggested that online teachers require more communication skills as they must excel at both verbal and written forms of communication (Abel, 2005). The textual focus of online environments to communicate deadlines, requirements, and expectations to students requires teachers to be skilled in written communication (Kurtz, Beaudoin, & Sagee, 2004). In addition, the use of both textual and verbal communication is critical in order to provide students with valuable feedback and instructional support using the tools native to the environment both digital (Internet, mes saging, e mail, and digital telephones) and nondigital (analog telephones) tools (Graham et al., 2000). Both instructor participation and interaction with students in online courses emerge as critical elements of course effectiveness (Smith, 2005), as the psychological closeness between student

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33 and instructor demonstrates a close tie to student satisfaction (Blignaut & Trollip, 2003; Woods & Baker, 2004). Online teachers should show students how to communicate and support the formation of community by examp le (Gunawardena, 1995), through being responsive to student postings and giving feedback (Rourke, Anderson, Garrison, & Archer, 1999). Implementing a flexible course design that gives students opportunities to exercise critical thinking and develop ideas based on their own interests is another instructional strategy that fosters the formation of community (Palloff & Pratt, 1999). For example, findings published by Palloff and Pratt suggest allowing students to communicate among themselves and share the res ources they find helpful for completing assignments to enhance existing community relationships The formation of community can also be supported by providing students with a social space to discuss non course related material (Oren, Mioduser, & Nachmias, 2002; Rovai, 2001, 2002; Swan et al., 2000). Swan et al. found that contact with the instructor and active discussion with peers, along with consistency in course design, significantly influence the success of online courses. Rovai (2001, 2002) identifies seven factors found to promote a sense of community that sufficiently summarizes the practices discussed thus far, they are: (1) transactional distance, (2) social presence, (3) social equality, (4) small group activities, (5) group facilitation, (6) teac hing style and learning stage, and (7) community size (Rovai, 2001, 2002). Instructional Design Face to face t eachers Instructional design strategies are those practices an instructor uses to structure content and select activities to deliver that conten t both in a way that is appropriate for the student population (in regard to age group and grade level) and in a way that ensures that the established learning goals for the content are met (Porter, 2002). The appropriate design of learning materials and t he

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34 design of organizational structures of courses are important practices for face to face and postsecondary online instructors (Hein & Budny, 1999). Consistent themes among researchers investigating the appropriate design of materials equally emphasize th e need to introduce, guide, designing content is to scaffold student learning by providing students with multiple opportunities to practice and receive feedback on their knowledge (Gauthier, Dembele, Bissonnette, & Richard, 2005). Postsecondary online t eachers In online learning environments, it is equally important for online teachers to draw from the essential principles of instructional design (Kidney & Pucke tt, 2003), as it is considered by some to be the primary determinant of course effectiveness (Ally, 2004; Rovai, 2002). Activities should reflect the community of the course by providing students with individual and collaborative opportunities to complete work (Cyrs, 1997). The use of various multimedia and Web based tools should be considered in relation to the content. Integrated in relation to the instructional purpose of the activity, these tools can offer students opportunities to develop their knowled ge as well as attend to their varying styles of learning by presenting content in multiple formats (Koszalka & Bianco, 2001; Koszalka & Ganesan, 2004). Kramer and Schmidt (2001) discuss the value of presenting students with multiple perspectives related to a topic and its relevance for providing cognitive flexibility. Part 2: Literature Exploring the Unique Practices of Postsecondary Online Teachers Research exploring the skills and practices of successful postsecondary online teachers indicates a distinc t set of roles and competencies that are necessary for teachers to possess in order to effectively support student success these environments (Volery, 2001; Kurtz, Beaudoin & Sagee, 2004; Savery, 2005). In the following subheadings, the unique skills and pr actices of

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35 teachers in postsecondary online settings are explored in relation to pedagogy and practice, communication, and instructional design. Pedagogy and Practice Postsecondary o nline teachers must adequately transition their roles and the practices t hey use to best suit the online setting (Egan & Akdere, 2005). Part of this transition requires that online teachers adapt their practices to accommodate the self directed nature of online learners (Spector & De la Teja, 2001; Vandergrift, 2002) and the on line learning environment (Easton, 2003) It is then important for online teachers to provide students with a certain amount of autonomy to facilitate their feelings of ownership with regard to the course and its content (Picciano, 2002). Further supportin use of instructional strategies that scaffold and guide students interaction with the content (McCombs & Vakilia, 2005). This involves providing students with multiple opportunities to interact wi th content that is in varying formats such as text, audio, and video (Johnson & Aragon 2003; Kramer & Schmidt, 2001; Vogel & Oliver, 2006). Making content accessible in varying ways supports learning for students with varying differences and capabilities. Communication In addition to transitioning pedagogic practices, postsecondary online teachers must also strive to establish communication skills that are appropriate for the online setting (Swan et al., 2000). The amount of interaction a student has with a n online teacher during a course directly 2003; Glenn, Jones, & Hoyt, 2003). Similarly, unique to the online setting is the need for online teachers to us e specific strategies in order to establish presence in online courses (Anderson, Rourke, Archer, & Garrison, 2001). Establishing presence in a course facilitates relationships

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36 d participation in all areas of the online environment (Wilson & Stacey, 2003). b ). Postsecondary online teachers g uid e student knowledge by using communication techniques such as questioning strategies (Cyrs, 1997) and discussion prompts to initiate critical dialogue between students Online teachers implementing practices to prompt dialogues between students and participating in student dialogues by providing feedback al so supports the use of critical thinking skills that expands students content knowledge development (Swan, 2004; Koszalka & Ganesan, 2004). Implementing practices that utilize questioning strategies and discussion prompts afford postsecondary online teache rs the opportunity to knowledge and, then select practices to redirect knowledge according ly (Woods & Ebersole, 2003). Instructional Design Optimizing content to suit online delivery is an important aspect for postsecondary onli ne teachers to consider (DeBorough, 1999). Regardless of whether a postsecondary online teacher is working with a pre designed course or deve loping a course from scratch, it is important to ensure that the course structure supports the nature and complexit y of the content (Konings, Brand Gruwel, & van Merrienboer, 2005). This requires structuring content to supports students progressive development of knowledge along with the integration of activities into the course structure to assess students knowledge t o ensure specific content related goals are met (Kidney & Puckett, 2003; Koszalka & Bianco, 2001; Simonson et al., 2003). In addition, an online teacher must make technological choices that influence the opportunities he or she can provide for extending an d remediating student knowledge (Goodyear et al., 2001). While the unique characteristics of postsecondary online teachers are still in need of development, existing

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37 research at least provides a basis for understanding some key points on which these charac teristics differ from those of teachers in face to face settings. In summation, existing research identifies distinctions of postsecondary online teachers in relation to three areas: rning and the adaptation of those practices in order to take maximum advantage of the affordances offered by the online medium The communication practices they use with students to provide directive feedback and engage in dialogue with students that facil The instructional design practices they use to design and deliver content that is the best fit for both the online medium and the area of study. Part 3: Literature Exploring Teacher Perspectives Face to F ace T eac hers The views teachers have regarding the nature of knowledge and cognition reflect their epistemological perspective, which influences their selection of instructional practices and strategies (Pajares, 1992). Investigations into teacher perspectives hav e yielded to educational researchers not only a better understanding of the relationship between theory and practice, but also a better understanding of how beliefs impact practice (Fenstermacher, 1978). Epistemological beliefs provide a basis for teachers to conceive of general practices, but it is the interaction of these beliefs with those concerning the content area that guide the practices a teacher uses in the classroom (Kagan, 1992; Winne & Marx, 1982). Teachers content area beliefs are closely tied to the practices they use (Richardson, 1994; Nespor, 1997) and impact their ability to scaffold, structure, and enhance instructional experiences (Shulman, 1999; Kagan, 1992; Prime & Miranda, 2006) Content area beliefs also impact a teachers ability to a ssess student knowledge and learning (Prawat, 1992). Gaining insight into these practices has relevance not only for understanding teacher performance (Blase, 1986), but also for providing guidance for how to equip preservice teachers with the appropriate skills to enter the field (Clark, 1988; Feiman Nemser, 2001).

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38 Postsecondary Online Teachers Research exploring the perspectives of postsecondary online teachers provides a means for understanding the challenges they experience. A basic challenge postsecon dary online teachers experience is a lack of preparation for teaching in a Web based setting (McKenzie, Mins, Bennett, & Waugh, 2000; Bonk, 2001; Wilson, 2001). The lack of preparation is compounded by the fact that many online teachers feel they do not ge t enough technical (Schifter, 2002) and administrative (Betts, 1998) support. Another challenge postsecondary online teachers face is the increased amount of time that is required to teach an online course (Jones, Asensio, & Goodyear, 2000). Exploring the common elements that make up the practice of teaching in both face to face and postsecondary online environments provides a means for understanding the similarities and differences between the two settings. Perhaps the most striking distinction one finds in making this comparison is the lack of research that explores the underlying beliefs of postsecondary online teachers. Although the knowledge gained about the challenges these teachers experience eliefs and practices would make a valuable contribution to the existing body of postsecondary online learning research. Part 4: Literature Exploring the Practices of K 12 Virtual School Teaching The purpose and goal of K 12 virtual schools have evolved ov er an 11 year history. A main outcome of this evolution is the transition of virtual schools from entities that function to provide students access to elective or extensive coursework to ones that provide students with access to an alternative environment for completing core high school requirements needed for graduation (Watson, Winograd, & Kalmon, 2004; Pape, Adams, & Ribeiro, 2005). Although there are many variations in the form and structure of K 12 virtual schools across the United States, they all exi st to provide a valuable service to both students and the educational system.

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39 The differing organizational structures of virtual schools represent one element of the regardless of the underlying org anizational model to coordinate teachers, administrators, and support staff to deliver courses to students via telecommunication technologies. Considering the newness of these educational institutions and their varying forms, it is not surprising that many elements of their complexity remain unexplored. One such element is explored by this study, the instructional practices of successful K 12 virtual school teachers. Beginning with a brief historical overview, the literature contained in this section provid es a context for exploring the unique characteristics of virtual school teachers and the instructional practices they use in the courses they teach Following the historical overview is an examination of a comparison made between the instructional practice s of teachers in virtual school settings and the instructional practices of teachers in postsecondary online settings. This discussion serves as a framework for presenting the small body of research that begins to identify the unique skills required of vir tual school teachers. T his chapter concludes by proposing K 12 virtual school teaching as an area in need of research, and then suggests how this evident gap in research could be addressed by studies exploring the perspectives K 12 virtual school teachers History and Context The term virtual high school first became popular in the mid 90s with the first federally funded initiative, the Challenge Grant program, designed to provide students with any time, any place access to education (Kozma, Zucker, & Espin oza, 1998). The Virtual High School Consortium came into being in 1996 after receiving a US$7.4 million Challenge Grant to establish a framework both for delivering K 12 education online as well as developing a series of online courses for high schools in coordination with the Concord Consortium. During its first year (1997 98), the Consortium offered 29 Internet based, credit bearing courses to about 500

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40 students in 27 schools across 10 states. By the year 2000 the Consortium had grown dramatically, enroll ing over 3,000 students from 34 states and eight foreign countries in 1 of the 150 courses offered (Kozma et al., 2000). A multitude of interacting factors lies at the foundation of virtual schools, contributing to their complexity as educational environm ents. There are internal factors that contribute to the teachers (Ferdig, DiPietro, & Papanastasiou, 2005). Adding to this list are the external factors that infl uence the functioning of virtual schools, such as the governing policy, parents, and Hess, Scott, & Gillan, 2005). In order to develop an understanding of the big ger picture of virtual schooling, there is a need for research that focuses on the underpinning variables. While the first virtual school functioned as an independent institution, subsequent virtual schools took on the form of varying administrative and p rogram models. Watson (2007) identifies four types of administrative or programs models associated with K 12 virtual schooling. Table 2.2 outlines the four programs (state led online programs, state led online initiatives, full time online programs, and di strict programs) and provides distinctions of each. Of the varying models, only state led programs offer students an opportunity to take core, for Watson & Kalmon, 2 006). Variations in the administrative model and organizational structure of a virtual school complicate the formation of a unified understanding regarding virtual school teachers and their practices. Differences in course management systems, course develo pment strategies, teacher employment status (full time or part time), and professional development opportunities offered are just some of the aspects that could vary among virtual schools

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41 (Vrasidas, Zembylas, & Chamberlain, 2003). There are also variations that potentially exist within a single school that affect the formation of an understanding of virtual school teaching. Some of these issues, such as the instructional level of a course, are familiar to those in face to face settings, while others, such a s course pacing, are unique to virtual schools. Although there is still much to be learned about virtual schooling and the forms of learning taking place in virtual schools, there are unique characteristics distinguishing virtual school teachers from teach ers in both face to face and postsecondary online settings. In the section that follows, key points drawn from best practice documents developed to guide the practices of postsecondary online teachers and K 12 virtual school teachers, will be discussed t o highlight the consistencies and differences of the practices used by teachers associated with each instructional setting. This discussion also provides a means for addressing those aspects unique to virtual schooling and further justifies the need to ex plore the practices associated with virtual school teaching separately from postsecondary online learning contexts. Best Practices in Postsecondary and K 12 Virtual School Teaching In 2000 the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) produced Distance Educat ion: Guidelines for good practices based on a survey about the practices of 200 individuals who considered themselves postsecondary practitioners of distance education. In 2003 the American Distance Education Consortium (ADEC) produced Guiding Principles f or Distance Teaching and Learning to serve as a set of guidelines for evaluating online courses. Likewise, for the K 12 online audience, the National Education Association (NEA) and South Regional Educational Board (SREB) published similar guidelines in 20 06 for addressing effective practice in virtual school courses. These documents address the practices of both postsecondary online and K 12 virtual school teachers, and are consistent in the recommendations they make related to classroom

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42 management and pe dagogic strategies T o illustrate the se con sistencies the recommendations made in relation to the areas of classroom management and pedagogic strategies are now briefly reviewed. In relation to classroom management, t he guidelines address the instruction al design of the online course as well as the necessity of providing students with information for getting technology based support. In addition, the classroom management guidelines contained in each document indicate the need for postsecondary online and K 12 virtual school teachers to outline materials and notify students of changes. In relation to pedagogic practice, consistencies exist among the guidelines presented in each document regarding the formation of community and the engaging of students in c ourse content. Likewise, a ll four of the documents establish the formation of community and the encouragement of student participation as two important considerations that should be made by both postsecondary online and virtual school teachers. A final con sistency between the guidelines addressing pedagogic practice is the importance for online teachers in both settings to make consideration s for the differing strategies required to engage students with the course content in comparison to those used in face to face settings. Identifying the consistencies provides a basis for understanding the common considerations that should be made when teaching in an online environment regardless of postsecondary or K 12 nature of the instructional context In addition to the consistencies, there are recommendations included in the NEA and SREB publications that introduce unique considerations K 12 virtual school teachers must make based on the context of the education setting. The c onsistencies between the NEA and SREB publications that specify practices for teaching in t he virtual school setting begins to address the unique requirements for teaching in the virtual school setting These two documents demonstrate consistency in regard to the

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43 inclusion of guidelines that address classroom management, pedagogy, and communication. Upon review of the consistencies among the classroom management recommendations that are made, there is a clear emphasis not only on instructional design, but also on establishing boundaries for th e course. Instructional design is addressed though the recommendations made for virtual school guidelines are included that address the need for virtual scho ol teachers to model appropriate online discussion and implement academic honesty policies. Also pointed out in the guidelines is the fact that it is equally important to use communication strategies in relation to the students and associated stakeholders in the virtual school setting (Davis & Niederhauser, 2007). Providing students with quick responses and meaningful feedback is one such recommendation for maintaining continual communication with students concerning their progress and status in a course. T his information should also be provided to other stakeholders involved in the virtual to face schools. The above provides a concise review of best p ractice documents in order to (a) identify the similarities between the postsecondary and virtual school online context and (b) draw out those unique elements associated with virtual schooling. Implications of Literature In this chapter, a review of litera ture was introduced that established a basis for understanding that the practices of K 12 virtual school teachers as an area in need of research. In order to achieve this goal, this chapter began by addressing the consistencies that emerged based on a comp arison of the existing literature directing the use of pedagogic, communication, and instructional design strategies in face to face and postsecondary online settings. Next, the unique

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44 strategies of postsecondary online teachers was discussed to indicate t he practical considerations required for teaching online. Following, was a section addressing research that focused on exploring the perspectives of teachers in both face to face and postsecondary settings as a valuable means for establishing an understand ing of their practices. Finally, a brief overview of virtual schooling was presented. In this overview, the best practice publications from two postsecondary organizations and two secondary education organizations were introduced. A comparison of their con tent was then presented in order to extract (a) the points of similarity that represented their applicability in both the postsecondary and secondary online settings and (b) the points specifically relevant for the K 12 virtual school instructional context Clearly missing in the review of existing research presented is a body of work that focuses on the instructional practices of K 12 virtual school teachers What is also evident is how concepts introduced from research in face to face settings have info rmed the research studies associated with the exploration of postsecondary online teaching. This practice has provided a basis for understanding how the unique context of online teaching requires the adaptation or modification of traditional practices used in face to face contexts. T h is process is now replicated in order to understand i n order to address the gap in K 12 virtual school research M any questions aris e from taking this approach to research the instructional practices of virtual school teachers it in terms of how the unique context of the virtual school course transforms the practices used by teachers. The outcomes of this study will begin to answer these question s and in doing so contribute to the developing body of research focusing on the ins tructional practices of K 12 virtual school teaching

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45 Table 2 1 Adaptations of p ractice (1987) Principle adapted by Graham et al., (2001) Good practice encourages student faculty contact. Instructors should pr ovide clear guidelines for interaction with students. Good practice encourages cooperation among students. Well designed discussion assignments facilitate meaningful cooperation among students. Good practice encourages active learning. Students should p resent course projects. Good practice gives prompt feedback. Instructors need to provide two types of feedback: information feedback and acknowledgment feedback Good practice emphasizes time on task. Online courses need deadlines. Good practice commun icates high expectations. Challenging tasks, sample cases, and praise for quality work communicate high expectations. Good practice respects diverse talents and ways of learning. Allowing students to choose project topics incorporates diverse views into online courses.

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46 Table 2 2 K 12 Virtual school administrative/program m odels State led online programs State led online initiatives Full time online programs District programs State led programs: Typically supplemental, students taking courses from a state led program are also enrolled in a face to face school. State led programs are: Created by legislation or by a state level agency and/or Administered by a state education agency and/or Directly funded by a state appropriation or grant for the purpose of providing online learning opportunities across the state. Online initiatives: Offer online tools and resources for schools across the state Are not involved with developing and offering their own courses that are taught by teac hers that they h ave hired. Full time programs or cyberschools: Enroll students on a full time basis Directly issue credit earned by students upon completion of a course. Two types of district programs: Single district programs: Serve students who resid e within the district that is providing the online courses. Multidistrict programs: Serve students from multiple districts May be state led, run by a consortium, or operated by one district offering an online program to students from other districts.

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47 CHAPTER 3 RESEARCH METHOD The purpose of this study is to understand the pedagogical practices associated with K 12 virtual school teaching by investigating the perspectives of successful virtual school teachers through the use of in depth interviews. The investigation was approached from a constructivist standpoint in order to produce a description of the instructional practices associated with successful virtual school teachers. This chapter describes the stud the research design, which includes the sampling procedure and description of the participants. An explanation of the data collection and analysis methods used, as well as the justification for their selection, follows. This i ncludes consideration of the appropriateness of these methods for answering the following research question: What ar e the pedagogical practices of successful virtual school teachers? Theoretical Framework The design of a qualitative study is theoretically driven, as the theory provides the framework for the processes of data collection and analysis used to explore a question (Crotty, 1998) In the case of this research study, a constructivist framework informed its design and gui ded the use of collection and analysis procedures to investigate the perspectives of participants in depth and detail (Patton, 1990). This involved the use of in depth interviews and the recruitment of grounded theory techniques during the analysis of inte rview data to facilitate the construction of a theory that represents the pedagogical practices of successful virtual school teachers. From the constructivist perspective, the formation of knowledge results from an d and accumulation of experience. This makes is a relevant framework for studies seeking to interpret and describe specific phenomena (Crotty, 1998) In

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48 contrast to objectivist viewpoints that perceive knowledge as absolute and exist ing outside of the individual, constructivist views of knowledge recognize it as a n internal construction that is based on s (Miller & Dingwall, 1997) While objectivist perspectives serve stu dies that have prescriptive goals and seek to provide evidence for a predetermined set of assumptions, the inductive goals of constructivism are interpretive and recognize the roles of both the participant and the researcher (Guba & Lincoln, 1982) The acknowledgement of multiple perspectives and realities associated with constructivism hol ds value for research attempting to understand a phenomenon as it exists within a specific context. Guided by the constructivist framework, the methods used in this study focus on the individual as the unit of analysis to facilitate the formation of a theo retical description for the practices of successful K 1 6 virtual school teachers. Constructivist views of constructing knowledge and meaning and direct their interactions with the data (Guba & Lincoln, 1994a) As such, drawing from the techniques associated with grounded theory, the individual data sets were i nterpreted and synthesized to form a theory about the pedagogical practices of successful virtual school teachers. The acknowledgement of multiple perspectives and realities makes constructivism a paradigm that lends itself to the idea of integrating vario us methods within a single study (Golafshani, 2003; Charmaz, 2006) providing an opportunity for paradigmatic convergence and the ultimate representation of varying perspectives (Lincoln & Guba, 2000). Stu dy Design Context and Background The virtual school teachers who participated in this study are employed by the same virtual school in the Midwest portion of the United States. The virtual school (which from this point on

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49 will be referred to as MDVS) was e stablished through funding received by the state legislature in July 2000 and operates under a private, not for profit state corporation to work in cooperation with individual school districts to grant course credit and diplomas. MDVS holds accreditations from the Commission on International Trans Regional Accreditation (CITA) and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCA CASI). MDVS serves to provide state high school and middle school students with access to cou rses taught by certified teachers, as well as access to learning tools to which they would not otherwise have access. The commitment MDVS has to providing students access to quality courses and developing technology skills is reflected in their belief that children residing in the state should prepare for a globally competitive future that is integrated with technology and focused on the knowledge economy. It is then the mission of MDVS to give all face to face schools in the state an opportunity to offer s tudents access to diverse courses which provides the schools with a way to help students both build technology skills and utilize tools that will help them succeed. MDVS currently offers 17 Advanced Placement (AP) courses and 45 core content courses in t he areas of English, science, math, and social studies. MDVS also offers noncore elective courses in areas such as world languages, visual and performing arts, and technology based skills. These courses are offered in different paced schedules: flex (self paced elective courses), self paced, or semester paced (core AP and general education courses). MDVS employs approximately 100 part time teachers to teach the students enrolled in the 107 courses the school offers. Since instructional quality is a focus of MDVS administration, the administration developed an Online Instructor Training (OIT) program in which new teachers are required to enroll and complete. The OIT program consists of one face to face meeting and 6 weeks of

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50 online learning. This introductory course covers topics such as effective communication, utilizing the course environment, and basic pedagogical practices. Participants Participants for this study were selected using a purposeful sampling strategy (Rossman & Rallis, 2003) designed to identify successful virtual school teachers. A goal of utilizing this sampling method was to select parti cipants that represented the variance of the instructional practices used by successful K 12 virtual school teachers based on the grade level and content taught. Purposeful sampling to achieve variation based on the content area and instructional level of the courses participants taught facilitated the formation of categories and concepts that represent thematic consistencies in grounded theory (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). In this study, prior teaching experience and certification status served as the primary criteria used for sampling participants to identify successful K 12 virtual school teachers. Experience was defined by 3 years of virtual school teaching and was closely tied to certification status, the second criteria. The time period of 3 years was sele cted based on the requirements outlined by Title XI of the No (Bush, 2001) and the requirements for receiving the Master Teacher Certificate in the state that MDVS serves. The requirements for being a highly qualified teacher are: ree or better in the subject taught Full state teacher certification Demonstrated knowledge in the subjects taught. Obtaining the Master Teacher Certificate in the state that MDVS serves requires applicants to have 3 years of in service face to face teac hing experience within the state. The in service teaching requirement for obtaining the state based Master Teacher Certificate is consistent with regional certification laws. Guidelines stipulating the issuance of the Master Teacher Certificate

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51 require tea chers to maintain a temporary certificate during their first 3 to 5 years of their career, after which time they can apply for professional certification status. In addition to experience and certification, participants were sampled across disciplines to include teachers of various content areas, specifically math, science, social studies, and English. It was possible that within these disciplines, the conceptions of successful instructional practice could change based on the grade level of the student aud ience and whether the course was general or AP. Establishing course instructional level as the third level of sampling provided an opportunity to understand potential variations in instructional practices associated with a specific content area based on th e audience. A current critique of virtual school research is the lack of variance addressed by existing studies (Cavanau gh et al. ). Sampling participants based on content area and target audience of the course can support the exploration of the variation of virtual school teaching experiences and, in so doing, respond to this criticism. Ideally, sampling participants on th e three levels of criteria (Figure 3.1) will support the identification of differences in the conceptions successful K 12 virtual school teachers have for instructional practices based on the context of the course taught. Figure 3.1. Three l evels of s ampl ing

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52 The MDVS director of quality services facilitated participant recruitment by issuing a request for four volunteers from each content area (Table 3.1) two that taught general level courses and two that taught AP courses to participate in the study. I n grounded theory, achieving data saturation results from engaging the recursive process of data collection and analysis until new categories cease to emerge. Recruiting this number of participants from different content areas supported the achievement of data saturation and provided a point of validation for the study. Table 3.1. Sampling m atrix General level Advanced placement level Experienced K 12 virtual school teachers English English Science Science Math Math Social studies Social studies The sampling procedure outlined in this chapter provided a basis for selecting 16 MDVS virtual school teachers to participate in this study. The resulting number of individuals who participated satisfied all of the sampling categories outlined by the mat rix except one: Only one AP English teacher was recruited; thus, in order to compensate, an additional AP teacher from science was asked to participate in the study. The implications this has on the validity of the study will be addressed in chapter 5. Ult imately, the number of participants supported the 12 virtual school teachers for their instructional practice. Data Collection Participants were asked to take part in two conversatio ns the researcher during the course of the study: the first was part of the informed consent procedure, and the second was the interview session. Communication was not limited to these interactions and continued through

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53 the exchange of e mails. The informe d consent procedure provided an opportunity for the researcher to describe the study and answer any questions participants had relating to it. The informed consent procedure also served to establish trust with participants as both parties were not in the s ame location during the interview (McAuliffe, 2003) Since there was considerable distance separating the researcher and participant, the two communications were conducted and recorded using an online telecommunication tool called Adobe Connect TM The inherent nature of virtual schools implies a distance between instructor and student, and the utilization of a telecommunication tool such as Adobe Connect serves as a bridge between them. Adobe Connect supports the use of streaming audio and video and a shared workspace. For the purposes of this study, the interviews utilized the streaming audio feature of the software, the built in audio recording tool, and at times the shared workspace. A concern of using these tools as a means of data collection was the need for considering the technical abilities of the participants in order to ensure that the technology did not interfere with the interaction (Bampton & Cowton, 2002) However, this was not an issue because the virtual school teachers participating in this study regularly used telecommunication tools similar to Adobe Connect to communicate with their students. It was also important to consider the impact of using telecommunication tools on the researcher participant relationship. By conducting the interview online and using Adobe Connect, the researcher was not able to use visual cues which can r development of rapport (Bryman, 2001) Because developing rapport and trust with participants was critical for ensuring the validity and reliability of the data collected, it was important to implement other metho ds to compensate for the lack of visual cues (Minichiello, Aroni, Timewell, & Alexander, 1990) During the

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54 informed consent procedure, participants were provided with an outline of what to expect and some guidelines for interaction which were used to establish a basis of trust (Bampton & Cowton, 2002) In addition to providin g participants with the outline during the in formed consent procedure the researcher communicated the intent of the study and gave each participant a chance to ask questions about both the research and the researcher. In absence of face to face introductions, an additional goal of the informed conse nt session was to give the researcher and participants a chance to develop a level of rapport with each other The goal of establishing rapport during the informed consent procedure is to make participants feel open enough to not only ask questions, but al so express concerns or reservations they had about participating in the study. At this time, the participants were also asked to respon d to the consent form that was e mailed to them by verbally affirming or declining participation in the study. This proce dure was recorded through Adobe Connect, and only the recordings of those participants that gave affirmative consent were kept. In preparation for the interview session, participants received an e mail and included th e 7 semistructured interview questions. Participants were asked to prepare for the interview by reviewing the questions and thinking about them in relation to the course they were currently teaching as well as other virtual school courses they had taught i n the past. Interview sessions were scheduled no later than a week after the informed consent Providing participants with the questions that would be the focus of the interview session was a knew what to expect upfront. The seven questions developed for the 50 minute interview were semistructured and provided a general frame work to guide the conversation. Using a

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55 semistructured interview protocol provided participants with an opportunity to address aspects of successful virtual school teaching based on their own experiences. The questions were designed description of their pedagogical practices in relation to the general strategies they used, their specific use in relation to the content area they taught, and the use of technology. The interview questions covered three topics that provided an opportunit y to analyze the data collected based on several points of comparison. The questions were as follows: What are the pedagogical practices you use to teach *insert content area (math, science, etc.)* virtual school courses? Why are you using these practices? Drawing from your experience teaching different courses within your content area, do the pedagogical practices you use change based on the virtual school courses and the focus on the content included within it (biology, chemistry, etc.)? If so, how do t hese practices differ, and why do you use different ones? How do you use different technologies (such as discussion boards, chat tools, wikis, etc.) within the virtual school courses to support your pedagogical practice? How do you use technologies not bui lt in to your online course environment (such as Web based tools and resources) to support your pedagogical practices? What are your values/beliefs regarding virtual school teaching and the pedagogical practices you implement? These questions served to fo cus the topics discussed during the interview session. P robing and follow goal of using probing and follow res ponses and, hence, a greater depth of understanding for their replies. Data Analysis Glaser and Strauss (1967) introduced grounded theory analysis as a methodology that would provide researchers with a means for systematically analyzing data to define its content. This goal aligned grounded theory with an objectivist perspective, implying that the detached

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56 nature of the researcher would prevent his or her prior knowledge and experiences from intruding upon the analytic process. The theoretically driven use of the methods associated with grounded theory can be valuable for studies with the goal of forming an understanding of the processes associated with a specific phenomenon (Charmaz 2006; Grekhamer & Koro Ljungberg, 2005). The evident shift in the construct ivist application of grounded theory methods is the acknowledgement of the theoretical description formed as a construction of the researcher. As such, the constructivist application of grounded theory methods provides a strategy opposed to a strict protoc ol for approaching analysis that acknowledges the subjectivity of the researcher as the lens through which data is interpreted. Constructivist grounded theory represents a reality that emerges from the story told by the data, through close analysis and c onstant comparisons. Thus, the resulting theory is grounded in the data and provides an opportunity to form a greater understanding of the experience communicated through the story (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). This point indicates the relevance constructivist grounded theory has for this study, because little is known about the pedagogic practices of successful virtual school teachers. Focusing on the interview data collected from the 16 virtual school teachers who participated in this study enables me to form an analytic explanation, or description, for the pedagogic practices of virtual school teachers. This strategy ultimately led to the final stage of analysis and the formation of a theoretical statement to represent the consistent themes and categories der the pedagogical practices of virtual school teachers (Charmaz, 2006; Corbin & Strauss, 1990) Three strategies associated with grounded theory were used in this study, including the coding of data, the constant comparison between data sets, and data syntheses. These analytic techniques were applied during a synchronous and recursive process of data collection and

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57 analysis. The goal of coding the data was to identify those concepts that were repeatedly present in the data and that ultimately led to the synthesis and formation of the theory. The strategy of co ding associated with constructivist grounded theory was implemented and involved the sequential identification of initial, focused, and selective codes to identify a core category (Charmaz, 2006) The constructivist use of initial, f ocused, and selective codes differs from Corbin and Corbin and Strauss associate a close analysis of data during the process of open coding with the forming of categories that represent the core ideas or statements in the data. Initial coding is demonstrative of the constructivist perspective and recognizes the subjective stance of the researcher. During initial coding, each line is labeled with words or phrases that interpret their meaning. The fact that this process of labeling is knowledge on how he or she looks at data. Focused and axial coding marks the beginning of category formation, which establishes the links among categories through the formation of subcategories that represent the differences in their properties. The process of axial coding directly leads to the process of selective coding where a core category, which serves as the foundation of theory, is i dentified. During the final stage of coding, the relationship among categories is articulated through the use of selective codes. While Corbin and Strauss core category in order to form an ob jective description of the data, the process of selective coding from a constructivist perspective focuses on the relationships among categories. The focus on the relationships among categories results in a theory that represents and forms an

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58 understanding of the data and is representative of the subjective standpoint associated with the constructivist perspective. The grounded theory process used in this study began with the initial coding of data in the margins of each interview as it was transcribed. Cod es were attached to the smallest section of text that related to the topic under study, ranging in size from a few words to a few sentences. study is included in Appendix A. When all data were collected and coded, the codes were compiled into a list and refined so the list was not repetitive and no overlap existed among the initia l codes. During the process of initially coding the data, notes (or memos) were recorded to document questions and potential themes to explore during subsequent interviews and in the later stages of analysis. The pr ocess of focused coding involved the or ganization of initial code s into categories that exemplified the relationships among them for the purpose of grouping the associated T he focused codes encompass the pedagogic practices t hat the virtual school teachers use d in their courses to satisfy the instructional objectives they have set for themselves. Examples of the focused codes are the T he selective coding of data involved the identification of c ore concepts both within and across data sets to synthesize further the code categories. These selective codes incorporated the properties and goals of the pedagogic practices of the virtual schoo l teachers interviewed for this study. The properties defining selective codes include d

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59 data for the virtual school teacher s were categorized within these main concepts. Although it was not the original intent of the approach taken to analysis, cultivating knowledge emerged as a core category that represented a unifying attribute of the selective codes. Using memos to record ideas and questions at the onset of data collection is a critical method of grounded theory (Corbin & Strauss, 1990) The memos provide a means for analyzing data and codes during the research process and serve as a record of the decisions made upon the completion of the research process (Charmaz, 2006) During the data collection phase of this study, memos were used to record salient details while coding initial interviews, which served to guide the probing questions used during subsequent interviews conducted. The recursive process of data collection and analysis i mplies the use of previously coded interviews that serve as a basis of comparison for subsequent data collected. Memos facilitated the recursive nature of data collection and analysis by providing a means for recording questions and impressions that emerge d during the stages of initial and focused coding to support the identification of new themes and categories The use of memos during the beginning stages of this study also facilitated the constant comparison of the interview data and served to document the consistent themes, evidenced in When all interview data had been collected the questions, impressions, themes, and potential categories documented by the memos were used to further the progression of analysis. A sample list of the memos recorded during analysis is included in Appendix B. As the data were arranged and rearranged to facilitate the id entification of selective codes, memos were used to document both the direc tions the resulting theory could take and the initial theoretical description s of the data.

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60 Theoretical sampling is a method for used by researchers to direct future decisions regarding what data to collect next so as to support a developing theory as it emerges (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). The goal of theoretical sampling is to uncover diversity by exploring the full spectrum of possibilities that are relevant to working theories and provide the researcher with an opportunity to explore underdeveloped but r elevant concepts in the data (Corbin and Strauss, 1990). By using theoretically relevant details revealed during the analysis of data collected to guide the focus of subsequent interviews or observations conducted the researcher achieves data saturation In this study, theoretical sampling was not implemented as part of the analytic process to achieve data saturation Data saturation was achieved through the constant comparison of data to identify the consistencies evident in all data sets Trustworthines s In qualitative research, reliability and validity are satisfied through the meaningful and authentic representation of a reality explored through inquiry. The essence of quality criteria for establishing the validity and reliability of a study is based o n establishing the trustworthiness of the claims made by the researcher Several concepts are related to establishing the and confirmability equate to the d (Linoln & Guba, 1985). The concept of credibility is associated with techniques for establishing the internal validity of a study, which are utilized to demonstrate the believability of a stu Internal validity is concerned with how congruent the research findings are with reality, referring to the plausibility of the data and interpretations (Glesne, 1999). Creswell (1998) identifies the following eight methods that qualitative researchers can use to establish credibility: prolonged engagement, triangulation, peer re view, negative case analysis, acknowledging researcher bias,

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61 member checking, thick descriptions, and external audits. Three techniques were used in this study to establish credibility: member checks, clarification of researcher bias, and data triangulatio n. The first technique listed, member checking, is a technique used to establish the credibility of the research findings by providing participants an opportunity to confirm or disconfirm the of the analysis. To verify the data collected in this study, member checks were conducted to allow the participants to immediately correct errors in facts, volunteer additional information, and summarize and confirm individual data points. The member check s were conducted by e mailing participants the transcriptions from their interviews and the interpretations made from the transcriptions. E mailing this information to the participants gave them the opportunity to review and provide corrective feedback, if necessary (Constas, 1992) Each participant replied to the e mail sent to him or her and affirmed that the transcript was an accurate representation of the statements and comments he or she made during the interview. The member checks, utilized in this way, also provided a way to account for researcher bias by confirming or disconfir ming the developing theory The second technique listed is the clarification of researcher bias. Clarification of bias can be accomplished through a subjectivity statement that provides information to aid the reader in making de and provided insight into any general experiences with the fie ld of virtual schooling that could result in potential biases and influence the interpretation of the data. Identifying my existing perceptions and biases allowed me to acknowledge them and put them aside so that I might understand the phenomenon under stu dy without imposing prior biases (Creswell, 1998).

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62 The third technique listed to establish credibility is triangulation, which can be achieved using various sources such as theories, methods, data sources, or other researchers to confirm data interpretatio ns (Denzin, 1978) Denzin (1970) distinguishes four forms of triangulation: Data tr iangulation: the use of several sampling strategies during data collection to represent data at different times and social situations and from different perspectives Investigator triangulation: the use of more than one researcher in the field to gather and interpret data Theoretical triangulation: the use of more than one theoretical position to interpret the data Methodological triangulation: the use of more than one method for gathering data. For each of these methods of triangulation, the varying elemen ts are compared for 1985). While not a pplied in the traditional sense, triangulation was implemented in this study through the comparison of data collected from the 16 participants with existing research on the instructional practices of face to face and postsecondary online teachers Using existing research as a source of triangulation serves to confirm those findings that demonstrate consistency with existing r esearch, and support the identification of unique practices descriptions of K 12 virtual school teaching Furthermore, triangulating the outcomes of this study with research conducted in face to face and postsecondary online setti ngs establishes the Lincoln and Guba (1985) identify transferability as ana logous to the concept of external validity in quantitative research. Although qualitative inquiry tends to seek an in depth understanding of a specific experience, rather than the universal features that can be applied to most situations, generalizable pat terns and perspectives can be yielded through thick descriptions, multiple cases, and comparisons across cases. Ultimately, the researcher must provide a description of the process that will enable those individuals without any involvement in the study to

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63 (Lincoln & Guba, 1985, p. 316) In order to facilitate the transferability of the research findings to other contexts, thick descriptions of the contexts, along with memos and notes documenting the researcher participant interaction, were recorded. These descriptions, in addition to those p rovided for the 16 teachers who were intentionally sampled to represent diversity within the population, are included to indicate researchers, virtual school teachers, and virtual school administration. Dependability, or consistency, is a qualitative concept that equates to reliability and objectivity in quantitative research. The notion of reliability assumes that repeated measures of a phenomenon producing the same results establish the truth of those r esults. Replicability is impossible in research where the findings are constructions of the researcher. Therefore, Lincoln and Guba (1985) replace the term reliability with dependability (or consistency). Dependability is achieved through the documentation of the procedures used and decisions made throughout the process of data collection and interpretation. In this study, a record of data collection and analysis provided by an audit trail both supplied a basis for establishing the reliability of the study and increased its transferability. One of the techniques associated with grounded theory is the use of memos to demonstrate the recursive process of data collection and analysis and to document the process of how decisions are made that lead to the format ion of a theory (Charmaz, 2006; Strauss & Corbin, 1998) The memos, in addition to the interview transcriptions and general notes taken throughout the process of analysis, resulted in an audit trail. Such documentation ensured the reliability of this research by prov iding evidence that the data collection and analysis process was methodologically rigorous and sound.

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64 Limitations There are a number of potential limitations to this study. These limitations exist in relation to the theoretical perspective, participant sam pling, and the methods used to collect data and Theoretical Framework The constructivist framework guiding this study implies that the findings are a construction by making the interpretation reliant both on the awareness participants had of their own beliefs and attitudes, as well as on the ability of the researcher to help participants explicitly express thes e beliefs and attitudes regarding their pedagogical practices. While techniques such as developing rapport with participants, clarifying researcher bias, and member checking were used to reduce the potential impact of this limitation, it still has the pote ntial to influence the depth and richness of the collected data. Participant Sampling The procedure used to select and sample participants has four potential limitations. First, the selection criteria proposed for this study was ideal for developing a desc ription that was representative of the diverse population of virtual school teachers. However, it is important to note that the issue of diversity and virtual school instructors is a current issue identified in virtual schooling research. This issue poses a similar challenge for recruiting participants that represent ethnic and gender diversity. Second, there were requirements of participation that might have tim e participants were asked to commit to meet with the researcher to participate in the informed consent procedure and interview. The third limitation of the sampling procedure is that, although internal validity, it consequently

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65 limited the ability of the researcher to generalize the outcomes of the study to virtual school teachers outside of MDVS. Finally, the fourth limitation of the sampling strategy is the selection of participants based on a definition of success that was developed for this study. While this was done because there is no current definition for success that applies to K 12 virtual school teachers, it is important to acknowledge that this definition may be incorrect or lack cert ain aspects of successful virtual school teachers. Data Collection Methods This study implemented a process of data collection that involved the use of a mediating tool to conduct interviews with participants. While this was justified in terms of the geogr aphic distance between the researcher and participant, it is important to acknowledge the use of the Adobe Connect environment to host the interview sessions as a potential limitation of this study. Qualitative researchers rely on the rapport developed wit h participants to facilitate conversation and the eliciting of elaborate descriptions from participants. When a researcher lacks the ability questions, it is possibl e that connections developed with participants may be impacted. Triangulation T riangulation is used to establish the multiple methods, theories, data sources, or points of external confirmation to demonstr ate consistencies in the data The implementation of triangulation to establish credibility poses limitations to the The first limitation is associ ated with use of existing literature to corroborate th e outcomes of data analysis. The body of e xisting research on the practices of teachers in face to face and postsecondary online settings is used as a basis with which to compare the instructional practices in this study. While t his approach to triangulation ultimately led to the identification of instructional practices unique to

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66 the K 12 virtual course setting, the outcomes of the process did not address the internal validity, or credibility The second l imitation relates to the population of virtual school teachers sampled. T he sampling strategy used in this study was designed to represent the diversity of K 12 virtual school teachers at a single virtual school. Because the findings of the study are base d on data collected from one virtual school, the transferability of the outcomes to other virtual school settings are limited. MDVS, the virtual school that agreed to be involved in this research, supported the study by giving the researcher access to the virtual school teachers that were currently teaching MDVS of the researcher to use different types of data collection st rategies, such as observations. Howe ver, had multiple sources of data, and data sets from multiple virtual school been collected, findings. Researcher Subjectivity In qualitative research, t he researcher is both the tool for data collection and the interpreter of data. As such, the biases the researcher has must always be considered, and the role prior knowledge and experience might play in the interpretation of data must also be taken into a ccount. Therefore, as the sole researcher responsible for collecting and interpreting the data, I gave careful thought to past experiences that could potentially bias this role. One particular bias that presented itself in this study was my prior experienc es as a teacher. My experiences as a teacher range from aftercare supervisor for a Montessori school to a media specialist for an elementary school. I have fond memories of my time in the classroom and value the majority of interactions I had with students The opportunity to facilitate the process of learning and play a

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67 job. It is also important to acknowledge bias associated with m y current role as a doctoral c andidate and a learner in a department of educational technology which reflects my interest in and passion for the use of technologies in varying capacities. Resigning from my position as a media specialist and returning to school for my PhD was a difficu lt choice, but I felt that, in my current position as a research assistant to m y advisor and chair, I was introduced to virtual schooling and provided with an opportunity to work with virtual schools across the country. The experience has not only extended my knowledge regarding the potential value these settings have for providing e ducational opportunities, but also opened my eyes to both the positive and negative examples of organizational structures, instructional design, and pedagogical practices. The coding process associated with constructivist grounded theory provides a means f or The initial coding process outlined by Charmaz (2006) provides a means for a researcher to withhold from imposing his o r her own beliefs by utilizing sen sitizing concepts to code data. Sensitizing concepts require a researcher to conduct initial coding using codes that use many of process helps to ensure that par Conclusion A constructivist grounded theory approach provided a means for establishing a foundation of knowledge regarding the pedagogical practices associated with successful K 12 virtual schoo l teachers. This chapter outlines the procedure used to achieve this goal and includes a description

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68 of the context; background and participants; method of data collection, including sampling criteria and interview questions; method of analysis; and means for establishing trustworthiness. At the conclusion of this process, a theory was formed that is representative of the virtual school

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69 CHAPTER 4 DATA ANALYSIS The purpose of this study is to form an understanding of the pedagogic practices of virtual use of general, content based, and technology based practices in their virtual school courses. The inter view protocol used to guide the conversations the researcher had with participants provided a means for understanding the practices of virtual school teachers in relation to the general strategies they used, their content specific practices, and their use of technology. The beliefs participants held about the practices they used in the virtual school setting were also explored. The responses of participants were documented during the 50 minute interviews that were conducted with each individual. The intervi ews were then analyzed using methods associated data sets. The sampling strategy used in this study also supported the exploration of discontinuities among the perspectives of teachers teaching different content areas. This process resulted in a description of the pedagogic practices of virtual school teachers as well as justifications for their use of these practices. In this chapter, I outline the outcome of this analytical work and begin to map out how it helps to form an understanding of the practices of virtual teachers. In defining the relationship between each level of coding during analysis, what became evident is how the beliefs, goals, and practic es of participants were represented by the three levels of coding. The core category of cultivating knowledge provides a context for describing and interpreting the initial, focused, and selective codes documented during analysis. Figure 4.1 depicts the be liefs and goals associated with virtual school teaching and how they relate to each other. Figure 4.2 depicts a single goal and the practices associated with it to provide an example

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70 for how the categories relate to each other. The coding trail in Appendi x A includes the full list of the beliefs, goals and practices, and relationships among them. study and are presented here first in order to establish for the read er the underlying motivations driving the goals and practices that will be presented in the subsequent sections. In the context of this work, beliefs are defined as those contentions held by participants in regard to the practice of K 12 virtual school tea ching. The pedagogic goals of participants are represented by the focused codes, and are later described and then discussed in regard to the relationships that exist among the pedagogic goals as well as to the beliefs presented in the previous section. Fin ally, the pedagogic practices represented by the in i tial codes are presented, described, and then discussed in terms of the specific goals they serve. Structuring the chapter in this way facilitates the presentation of a grounded theory to describe the rel ationship that emerged among the beliefs, goals, and practices of K 12 virtual school teachers.

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71 Figure 4.1 Theoretical d iagram Figure 4.2 Relationship between focused and i nitial codes

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72 Pedagogic Beliefs The concept of virtual school teaching i ntroduces a new context for teachers to implement practices in order to facilitate student learning. The commonalities between the process of teaching and learning in the online and offline settings imply the applicability of certain practices from one con text to the other. However, there is a distinction that exists in the K 12 virtual school context that makes the direct application of practices from one environment to the other without any reinterpretation problematic. In the following section, the analy sis indicating how these factors are reflected in the beliefs held by participants is presented. Belief 1: Connecting With Students The formation of connections with students is an example of a belief that underlies the practices participants used in bot h their face to face and virtual classrooms. However, participants did indicate distinctions in their beliefs that were associated with the virtual course con nections in cultivating student knowledge in the virtual course setting. The role of connections was transformed in the virtual school context resulting from the lack of visual and audio reinforcements, which provide the foundation of forming connections i n a face to face setting. Additionally, the increased dependence on these connections to serve as a source of motivation for students also served to distinguish the role of connections in the virtual setting from the role of connections in the face to face setting. The experience of taking an online course can be an isolating one for students. While some students thrive in these environments, others find it an alienating experience that can have a negative impact on their learning (Johnson, 2005). This s erves as a primary motivation for the course context. Participants believed that reinforcing gestures, facial expressions, and intonations

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73 in voice is a cri feelings of isolation. The participants noted that by emphasizing their presence and w illingness to support students, perceptions of isolation, a second distinction of this belief is its motivational component. (Bob, 6.5.07) in both face to face and virtual course settings, they are a primary point of motivation associated with online learning. Part of what makes the connection motivational how muc h you care As a teacher I think the number one job I need to do is to make connections with my having that connection to my online students makes me a better teacher and makes it more fun for me, but I also say my students have more accountability, they know I am here, they are not just typing into the computer or to be sent out into the world wide web and maybe (Shannon, 6.14.07) A last point related to the value of connecting with students in virtual settings is the fact that the teachers who participated in this study had little to no information regarding their tanding for what influenced the establishment of this belief with participants. As is discussed in the following sections, the knowledge gained about students throu gh the connections formed with them serves as a primary point underlying the cultivation of knowledge in the virtual course setting.

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74 Belief 2: Fluid Practice While all participants acknowledged the similarities between teaching in a face to face classroom and teaching in a virtual course setting, they expressed the need to transition those beliefs in order to accommodate the unique teaching context. Fluid practice can be defined in terms of the general approach taken by a virtual school teacher that is ref lective of the aspects of virtual courses which put a focus on the student versus the content. In order to accommodate this focus, participants described experiencing a shift in their beliefs regarding their instructional role, moving from perceptions of t hemselves as givers of knowledge to perceptions of this transition is demonstrated by the following quote: I would say that initially when I started [teaching online] that my beliefs were that here in me. What I have learned over the years that [ sic ] is that our society is changing and the needs for education are changi information, and provide variations of that information throughout my courses in such a way that it meets almost all of the learning styles (Molly, 6.15.0 7) In terms of the context presented in th e quote above, fluid practice can be thought of as a transition experienced by participants in order to better facilitate the translation of their prior practices to better suit the necessities of the virtual course setting. This transition was further def ined by other participants who specified the focus of their guiding role, which emphasized a Our role [as virtual school teachers] is to guide our students through this maze and develop an understan ding of their subject area as well Other distinctions of this role emerged that provided an additional means for understanding the role of fluid practice in the cultivation of student knowledge. The transition in role and

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75 cultivating knowledge by individualizing learning. Because the participants functioned within a preconstructed course setting, they described having more time a nd a greater capability for the participants to make an investme nt in maintaining an open flow of communication with sic of C asey talked about the transition of roles she experienced while teaching in the virtual environment and described it in relation to her belief in individualizing student learning. This the belief of fluid practice indicat es is that participants, as online teachers, saw the core purposes of their roles shifting from that of knowledge holders to that of knowledge facilitators. While focusing on students can be considered reflecting a micro view of the virtual teaching co ntext, participants also described the role of fluid practice in relation to the macro perspectives they held. Equally important to participants was the adaptation of strategies, assignments, or content in response to a general trend or pattern they might have observed in regard to an entire class. The use of adaptive practices that were responsive to students represents how participants provided the students with what they needed when they needed it. In the following quote, one of the participants indicate s the use of fluid practice by the responsiveness practices] are very responsive to the students, I try to foresee issues and correct them before the

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76 students 5.30.07). The clear relationship that the belief of fluid practice has with connecting with students is evident in the making of modifications to the course based on partici Belief 3: Engage Students With Content In regard to the cultivation of knowledge, engaging students with content is of the utmost importance. The use of strategies associated with engaging students with content is driven by the nce in teaching, responsibility. Drawing from the strong command of the content they taught, as well as the connections they had formed with students, the participants d escribed how they were able to best select those activities and assignments that they felt were appropriate for cultivating content knowledge. Although this may seem consistent with the expectation of the beliefs a teacher would hold in a face to face clas sroom, it is influenced by different environmental requirements. In any virtual school course, there can be a range of students that straddle the spectrum of content ability and interest. Therefore, drawing both from the opportunities offered by the medium to focus on the students vs. the content and from the connections established with the students, participants believed that, in order to engage students with the content, the students had to become aware of the personal relevance the content had for them. Participants addressed the 5.30.07) to facilitate enactments of this belief. Likewise, this information directed the enhancements they made to the courses.

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77 In ad students served as the basis for the integration of Web based, or course based, tools into the course. For example, math teachers discussed the drawing in of Web based re sources to extend identification and selection of these resources was supported by the extensive content knowledge of participants. One of the participants by the name of Rob talked about the selection of supportive materials to illustrate mathematical concepts to students, which he described as pointed out that drawing fro m resources available through the environment was critical for Belief 4: Managing the Course The belief in managing the varying aspects of a virtual school course is partially reflected h the content. Similarly, participants the selective code of managing the course is distinguished as a belief by its differing focus within the context of the virtual course environment. The belief of managing the course is concerned with maintaining the integrity of the course by the prevention of cheating and keep ing the course a safe place for students. Participants indicated how, by using practices associated with this belief, they both set students on a trajectory to engage with the content and ensured that the course environment was a safe place for students.

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78 front the close relationship this selective code has to their beliefs about forming connections with students. A primary goal guiding how participants approached ins tances where the integrity of the courses they taught were compromised demonstrated their commitments to the connections formed with students since the participants recognized the potential negative effects their disciplinary actions could have on their re lationships with the students. As stated earlier, the connections formed with students served as a source of motivation for them as they progressed through the course. Preserving communication is important for reducing the negative effect of consequences o m when taking disciplinary action (Molly, 6.15.07). Another way participants described maintaining the integrity of the course was by observing interactions between students that took place in the public venues of the course, such as the discussion board Participants described that by observing interactions students had with each other, they took responsibility for maintaining the integrity of the course by keeping it a it indicates their recognition of an additional source of motivation in the course that of other students. Just as the negative interactions with other students can hav e the opposite effect. Furthermore, this belief closely tied to their perceptions regarding the necessity for providing students with a positive learning exp erience in the online environment. Kristi emphasized the importance of creating a

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79 and believed the experiences should be nothing less than what they would hav e in a face to face classroom (Kristi, 5.30.07). Belief 5: Supporting Student Success The use of mediating technology to accommodate the distance between teacher and student influenced the beliefs virtual school teachers in this study formed about support ing student success. Relying on delayed e mail communications, discussion board postings, and, in some cases, telephone conversations, participants described their beliefs about supporting student success in relation to three distinctions: satisfying stude structures, and making content accessible. heavily influenced by the established connections that served as a basis for how their course related needs were met. Demon strating their instructional responsibility for facilitating connections that would be the basis of the support provided, participants described their beliefs in making themselves accessible to students by establishing a presence in the courses they taught By being active in the environments to establish their presence, participants conveyed to students the interest and While interaction between teacher and student was the primary means by which ss. One such support structure in the MDVS model is the role of the mentor. Mentors are part of the support structure for virtual course students, and as such, these individuals are made available to every student at every face to face school where a stude nt is enrolled in an MDVS virtual school

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80 course. Virtual school teachers recognize the role these individuals play and the opportunities they offer by providing students with content based support. The teachers also recognize that the mentors may not be ex perts in the content in which students are taking courses. This is why the participants addressed the need to communicate closely with these individuals in order to support Participants also described the role of mentors in relation to their beliefs about supporting student success in terms of the value gained from communicating with them in order to gain discussed the involvement of mentors in th eir course management practices. For example, in discussing cheating, participants described mentors as critical components for effectively addressing this issue. In addition, mentors were discussed in relation to the importance participants placed on ensu contact with students) to facilitate the coordination of interventional strategies for stu dents in personal crisis. nature of online learning served to establish the relationship between the use of these practices and accessibility. Participants acknow ledged the fact that students might be logging on to courses with no immediate means for getting support. For Elisha, this was closely tied to the need for demonstrating responsive communication with students: ing part of your lecture or going through some the online environment to get those answers, you know, the teacher will have to e mail back or call back or whatever. You have to be very responsive and quick natured so that the student is not stumbling and frustrated because, you know, for high schoolers and

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81 middle schoolers the frustration, once that hits, then they kind of give up. (Elisha, 5.24.2007) In order to co mpensate for this, it appears that participants provided students with a clear delineation for how they could navigate the content to prevent confusion or misinterpretation of what was being asked of them. Interpreting the Beliefs of Virtual School Teacher s The role of the selective codes in the grounded theory of this study provides a foundational context for understanding the practices of virtual school teachers. Representing the underlying beliefs of participants, the selective codes serve to categorize these beliefs about virtual school teaching practices. Connecting with students, fluid practice, engaging students, managing the course, and supporting student success represent those beliefs participants hold for virtual school teaching. The role of the s elective codes described above, which represents beliefs, demonstrate s an essential component of the practices described by participant s by establishing the trajectories and justifications for their selection. The five categories of beliefs demonstrate independent modes of learning it supports. literature from p ostsecondary online settings that addresses this transition as representative of the adaptations online teachers make to their beliefs in response to the unique context of the online course environment (Spector & De la Teja, 2001; Vandergrift, 2002). The f ocus on the individual student underlies the utilization of learner centered strategies that integrates the interests of students into the process of learning in order to facilitate and support their education in the online environment (Richardson, Long, & Woodley, 2003). This process is enhanced by student teacher communication (Anderson, 2004a; Liu et al., 2005) and encourages teachers to

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82 build relationships with students to foster academic success (Coppola, 2002). McCombs and Whisler (1997) provide an ex ample for how relationships with students foster their academic ability to implement learner centered strategies used to focus instruction on the interests and needs of the student. The beliefs identified in this study demonstrate a relationship to those held for teaching in face to face settings but have distinctions that are specifically aligned with the practice of virtual school teaching. In consideration o f existing literature identifying the importance of transitioning face to face practices to better suit the online setting in order to motivate students and prevent frustration (Lee, 2004; Kurtz, Beaudoin, & Sagee, 2004), it is not surprising to see these as practices is attributed in existing literature to the distanced nature of the medium and independent nature of online students (Swan, 2004). These clai ms, however, are based on research conducted in postsecondary online settings. While these aspects of the online environment are considerations of the virtual school teacher, the lack of knowledge regarding both the characteristics of high school students as online learners and the difference in the general context complicates the transference of these findings to the virtual high school setting. rspectives regarding their motivations and justifications for the instructional goals they set and practices they use with students in their courses. nature of onl ine learning on the connections formed with students. A common critique of classroom practices in postsecondary online settings is the detachment students feel from the

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83 course instructor (Glenn, Jones, & Hoyt, 2003). As a result of the distance implied by the virtual connections, since these connections were identified as a critical element of the high school classroom in face to face settings. An indication o f the importance participants placed on the connections formed with students is the clear relationship between this and other categories representing the selective codes in this study. While the motivational component of the connections formed with stude nts is a main factor in the emphasis placed on this belief, the knowledge gained about students is considered equally important. The valued role of student teacher communication in postsecondary online settings for fostering academic success is indicated i n current literature (Coppola, 2002; Anderson, 2004a; Liu et al.). One advantage postsecondary online instructors have over teachers of virtual courses is the knowledge they have about students preexisting content knowledge in certain cases, because of the requirements and prerequisites restricting enrollment into some courses. In the virtual course context, establishing a relationship with students is even more important because virtual school teachers begin a course knowing nothing more than the names of their students. How, then, are they expected to accommodate the potential diversity of the students both in background knowledge and learning styles? The connections formed between virtual school teachers and students are critical points of information g as a foundation for their learning in a course implies the need for practice s that suit an individualized learning environment. The belief in fluid practice is how participants facilitated individualized learning in their courses. Through the articulation of this belief and the description

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84 provided for the change in focus in their online courses to individualizing learning, a transition in the roles of teachers in the virtual course environment is implied. The transition seems to be from a knowledge giver to a knowledge guide. Representing a relationship between connecting with stu dents and fluid practice are the beliefs teachers hold about supporting student success and engaging students with content. These two categories are demonstrative of how teachers use the knowledge they gain from students. Pedagogic Goals In the following s ection, the pedagogic goals of the virtual school teachers who participated are this study is presented. These goals represent the second level of coding in the interview data. The categories included in this section serve to define the pedagogic goals that direct the selection and integration of specific instructional practices, and are representative of ating stage in the process of virtual school teaching and are discussed in relation to the beliefs described in the previous section to among the participants Belief 1: Connect With Students Goal 1: Effective c ommunication students, the pedagogic goal of using effective communication directs the selection of practic es communication strategies serves the underlying belief of connecting with students by facilitating the integration of practices that influence the depth and quality of the relationships instructors form with students. Providing a context for the use of practices, the practices associated with

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85 verbal practices. The qu alities associated with effective communication are communicating emotion, being committed to student learning, and being responsive. Participants discussed the importance of conveying an emotional tone in their communications as a critical component of st relationships she formed with her students were their motivations in regard to the content (Julie, 5.28.07). Motivation was addressed further in relation to the r esponsiveness of the communication participants had with students. As a means to compensate for the delayed communications associated with asynchronous environments, effective communication was associated with an established time frame for replying to stud messages. In the following quote, Kristi directly addresses the importance of responsiveness in relation to motivation: MDVS requires a 24 a classroom setting, you raise your ha not there I think, the more likely they are to just drop off. (Kristi, 5.30.07) Goal 2: Preventing m isinterpretation s The emphasis placed by participants on the role of connecting and communicating with students provides a basis for understanding how effective communication strategies are used to qually important are the use of practices to prevent miscommunications with students. In serving this goal, participants described how important self monitoring their communications with students was because it helped to facilitate and maintain connections with students. The conscious monitoring of language and emotional tone reduced the potential for misinterpretations of meaning and/or emotion being conveyed in an e mail or discussion board posting. Addressed in relation to

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86 and engagement with a course, the focus on using practices to self participant by the name of Shannon describes the justification of this goal in relation to student engagement: I think you just have to be a little more careful online because your words are there in are joking or not, so you have to be very clear about how you write your comments, so (Shannon, 6.14.07) What can be derived from these statements and those made by other participants is that these practices minimize the potential negative impact misinterpretations can have on the quality of the relationship that is formed with a student. The use of such practices was also addressed by participants in a way that indicates the motivational element of the connections formed with students. Belief 2: Fluid Practice Goal 1: Guide k nowledge c onstruction The goal of serving as a knowledge gui de accommodates the asynchronous nature of the practices to suit a context where their traditional practices of lecturing would not be able to be used. Because of t he asynchronous nature of their courses, participants indicated how serving as ut how her she used:

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87 me than if they know the parts of a frog and that kind of thing. So, I want them to have this foundation of knowledge that they can ask questions about, that they can think about, make decisions and be able to do something with rather than just have this clump of facts in their ere to go with. (Leigh, 6.14.07) reorientation of their practices in order to be more compatible with the student centered focus of virtual course environments. Participan ts also discussed the importance of being open to change technology, so m uch that changes with the material that you really need to be open to change provides a context for selecting strategies to support the individual student. In reframing the focus of their practices to individual students, participants described how the tailoring of content and resources to provide support is a primary focus of their instructional roles. As such, t he use learning. This goal serves the context of the environment and facilitates the use of practices that accommodate its student centered focus. Participants also selected practices to serve this goal in order to accommodate the diversity of students enrolled in a single virtual school course and Belief 3: Engage Students With Content Goal 1 : Make content a ccessible This goal is represents content knowledge, knowledge of students, and knowledge of the instructional context to guide the selection of practices implemented in a virt ual school course. The goal of making content

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88 accessible is to account for the diversity of students and variations in their preferences for learning. In regard to the lack of background knowledge about students, the participants pointed out that enhancing courses to accommodate varying learning styles is a way to increase the accessibility of the content to all students and provide them with the maximum opportunity to be engaged with the content in a personally meaningful way. In the following quote, the c onsideration of learning styles in relation to taking maximum advantage of the online opportunities to interact with content in multiple formats in order to m eet the learning styles of Giving students hands on experiences is important for fostering their interests in the content and their motivations to engage it. Acknowledging the role of varying learni ng styles, Holly, Casey, Rhonda, Leigh, and Kathy addressed the need to provide students with as many opportunities to excel as possible in order to meet the needs of all students. They also suggested that it was important for students to explore their own interests in a particular content area in order for them to see the value it had for their own lives. Leigh talked about the strategies she used as a means for empowering students with knowledge that would be valuable not only for assisting them in comple ting their courses, but also for aiding them in decision making throughout their entire lives. Goal 2: Integrate t echnology The second goal derived from the belief of engaging students with content is for the virtual school teacher to use practices that make content accessible to students by integrating technology. Integrating technology was discussed by participants in relation to the purpose it serves by providing the participants with varying ways to represent content to students. By selecting practice s that serve the goal of integrating technology, content is also made more

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89 accessible to students in that it provides them with different opportunities to apply and use their knowledge. Using the integration of technology in this way facilitates student le arning by understanding of it. Belief 4: Managing the Course Goal 1: Academic i ntegrity s were categorized as a demonstration of a goal related to maintaining Maintaining the academic integrity of a course, as a goal, is representative of those practices participants used to monitor the work submitted by stude nts, as well as the interactions taking place in the discussion boards and other public venues of the course. The relationships formed with students served as a source of motivation as they progressed through the courses, participants relayed. What emerg ed as a core purpose of managing their courses to ensure academic integrity was the use of practices to address cheating in a way that ribed the importance of maintaining communication with 6.15.07). In addition to using practices that reflected the importance participants placed on maintaining stude nt motivation, preserving the connection that facilitates the student teacher interaction was also an aspect of consideration. In recognition of the lack of knowledge participants had about students and the critical importance of maintaining student motiva tion in a virtual school course, participants implemented practices to manage their courses on a case by case basis.

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90 Goal 2: Keeping the course a safe pl ace Another way participants described maintaining the integrity of their courses was by observing in teractions between students that took place in the public venues of the course, such as the discussion boards. The emphasis placed on the use of discussion boards by points to the value of constructive communication in virtual course environm ents. Participants described using discussion boards both as a means for engaging students in critical thinking about the content as well as a space to prompt discussion and debate. However, at times, or tones while they were engaged in heated debate. Participants described how, when approaching these situations, they used Belief 5: Supporting Student Success Goal 1: Utilize support s tructures The reality of the distanced interactions taking place in a virtual course environment requires the use of support structures that may be outside of a virtual course context in order to best support student success. The formation of class community was a way for the participants to ensure that the students h a d an available venue of support at all times In talking about her experience teaching AP physics, Rhonda felt she was encouraging student success by working to scie nce class, Holly also emphasized the need to foster community and discussed how it was content.

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91 The descriptions provided by the participants also indicate the val ue they placed on with face to face, one on one, content based support. Participants talked about the importance of communicating with these individuals closely t o ensure students were getting the support they needed. Holly described the importance of forming relationships with mentors, but also described how valuable they were for serving as intermediaries between virtual school teachers nnon described how, when utilizing mentors, she first establishes relationships with them: I also like to form strong relationships with the mentors of their school because those are on I have a much better chance of having students pass my class successfully. (Shannon, 6.14.07) overall learning experiences, seeing as to the fact that, among other thi ngs, mentors are able to completion of courses. While there is currently no consistent description of the roles of mentors, which delineates their responsibilities needs, formed this understanding for each mentor Goal 2: Meet s n eeds Participants also described the use of practices that increased their accessibility, which impacted the opportuniti just in time practices participants described how they provided students with multiple means for students to contact them in an effort to prevent frustration. Shannon described reducing frustr ation by increasing her accessibility in order to give students the attention they needed. Holly described the role accessibility played in minimizing frustration she tried to provide anytime availability for her students. At the core of how Shannon and Ho lly talked about increasing accessibility is

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92 the goal of providing students with multiple opportunities to get suppor t, which indicates the necessity of using practices to facilitate communication among students and teachers to prevent frustration. The rel environment. By maintaining a high level of activity in the course environ ment, participants discussed the practices they used to communicate to st udents the investment they had in their learning. Goal 3: Structure content to scaffold l earning organizing content, drawing from their knowledge of the content and t heir knowledge of how standards and benchmarks, which ensured students enrolled in virtual course s were prepared with the same knowledge as those students in a f ace to face course. Participants described the practices they used to set the stage for student learning and establish a context for courses that structured the experiences students would have. Participants also mentioned that their desire to meet student underlying motive in the emphasis placed on creating an organized, structured environment for students. Leigh described the value she saw in e ffective content organization as a means for

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93 Interpreting the Goals of Virtual School Teachers The focused codes in this s tudy are interpreted to represent a second component to the grounded theory developed as a result: the goals of virtual school teachers. In serving the main goal of this study, is to form an understanding of the practices of virtual school teachers, this l effective communication, preventing misinterpretations, guiding stud knowledge, individualizing learning, maintaining the integrity of a course, keeping the course a safe place for students, making content accessible, integrating technology, utilizing support structures, meeting students needs, and str ucturing content to scaffold student learning. The participants selected and implemented practices. is the importance of maintaining student motivation and minimizing frustration. Consistent with existing research exploring the role of communication in the online environment (DeBorough, 1999), the use of effective communication strategies emerged as a p rimary goal of participants. Tied to the belief in connecting with students to cultivate knowledge, participants discussed the importance of using practices to communicate effectively with students. This goal provides a context for how participants needed to select practices to facilitate the formation of good relationships with students by being responsive and demonstrating a presence in the course that communicated to students the commitment they had to their learning. The importance of using effective co mmunication to motivate students and minimize frustration represents a goal that is evidenced by existing research (DeBorough, 1999; Glen, Jones, & Hoyt, 2003). However, one cannot find literature to support a second goal associated with this belief a goal that defines the use of

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94 practices to accommodate the lack of visual reinforcements, such as facial recognition or hand of practices that may be a novel con tribution to the field of online learning. Establishing this goal serves to direct how participants communicated emotion and self monitored the tone of their communications with students. Discussed directly in terms of motivation, the use of the associated practices minimizes the potential for negative communications with students, which could result in their losing interest in a course. A relationship among the goals of participants associated with their belief in fluid practices and maintaining student motivation also exists. Recognition of the need to adapt existing practices to best suit the online environment and the use of practice s to individualize learning are practices that define the belief of fluid practice. Related to the goal of guiding stude knowledge construction are characteristics that provide a context for defining the associated set of practices. The characteristics defining this goal are the following: adapting traditional practices to best suit the environment, encouraging independ ent thinking, and enhancing the environment to support student learning. The need for online teachers to adapt their practices is documented in existing literature (Easton, 2003). The necessity for online teachers to use ependent thinking is also recorded in existing literature (Anderson, 2004; Kanuka, Rourke, & Laflamme, 2007). An area that is not explored in the though this was an area that participants emphasized as being critical to the success of students in their course. individualizing instruction. Sharing many of the same characteristics as th e goal of guiding

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95 are tailored to the needs of individual students as opposed to the needs of all students in a particular course. This goal has a more direct i mpact on the motivations of students, as it directed the participants to select practices to meet the needs of individual stu dents, which ultimately prevented students ar e met through the goals associated with the belief in engaging students with content. By selecting practices associated with the goals of making content accessible and integrating technology, participants provided students with the maximum opportunity to b e successful and engage the content in a personally meaningful way. The concept of attending to the diversity of students through the use of practices to make content accessible and integrate technology is associated with the application of learner centere d strategies in the postsecondary online setting. The use of these practices to account for the variation of learning styles is considered a critical component for supporting student success (Graham et al.). Also related to optimizing the context for stude nt learning are the goals related to the belief in supporting student success, which content to scaffold learning. The concept of the mentor as a support structur e was introduced earlier in this chapter. While there is currently little research to define this role, the use of dimension to consider in supporting student success. A more well recognized instructional concept associated with student success in face to face settings is the structuring of content to scaffold student learning (Kramer & Schmidt, 2001). Since the participants lacked face to face interactions, e mphasis was placed on using practices

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96 structuring content to scaffold student learning, participants demonstrated the use of a store of content knowledge that gu ided the activities and assignments they chose to build into their courses. The amount of knowledge teachers have about the content they are teaching is an elemental prerequisite for the use of pedagogical practices and strategies that effectively support student learning (van Driel, Verloop, & de Vos, 1998). The experience and depth of knowledge strategies, as well as their abilities to effectively perceive stud Richardson, 2005; Gudmundsdottir, 1990; Shulman, 1999). academic integrity of a course and keeping a course a safe place. These two goals categorize the practices participants described using to maintain the academic integrity and personal safety of students in their courses learning Maintaining the academic integrit y of a course is characterized by the use of practices to address instances of cheating and plagiarism taking place. While there is some evidence that distance learners cheat less than students in face to face settings (Kaczmarczyk, 2001), this goal direct s the use of practices that focus on preserving the connections established with students in order to maintain their motivations to complete a course. There is little research exploring the use of practices to address instances when a student is identified as being involved in a personal crisis. Similar to the case of cheating, teenage incidences of suicide is decreasing annually (Gould, Greenberg, Velting & Shaffer, 2003), but as indicated by participants in this study, research into the appropriate strate gies to use when a virtual school teacher identifies a student in crisis is needed.

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97 The goals associated with the focused codes from this study outline the context for the establishing this context, participants drew together knowledge of students, content knowledge, and an understanding of the instructional context in order to select and implement practices that met the needs of all of the learners in their courses. Peda gogic Practices In the following section, the pedagogic practices of the virtual school teachers who participated in this study are presented. These practices represent the first level of coding in the grounded theory process: the initial codes. Since the initial codes represent the actual practices used by the participants, they are interwoven into the analyses that follow. The initial codes are identified in the following section using bold text to facilitate their identification as part of the audit trai l. These codes were selected for inclusion to represent the specific enactments of the goals and beliefs described by the participants. In order to facilitate the understanding of the connection to the pedagogic goals addressed in the previous section, the pedagogic practices are discussed in the following section in relation to the specific goals they satisfy. Pedagogic Practices Related to Effective Communication Participants described using several different practices to facilitate their goals of effect ive communication. One of the primary practices relates to the use of clear, articulate writing strategies to help facilitate the support the participants provided to students. By using writing skills to translate the more sophisticated understanding of th e content area, participants were able to provide students with content related feedback that effectively communicated the clearly articulating responses to her calculus students:

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98 I had to know the calculus material inside and out so I could be able to phrase my answer having the face to face and having me write the answer down they have to be able to get it from the words I write, so they can do that through my knowledge and of course through the way that I write to them as well (Melanie, 6.4.07) The use of practices to effectively communicate also served to facilitate partic sharing aspects of their own worlds For some particip ants, the discussion board was a common venue where both the teacher and student shared information about themselves. Using this space to draw on common points participants described what they learned about their students, which facilitated their formatio ns of connections. Another participant by the name of Chris described how identifying common points between his life and the lives and interests of his students facilitated connections: The way I do it is every student has to introduce themselves and every time in this we are in a discussion board and I ask them to tell me a little bit about themselves and I try to make a connection with each student. If someone says I love heavy metal, I will say, oh, I am a big Ozzy Osbourne fan, what do you think? And th en we start a conversation and make that connection from the very beginning. If you can do that again, I think you have got him hooked and usually you can keep them till the end. (Chris, 5.30.07) This quote also indicates the motivational component of the connections formed as well as a means by which participants were able to demonstrate their interest, care, and concern for students Pedagogic Practices Related to Preventing Misinterpretations critical to communicate ef fectively with students, the use of practices to self monitor their communications with students had a greater rele vance for developing connections These practices indicate how participants demonstrated self awareness regarding the emotional tone and styl e of their communications in relation to their goals of

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99 preventing misinterpretations Julie articulated the importance of using self monitoring practices in relation to the connections she formed with students: I have to use parenthetical [phrases] in order to express what I am feeling to students, often the words. I have to add something to soften that, so they know how I am feeling when I am talking to them and I tell them over and over and over. I am patient, ask questions, you (Julie, 5.30.07) In this quote, both the relationship between communicating emotion and re assuring students of the availability of help indicate how participants used practices that prevented miscommunications as a means to facilitate the connections they formed with students. of knowledge. These practices represent their beliefs in fluid practice. A core theme among in dialogues to support communicating to engage students with 6.11.07). This communication took place in va rying ways. For some, it was through e mail communications, while for others, it was via course discussion boards. Julie described her use of the discussion board as a place to have content related conversations with students for for deepening their thinking, by sharing my own life experiences, [and] for probing them to talk more deeply about the subject at hand or relating experiences from Participants also suggested that in their roles knowledge, it was important to encourage students to expand their general knowledge in relation to specific content areas to facilitate their connections with those areas. Casey described

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100 how she used practices that g ave students the opportunity to explore their own interests in the content to serve this goal: I let students take whatever we are studying and pick a topic that interests them from the subject matter to help them expand their knowledge beyond the expect ation, and give them an opportunity to look deeper into a specific area. (Casey, 5.31.07) U sing practices to engage students in dialogues and provide students with opportunities to explore their own interests in particular content areas is an indication of how participants Pedagogic Practices Related to Individualizing Learning The practices participants used to individualize learning facilitated their abilities to provide students with w hat they needed when they needed it. This involved tailoring the use of practices to facilitate and support the individual learner by satisfying his or her course related needs. By combining t he knowledge participants gained about their students with their understanding of how to make the content understandable for students, participants used practices to individualize the learning experience. The following quote exemplifies this, as y tied back to her constant mail the findin I on one and I mean that in the true s. (Elisha, 5.24.07) their flexible uses of strategies, they could address issues that could potentially result in student frustration. Participants also describ ed how they drew from the connections they had with

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101 students to direct the adaptations they made to the course structure Rob felt that there was more to meeting the needs of students than making himself accessible and talked about the value (Rob, 6.11.07) in order to provide them with adequate support. For other participants, striving to world es of practices related to the adaptation of course content to better support the learning of all students. Laura talked about how she used practices to individualize learning in response to her understanding of the capabiliti es of the students in her clas s: The practices participants used to individualize learning are indicative of their beliefs regarding the use of fluid practice to cultivate student knowledge. Pedagogic Practices Related to Making Content Accessible The practices participants used to make content accessible to students reflected their commitments to reaching the diversity of learning styles of their student population and their P d content specific practices to support the accessibility of the information presented to students in varying subject ar eas. To illustrate this further, the practices participants described for making the content accessible and integrating technology into each content area are discussed in the following section. English : English teachers described the use of practices to fa cilitate the connection between students and content by using their personal knowledge of students and interactions connections with literature by scaffolding t heir interactions with it and pointing out the distinct The following quote exemplifies the

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102 use of knowledge of both the students and the content. Kristi articulated how she talked with students throu I found a lot of times with my most hesitant students, they just needed me to sit down with character talk about his struggles as a man, but what you seen in the farm community as a but maybe you live in a farm community but there are no fields available, or what type of farming will I go into and what are some of the struggles they will go into? They watch the market, they the time. (Kristi, 5.30.07) The relationship between the formation of connections and making the content meaningful for students is also illustrated by this quote. Shannon and Julie also discussed how they used practices to help students connect and see the relevance the text has to their life [ sic Social Studies: Social studies teachers facilitated the connection students formed with the content through well thinking about the content in a way that indicated its direct relevance for their lives. In the following quote, a description is provided that illustrates how social studies teachers use activities to facilitate the student content connection. The descrip tion of the activity provide by Molly is for the American government course she teaches. It demonstrates the careful crafting of an activity to make it personally meaningful to students se were divorce laws: In another one marriage and divorce laws and they [students] are given an opportunity either to create a brochure for young kids on how you cope with divorce or they can compare and contrast the different types of divorce laws in the West and then they have to look at the United States and another western country and compare that to an eastern country or an African nation and how are the divorce laws similar or different. They have really done some in depth looks i nto that, some in depth work in that the brochures have just been they make me cry because of some of the things that they say and how they would help kids or youn g people of their age even. (Molly, 6.15.07)

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103 lives, but it also encouraged their consideration of the content in terms of a global perspective. Social studies teach ers also integrated interactive elements into their activities. Laura talked clips to provide the students with concrete examples to which they could apply the ir knowledge and develop their understanding for abstract psychological concepts. The following quote by understanding of dualism: One of the clips they watch from chapter one where it talks about the very basics of how psychology started and what dualism is and things like that. So, they get to apply those terms and what they have learned to the video. This is followed by an assessment where students answer a series of By providing students wi th an example to which they could apply their knowledge, they were given a chance to connect with the content through the formation of a concrete understanding for its underlying concepts. Math: The practices the math teachers used to facilitate student content were consistent with the use of outside resources to help students form an understanding of abstract concepts much like Laura did. However, what differed were the purposes the use of outside resources served. While Laura des cribed the use of outside resources like video clips for providing students with opportunities to apply their knowledge, math teachers described the value of outside resources in terms of their use for illustrating the concepts embedded in the content In providing students with access to Web based resources that demonstrate the mathematical concepts in relation to the real world, participants skillfully integrated experiences to help make the abstract nature of the content more concrete. Rob and Nancy disc ussed how

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104 they carefully selected and integrated resources into their trigonometry and statistics courses to real world: I selected some videos and then a co mputer model of how a fire would start here and there with the winds, without the winds and showed how these fire suppression teams would go in and fight a fire. (Rob, 6.11.07) My goal is to introduce them to the databases that are available on the Interne t, try to find are] to put your business, statistically related in life [and] applicable. (Nancy, 5.30.07) Science : Science teachers also found value in the integration of Web based reso urces to provide students with multiple opportunities to interact with content. They also found this integration to be a means for demonstrating the relationship between the content and the real world which is consistent with the value math teachers attri buted to the integration. Casey described her practices in relation to meeting course objectives, which directed her selection and integration of Web based resources to serve a learning goal she had set for students. She carefully selected resources that w ould facilitate and reinforce content based concepts: I use rich media a lot, and I have already talked about that the video streaming, gizmos, make it fun. I want colorful, wonderful, I use them because they have meaning [and] they go along with the of effort (Casey, 5.31.07.) A consistent theme throughout all of the descriptions is how participants used their knowledge of students and content to facilitate the practices they used to foster the connection between students and content. The variations in how participants across content areas reached for this goal provides a means to understand how the two forms of knowledge are translated to specific content related practice.

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105 Pedagogic Practices Related to Maintaining Academic Integrity Two of the practic es participants used to observe the environment was the monitoring of the work submitted by students as well as the monitoring of the interactions taking place on the discussion boards and other public venues of the course. While participants described pos ting academic honesty policies to curb the occurrence of cheating, they acknowledged it was probably happening more often than they were aware. One distinction of the practices participants used to address cheating illustrates the cautious approach they to ok to minimize the potential negative effect it could have on their relationships with the students. This quote by Molly discusses this: you wrote text that yo u took from a website, this is the website that I got it from, you are the student himself, because they are embarrassed and then they are afraid to communicate. I ha ve never put the student down. I have always said this is what happened, this is what I saw, and I have always given them the opportunity to redo, but I think sometimes kids have a tendency to shy away from criticism. (Molly, 6.15.07) Some participants ack backgrounds could direct the strategies they used to address situations such as what Molly described. Holly talked about an incident of plagiarism she observed in the discussion board area of her course own to satisfy requirements for an assignment. As can be seen in the following quote, Holly described how she reevaluated the consequences after finding out about the student education status: It was in a huge class, and all of a sudden the one student she started posting many, many posts at the same time and so in one day I might get ten different discussion postings and I was reading them all. Then all of a sudden posting that sounded good to her, changed the font, changed the color and reposted it for herself. The school was contacted and she was the special [education] student. So, we came up with a solution for this particular student that was different than you might do for

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106 doing ten postings in one day to give her ten zeroes. So, she was required to come in and rewrite those and repost them to the board. She lost some points but did not get ten zeroes deal with it. (Holly, 6.11.07) described their approaches to addressing instances of students cheating and plagiarizing, as well as understanding the importance of individualizing consequences The quote also demonstrates the considerations Holly made for what was best for the student and provides a general Pedagogic Practices Related to Keeping the Course a S afe Place To reduce the use of inappropriate or abusive dialogues between students, participants posted guidelines much like they did for cheating, to curb such activities. In tangent with the guidelines provided, students were also given examples to faci litate their understanding of what constructive communication looked like in the online environment. In the following quotes, a practice for use of constructive communication is discussed by Casey as a means for raising the bar in te rms of expectations to support the collaborative opportunities in the online environment and by Holly in relation to her use of Netiquette guidelines to facilitate the identification of inappropriate student conduct: I also watch for any negative things th sic ]. The online environment is cooperative and we communicate elegantly and so I just have to raise that bar. (Casey5.31.07) Early on make sure that I set guidelines for appropriate online conduct and we g o for netiquette rules, they have a netiquette quiz in a couple of my classes, and this is really rules were not followed. (Holly, 6.11.07) While these preventative ste conversations, they certainly do not eliminate them. As can be seen the following quote, Chris

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107 provided a context to understand this issue by recounting an incidence of disrespectful commentary between students resulting from a content based conversation: I read the post to them and I said this is how this can be interpreted, is that the message you were trying to portray? If it was not, please understand you have a right to your opinion but are there o ther ways we could phrase this so you feel like you have a voice, but you are not impinging on the voice or the learning environment of the other classmates. (Chris, 5.30.07) Similar to how teachers described approaching cheating, Chris directly addressed the reflection of the situation. In addition to facilitating the practices participants used to address instances of inappropriate language or behavior, the connections participants formed with their students increased their abilities to pick up on subtle cues that indicated a student might be in personal crisis. Both Chris and Nancy described how observing the environment supports the identification of stude nts in crisis and how virtual school teachers can facilitate an intervention: I had a student one time that just, he used the discussion board as a cry for help and just admi nistration and he] contacted the police right away and the school district and they went out [to] the students [ sic ly found that my counseling skills have been one of my best assets for teaching they write about is five challenges in their life and then there are different skills they have to pick a skill to apply to that challenge in their life [ sic ] and describe how they use that skill to try and cope with it. They get into some r eally personal things and I just mom, you know, even though I actually have had to make a couple of phone calls because I was concerned about students, I generally call their school counselor who will be in contact with parents. (Nancy, 5.30.07) students in their courses. While Chris and Nancy admittedly felt ill prepared to deal w ith these

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108 situations, they successfully provided students with the support they needed by utilizing the resources available to face school. The varying elements of virtual school courses that distinguish them from face to face settings underlie the need for virtual school teachers to make careful considerations of how they heavily from participants connected with students by making themselves accessible descriptions indicate d the use of practices that increased their accessib ility which impacted the O ne simple practice that participants described as having a huge impact on minimizing student frustra tion was to pr ovid e students with multiple means for contacting them Shannon desc ribed how by making herself more accessible to students she was able to ensure the students got the attention they needed, and Holly emphasized the anytime availability she tried to provide her students: They know that I am here; they know that if the y have questions for me, they can call me. I talk to my students all the time on a phone, or they can e mail me, but I am here, I am really a teacher, I am really a person and I really want them to learn and no matter what class I teach. I mean, if I am no t paying them enough attention, I can see the quality of their work going down. It is all about how much I put into it, which is a lot on face to face teaching too. (Shannon, 6.14.07) I always make sure that they know that I am available at any time for th em and I give them a number of ways to contact me. (Holly, 6.11.07) leads directly to the importance of the need for virtual school teachers to be active in the co urse environment. Participants also talked about the practices they used to communicate to students the investment they had in student learning. In particular, Kristi described it as a circular process that relied heavily on her presence and activity in th e course:

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109 I show my students I am there for them by posting frequently to the course website, and by providing instruction that is clear and thorough I show students that I care about their ability to learn and understand the material. (Kristi, 5.30.07) Th e practices participants described indicate how they minimized student frustration by establishing a common understanding, or context, for their involvement in their courses and by interacting with students. By being active in the environment, participants conveyed to students Pedagogic Practices Related to Structuring Content to Scaffold Learning Participant organizing content, drawing from their knowledge of the content and their knowledge of how students best learn content. The initial design of content centers around aligning it wi th state standards and benchmarks, which ultimately ensures that the virtual courses students enroll in are prepared with the same knowledge as those students in a face to face course. Course and content design is a practice engaged in by the department ch airs in collaboration with other content area teachers. During this collaboration, a core of the content is developed that is then loaded into a course template for other instructors to use. Two department chairs who participated in this study, Elisha and Casey, described this process. Their remarks demonstrate the emphasis placed on providing students with equal opportunities by aligning the content with the benchmarks: For the algebra one, we were told which online textbook would be used and so that was a lready decided for us so therefore I had to go through the textbook and map out the there? What the students needed, you know, where I wanted to take them and how to reach all those benchmarks? So the first thing I did was, you know, related to the textbook, to the benchmarks and figure out where I needed to go and then I went into each chapter and each section and broke that down and tried to supplement, you know, addition al websites, additional places. (Elisha, 5.24.07) I am driven by expectations, what the student is supposed to learn, what they are supposed to be able to do. I try to find a small activity for them to do that and so they know they are

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110 picking up the thing s they need. I think that the materials that I like the most and I select the most are all chunks of all presentations, I guess, on a specific topic. A lot of times because of the expectations or benchmarks, whatever it is from state to state, that benchma rk will ask for a very specific thing. We want a student to be able to distinguish magma and lava for instance. Then I will go and I will find a small plausible activity or ific to the subject. (Casey, 5.31.07) use of content design practices resonant with those used in face to face settings, such as the matching of content to objecti ves. While these quotes describe the importance participants placed on meeting state standards and benchmark, they also demonstrate the use of strategies that are distinct from their face to face practices. sup the integration of additional resources and activities is a distinguishing feature of their practices. Clearly outlining expectations, instructions, and directions were also discussed as ways of understanding for the independent nature of online learning served to establish the relationship between the use of these prac tices and accessibility. Participants acknowledged the fact that students might have been logging onto the courses with no immediate means for getting support. In order to compensate for this, it appears that participants provided students with a clear del ineation for how they could navigate the content to prevent confusion or misinterpretation of ve questions about what they are being asked to do: My basic philosophy of teaching is that I assume the students at the beginning of the lesson know nothing, they know nothing and you have to go from there. So, everything has to be laid out so that ther e cannot be any questions really, their questions are all answered (Bob, 6.5.07)

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111 This quote is representative of how participants talked about the clear communication of expectations as a means for making the content accessible to students and facilitatin g their interaction with the content was also discussed in relation to using practices for encouraging riptions of these practices indicate a an understanding of the independent nature of online learning. Some participants described how students reflected on t he experiences and how it encouraged them to take responsibilities for their own learning. Other participants described specific practices that they used to provide students with the necessary skills to function successfully in course environments. Kristi addressed the practices used to foster student responsibility by framing it within the context of There is also the organizational aspect. [The students] still need to be organized and so, I still need to nudge them to schedule their li going to be there every day collecting papers, they are not going to see the person next to them handing in papers And so, there is definitely that accountability, that personal accountability, and also the need for personal initiative to go to the computer, and say, us work in workplace projects due, we have long term requirements. We may not have somebody over us every day, but if we get behind, our bosses are going to let us know, and that will be significant. (Kristi, 5.30. 07) What is communicated by is that fostering responsibility teaches students lifelong habits such as time management and personal accountability. Other participants also addressed the importance of developing these habits in students as a way to serve students and support their successes in the courses.

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112 Interpreting the Pedagogic Practices of Virtual School Teachers The initial codes in this study are interpreted to represent a final component to the grounded theory developed as a re sult: the practices of virtual school teachers. In serving the main goal of this study, the initial level of codes presents an opportunity to address the content specific and general practices used by virtual school teachers. Out of the 71 initial codes, 6 0 learning, making content accessible, integrating technology, utilizing s upport structures, meeting initial codes teach their virtual school courses and representative of the goals and beliefs they held about virtual school teaching. The importance of having a strong command of the content is a theme reiterated throughout the analysis. This is not surprising, as existing research in face to face setting s has well established its importance (Shulman, 1986; Hashweh, 2005). What emerges as a unique distinction of content knowledge in the virtual school setting is the importance it shares with abilities associated with being an expert communicator. As stated by participants, the worth of having a breadth of knowledge for the content area was weighted only in terms of their abilities to communicate with students about the content in order to answer questions, explain concepts in different ways, and elucidate a providing students with these experiences, participants also indicated the value of the connections formed with students that provided them insight into personal worlds and interests. Having such knowledge supported their abilities both to understand the contexts from

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113 which the students were approaching the content and to communicate with the students to support their understanding of the content within those contexts. In traditional classroom settings, the idea of a teacher finding commonalities in the interests and preferences held by students is a common strategy for establishing connections with ntent interests in the content. Furthermore, with such an emphasis on communication, participants indicated the need to form connections with students and g ain knowledge about them in order to minimize potential misinterpretations of their words by students. This not only serves to prevent a misunderstanding regarding the academic content, but also serves to gauge the affective tone of messages that can have Teachers in face to face classrooms are knowledgeable about the importance of considering body language, facial expressions, and gesturing in how they communicate with students (Cruick shank, 1976; Brophy, 1981), but lacking the environment where those reinforcements were available, participants indicated the use of novel practices for addressing this issue. The self monitoring practices participants described required them to take the t ime to analyze their communications in order to anticipate how students might interpret them. To participants utilized the tools afforded by the medium, such as emoti cons, in their messages to help ensure that proper emotional tones were conveyed. o engage students in dialogues in order to not only spark their interests but also facilitate their abilities to

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114 individualize instructions. Conversations with students also provided participants with content by sharing their personal encouraging them to explore t heir interests in the content areas as a means for both facilitating their expansion of basic knowledge required for them to demonstrate competency for the courses and fostering a general interest in learning. The instructional practices participants used to form connections with students also influenced their abilities to individualize learning. By engaging students in both content and non content general experiences with th e content. Knowledge such as this was valuable for the virtual school teachers who participated in this study as it supports the adaptations they made to their courses. Participants could use the adaptive release features available through the course envir onments, modify assignments, or redesign them altogether based on the diversity of the learners enrolled practices to adapt content to accommodate the paces of t he courses. Although in traditional, face to face settings there is consistency in the pacing and scheduling of courses to match the beginning and end months of a school year defined by a district, virtual school courses exist without such constraints. As such, participants used the pacing of courses as guides for the inclusion of instructional strategies, such as collaborative group assignments or the discussion boards, in their courses. Based on postsecondary online learning research, the adaptive natur practices described thus far and their emphasis on the formation of connections with students are

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115 2004; Kurtz, Beaudoin, & Sagee, 2004). Th e pedagogic practices of participants also demonstrate a consistency with the concept of learner centered practices, which are associated with the provisioning of education on an individualized basis in order to meet the needs of all students (McCombs, 200 1). The individualized nature with which participants approached the situations when academic integrity was called into question. Participants demonstrated the us e of practices that were focused on the individualized nature of the contexts when addressing issues of cheating in courses. Cheating is clearly an issue that arises in both online and offline settings (Bushway & Nash, 1977; McCabe, 1999), but in the virtu al course setting, addressing this issue backgrounds. Hence, participants customized the consequences they issued to students as penalties for cheating based on the stud Participants also described practices to establish guidelines for acceptable, or productive, communications. These practices included modeling how students should respond to each other in the course environment. By modeling beh avior, as well as posting formal guidelines for students to follow, participants were able to keep the dialogues between students nonthreatening discussions happ ening between students. The efforts made by participants to form an their abilities to keep their courses safe places. The p articipants described how they drew fro m the connections made with students to facilitate to pick up on cues or indications that students were experiencing personal crises. When such scenarios arose, participants were quick to

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116 respond to the situations and initiate interventional strategies tha t could help the students get through the crises. In face to face settings, teachers use practices to support students learning of content from different subject areas (Hashweh, 2005). Consistent with existing research, the p articipants described using pr actices that were appropriate for the content being taught and the student population of the course These content specific practices served to make the information presented in the courses accessible to all students by accommodating a variety of learning styles. Thus, these practices differed among content areas and represented an understanding of both the content being taught as well as the best ways to facilitate its delivery. This idea is consistent with nowledge, which calls upon content area knowledge and an understanding of the best modes of delivery. In response to the medium, participants had to adapt their practices to accommodate the online environment, and as such, demonstrated a varied use of Web based resources and course based tools to facilitate content instruction. For example, dialogue with students was a practice all participants used and valued, but there was a greater academic emphasis placed on it by the English teachers. This emphasis wa connections with students to facilitate the provision of critical feedback on student writing, since the critical feedback is sometimes difficult for students to receive. Math teachers differed in the emphasis placed on dialogues and instead focused more on the selection and integration of Web of content knowledge paired with an understanding of how students learn the content best. What these two examples also indicate is an additional consideration for technology. The use of Web based resources or

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117 course based tools, like the discussion forum, are given equal weight in terms of the contribution In addition to making content accessible, the use of these practices can also be seen in relation to the goal participants h Accessibility and responsiveness play an important role in both face to face (Chickering & Gamson, 1987; Gorham, 1988) and online classroom settings (Picciano, 2002; Woods & Baker, 2004). However, in this study, the practic es participants used to satisfy this dimension of their instructional roles proved to be distinct to the virtual course setting. Lacking a brick and mortar office, location, or even a set time where participants met with their students, providing multiple means for contact was critical to communicate accessibility. Participants gave students e mail addresses and phone numbers, and some even established virtual office hours where they would meet with students via the instant messaging systems built into the course environments. It seems that even without having a defined place or time to meet with students, participants were committed to being very accessible to their students. Access was further reinforced through their responsiveness to students. While MDVS administration stipulates that teachers respond to students within a 24 hour period, many teachers were committed to providing students with a response in a far shorter time. This was not only a means for reducing student frustration, but also a way to es tablish the By demonstrating a presence and being active in course supported their maintaining of a schedule by encouraging them to turn materials in on time. are consistent with the foundational basis of instructiona l design theory, two aspects of their use in the virtual course setting distinguish them from their applic ation in face to face settings The first is the heavy reliance on

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118 the visual organization of information presented in the online course environment. While traditional theories of instructional design provide a basic set of recommendations for how an instr uctor should take a content area topic, break it up into small, digestible pieces, pair those pieces with activities, and then present them to students (Gagne, 1977; Reigeluth, 1983), they do not provide any indication of how it should be visually presente d for student consumption. Also not addressed by traditional conception is the flexibility and malleability of the content virtual school teachers demonstrate in their instructional design practices. Conclusion The analytic methods associated with constru ctivist grounded theory were implemented in this study to facilitate the interpretation of data The initial, focused, and selective coding of data paired with the constant comparison of codes within and among data sets, ultimately resulted in the formatio n of a grounded theory to describe the pedagogic practices of K 12 virtual school teachers. initial co des are interpreted as consistencies of these aspects of pedagogic practice with existing knowledge regarding face to face and postsecondary online teaching, as well as some unique distinctions. What is also evident pedagogic practices and an indication of the value of exploring the perspectives of these individuals in o rder to better define the craft of virtual school teaching.

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119 CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION AND IMPLI CATIONS Introduction The purpose of this study was to explore the pedagogic perspectives of K 12 virtual school teachers in order to form an understanding of the practices they use to teach their virtual school courses. Spanning geographic and educational barriers, virtual schooling has emerged as a means for bolstering the equity of educational opportunities by providing students with access to an anytime, anywhe re education. In virtual school courses, just like in face to face classrooms, teachers play an important role. The national recognition of the potential of virtual schools has drawn more attention to the fact that there is little knowledge regarding the p ractices virtual school teachers use in their courses. and beliefs, was presented. The content embedded in the structure and organization of the chapter prov ides both a description for each category as well as an outline of the relationship among the beliefs, goals, and practices of virtual school teachers. In what follows, the findings of this study regarding K practices are discussed in relation to existing research addressing the pedagogic, instructional design, and communication practices of face to face and postsecondary online teachers. Presenting the findings of this study in relation to existing research w ill elucidate points of consistency among the practices of face to face and postsecondary online teachers and the practices of virtual school teachers, as well as provide a basis for recontextualizing those practices in relation to K 12 virtual school teac hing. The outcomes of this discussion will highlight the relevance of the findings for preservice teacher education programs, in service preparation programs, and policy development. This

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120 chapter concludes by identifying areas of future research regarding the practices of K 12 virtual school teachers that need to be explored further Discussion: Findings and Implications The positioning of the selective codes around the core category cultivating knowledge presents a theory for understanding how virtual sc hool teachers select and implement the pedagogic practices they use in their virtual school courses. The clear relationship among the beliefs, goals, and practices of participants in this study reflected a consistency with existing literature that explores the relationship between the beliefs and pedagogic practices implemented by teachers in face to face settings In the face to epistemological and content area beliefs guide the selection of practices associated with his or her instructional practice (Kagan, 1992; Winne & Marx, 1982). Just as research has revealed the connectio n between the beliefs and practice of teachers in face to face settings, the findings from this research study explicate the underlying motivations and justifications for the practices virtual school teachers use to teach their online courses. Equally important is for the findings of this study to be discussed in relation to existing research on the instructional practices of teachers in both face to face and postsecondary online settings. Therefore, this section discusses the findings of th is study in relation to the areas of existing research addressed in chapter 2. The three areas of pedagogic, communication and instructional design practices used t o structure chapter 2 will serve as sub headings in this section Organizing the presentation of findings in relation to the pedagogic, communication, and instructional design practices utilized by fa ce to face and postsecondary online teachers will support the identification of consistent points with existing research. Likewise, the opportunity will be provided to highlight points of distinction regarding the implementation of practices associated wit h the three categories in

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121 terms of the virtual course context, and ultimately clarifying how the outcomes of this study extend what is currently known about K 12 virtual school teaching. Pedagogy Research indicates that face to face teachers approach thei r teaching with already existing views regarding the nature of knowledge and cognition (Nespor, 1987; Prawat, 1992). These selection of practices they use to d eliver course content (Fenstermacher, 1978; Pajares, 1992). Teachers also hold beliefs regarding the content area they are teaching (Kagan, 1992; Winne & Marx, 1982) that serve to further inform their selection of appropriate pedagogical strategies for ins tructional contexts (Richardson, 1994; Nespor, 1997). The combination of epistemological and content instructional experience (Shulman, 1999; Kagan, 1992; Prime & Miranda 2006) as well as to assess student knowledge and learning (Prawat, 1992). Consistent with research exploring the beliefs of teachers in face to face settings, the outcomes of this study indicate that the same relationship exists between virtual school t beliefs and practices. This knowledge provides a beginning point for addressing the need articulated by current research for understanding how online teachers transition their instructional practices to best suit the online setting (Egan & Akdere, 2005). The analytic process of this study identified five pedagogic beliefs underlying the practices of the virtual school teachers that were interviewed. The pedagogic practices participants described selecting and implementing in their virtual school co urses represent s the adaptation of the beliefs they held for teaching in the face to face setting to better suit the instructional context of the virtual course environment Therefore, the beliefs identified through this study represent the underlying moti vations or source of the practices teachers used in their instructional settings.

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122 T he connection between beliefs and practices in this study represent the process by which participants transitioned the practices they used to teach in face to face settings for teaching in the virtual course environment. The identification of this process raises questions as to the knowledge and circumstances that supported the transition. A recurrent theme communicated during interviews was the importance of understanding the nature of online learning for selecting the instructional practices that they used to teach in the virtual course setting Research exploring the perspectives of postsecondary online teachers indicate their desire for knowledge related t o the nature of online learning and the theoretical concepts associated with it to inform their transition of instructional practices to accommodate the online setting (Betts, 1998; McKenzie, Mins, Bennett, & Waugh, 2000; Bonk, 2001; Wilson, 2001). Partici pants addressed such knowledge as a critical component of their successes which reinforces the importance of preparing postsecondary and K 12 online teachers with adequate information related to theories of online teaching and learning Knowledge related to the theories and practices associated with online teaching and learning can inform the practices postsecondary online teacher use to teach online courses. E xisting research on the practices of postsecondary online teachers indicates the importance of f ocus ing on the individual student and the use of strategies that are appropriate for the self directed nature of the online course environment (Easton, 2003; Kurtz, Beaudoin, & Sagee, 2004; McCombs & Vakilia, 2005 ; Liu et al ). Equally important for postse condary online teachers to consider is the appropriate pairing on activities that are best suited for the instructional context as well as the student population (Cyrs, 1997; Anderson, 2004 a ). In face to face instructional settings, t he use of activities a knowledge is associated with the use of learner centered strategies (Leinhardt, 1990; Bransford,

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123 Brown, & Cocking, 1999). A consistent focus of the formation of knowledg e by teachers in face to face and postsecondary online settings is the selection of practices that support the individualization of student learning. Consistent with existing research in face to face and postsecondary online settings, participants describe d utilizing practices to individualize instruction This is evidenced by the transition in role participants described to function as a knowledge guide for students Their related knowledge (Sp ector & De la Teja, 2001; Vand ergrift, 2002) by using practices that demonstrated a focus on the individual student vers us the content A unique distinction instruction can be described as akin to the concept of just in time practices associated with face to face teaching. In the virtual course context, just in time practices are implemented to meet the varying needs of any one student enrolled in a virtual school course Participants demonstrated the use of ju st in time practices to adapt the instruc tional strategies o r structure of the course in order to meet the needs of students enrolled in the virtual school course they were teaching. In addition to adapting the practices they used and the structure of co ntent to accommodate students in the virtual course setting t he p articipants described the important role mentor s played to assist them in meeting the needs of individual students meet students needs is a distinct characteristic of the practices described by the participants in this study. There is little research to support the formation of a unified definition or description ed in virtual schooling research as an additional venue for supporting virtual school students (Davis & Niederhauser, 2007), a clear unified understanding of the role they fill is still needed. This lack of understanding for the role of mentors further de monstrates the lack of knowledge regarding

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124 the virtual school as an educational organization. In this study, participants identified the mentor as a key component to the provisioning of a high quality educational opportunity. Participants described how men tors functioned as mediating entities through which they gained important were also described as providing students with an additional source of motivation and encourage ment to complete the courses. The knowledge gained about students from mentors supported participants ability to maintain the integrity of the courses they taught The goal related to maintaining the academic integrity of the course categorized the prac tices participants used to address violations of academic integrity such as cheating, plagiarism, and the use of inappropriate or abusive dialogues between students. To achieve this goal, p articipants described the importance of selecting strategies that f acilitated their abilities to identify instances of cheating and plagiarism. The strategies participants described for acknowledging and preventing such behavior such as posting the academic dishonesty policy, which reminds students of the penalties associ ated with cheating (Davis, 19 92) are consistent with classroom management research conducted in face to face settings The consequences that the participants associated with being caught cheating, such as taking away some or all points associated with a sp ecific assignment (Bushway & Nash, 1977; McCabe, 1999), also demonstrate s similarity with face to face practices. However, in describing the practices they used to address instances of cheating, practices was reveal ed through the importance they placed on the knowledge gained from mentors about students The participants described using the knowledge gained from mentor s about students to accommodate specific circumstances. For example, in the description provided by Holly, she took points away based on an individualized evaluation of the situational context

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125 of a student caught plagiarizing the discussion board postings of another student. Through communications with the mentor at the face to face school, Holly was mad e aware of the influenced the consequences Holly implemented so as to reduce the potential ly negative impact of them on success in the course and discourage the student from particip ating. Participants also placed great emphasis on the need to communicate directly with students as well as the mentors to reassure the students that a single incident would not be held against them throughout the rest of the course. Overall, the practices participants described illustrate their need to balance the In addition to maintaining the integrity of the course, participants also described using practi ces to monitor the course to maintain the safety of students. Existing research investigating classroom management introduces strategies such as the monitoring of interactions as a means Lotan, 1995; Elam & Rose, 1995). Maintaining awareness regarding the interactions taking place on the discussion board between students, in communications to the teacher, or during phone conversations with students also facilitates the assurance of student Monitoring these communications can provide a way to identify students in personal crises. Strategies for identifying students in crises are part of the training teachers receive during their preservice or in serv ice programs for teaching in a face to face setting. These programs equip teachers with knowledge regarding the behavioral characteristics for which to look and & DeBernardo, 1999; Martin, Richardson, Bergen, Roeger, & Allison, 2005). While virtual school teachers have more than likely been equipped with these skills during their own experiences in

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126 preservice education programs for teaching in face to face setting s there is no research to guide the use of these skills in virtual course settings. The descriptions provided by participants indicate they used strategies developed in response to situations, which involved contacting face to face schools to facilitate interventional strategies. Communication The beliefs of connecting with students and fluid practice involved the establishment of rior experiences and knowledge with the content. Driven by their own content area knowledge, used to individualize and cultivate student knowledge. Connecting with students is a concept addressed by research exploring the practice of teachers in postsecondary online settings, but in taking an online course (Rovai, 2 003; Glenn, Jones, & Hoyt, 2003). reinforces its position as a critical concept underpinning online learning, this study presents findings related to its value from the teach study, the increased focus of connecting with students extends beyond the value that teachers the af fective state students The connections formed with students, then, are related by These connections also help teachers identify students in personal crises. The v irtual school teachers who participated in this study use d practices to facilitate connections between students and content by helping students see the relevance the conte nt has

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127 for their lives. Representative of their beliefs, virtual school teachers establish goals that require them to draw from their knowledge of the content and the knowledge of their students. These ons of practices to facilitate the formation of connections linking the relevance of content to the everyday lives of students. Participants did this by implementing practices that focused on making the content meaningful for students and justified it in t erms of the value these practices had for making the content stick with students. technology to make content meaningful is consistent with existing research e xploring how these Jonassen, 2000; Koszalka & Bianco, 2001). This involves providing students with multiple opportunities to interact with content that is in varying formats: text, audio, and video (Johnson & Aragon 2003; Kramer & Schmidt, 2001; Vogel & Oliver, 2006). Lacking the reinforcements associated with teaching in a face to face classroom, virtual school teachers establish goals to maintain the delicate relat ionships formed with students. In this study, participants used practices to delineate this goal by establishing the importance of self monitoring their communications with students for potential misinterpretations. Practices associated with this finding d escribe how participants formed connections with students and used them to engage and motivate students in the courses. Participants described using expressions of provide a foundation for forming connections with students. Self monitoring their communications for tonal intonation and using clear, concise writing techniques were practices used to maintain the connections formed with students.

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128 The goal of maintainin g relationships established with students is consistent with existing research investigating both face to face (Ornstein, 1976) and postsecondary online settings (Coppa, 2004). This research indicates a positive correlation between the formation and mainte nance of these relationships and student learning (Powell, 1978; Easton, 2003; Wilson & Stacey, 2003). This correlation exists as a result of the directive and corrective feedback online teacher h, 1979; Winne & Marx, 1982). While this research provides a basis for understanding the importance of virtual school it should be enacted through practice. The findings related to this goal provide insight for the actual strategies, practices, and skills associated with preventing misinterpretations and facilitating the continued development of relationships with students. While comprehensible writing style i s a more or less an obvious requirement of preventing misinterpretations, participants also indicated that the use of expressive language in conjunction with a clear, concise writing style is important. By considering and integrating the use of expressive language, participants described the benefit in terms of student motivation and engagement with course and content, as well as the minimization of potential communications that could turn students off to a class. Another distinction in the goal participant s set for effectively communicating with students is the messaging programs, e mail and text based communications on cell phones is common for students. Because a new style of language has emerged through these forms of communication, participants indicated the importance of making sure students understand when it is appropriate to use such language and when it is not. Therefore, the need to demonstrate a careful crafting and

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129 selection of words in communications with students is important as it encourages students to professional careers. Participants used practices such as being responsive and active in the environment to meet The practices participants described for making themselves visible and accessible to students are consistent with what current online research defines as presence (Bickle & Carroll 2003; Swan, 2004). Establishing presence in the course environments was an underlying factor in how participants described meeting the needs of students. Consistent with the practices described in existing literature, participants demonstrated their pres ence in the course by replying A unique characteristic of the how participants described establish ing and maintaining presence in the courses they taught was by providing students with multiple means for contact ing and interact ing with them. While course based messaging systems were staples of communication, participants described increasing their acc essibility to students by providing them with additional means for contacting them. Some of the ways participants provided additional means for students to contact them was by sharing cellular telephone numbers or by making themselves available via instan t messaging clients or TeamSpeak (software that facilitates live audio interaction via the Web). Participants described the use of practices to increase their accessibility to students as having a greater influence than any of the other practices they desc ribed to establish presence in the course Instructional Design Another component of motivation that participants identified is the general structure and organization of the course environment. The strong belief in the importance of structuring

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130 content is content knowledge and the effective organization and presentation of content to effectively support student learning (Shulman, 1986; Grossman, Wilson, & Shulman, 1989). Par ticipants described how they structured content to ensure its organizational coherence and facilitated the movements through it. The importance placed by participant s on organization is not surprising, since they all had experience teaching in face to face settings. In traditional classroom research, organization is addressed as a necessary part of planning and preparing content to facilitate student engagement (Peter son, Marx, & Clark, 1978) and positively influence their learning The participants also discussed the concept of organization to characterize the instructions and expectations provided for students in course environments. Additionally, t he participants talked about providing students with clear, concise instructions, as well as examples of what was expected of students to impact their perceptions of accountability. The practice of clearly communicating instructions and objectives is consi stent with face to face and postsecondary online research (Anderson, Evertson, & Emmer, 1980; Lee & Hirumi, 2004) that describes the 2001; Weiner, 2003). Part icipants also addressed how they made enhancements to their courses in order to accommodate the learning styles of their students. By making considerations for is practice is consistent with research conducted in face to face (Hein & Budny, 1989) and postsecondary online settings (Muir, 2001) that address the importance of using practices that provide students with many ways to interact with and learn the content

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131 The variations in the goals set by participants across content areas in relation to the integration of Web is a unique finding in terms of K 12 virtual school research While addressed by research exploring the practices of face to face and postsecondary online teachers, there is minimal evidence indicating the content based integration of technology in K 12 virtual course settings. In this study English and social studies teachers relied on course tools and communication strategies to facilitate the connections students made with the content. English and social studies teachers also used feedback strategies and interactions with students to help direct the relevance the students saw in the content in relatio n to their lives. Math and science teachers also used communication and feedback strategies, but relied more on the use of Web based resources to illustrate the relevance of the content. These resources included Explore eLearning gizmos, Shodor Interactive activities, and other free interactive resources available from the University of Virginia Teacher and Technology Web site. By integrating Web based resources, math and science teachers were able to offer students opportunities to make their knowledge of content more concrete. While participants described the motivational element of integrating Web based resources, content learning. Considerations made for the appropriateness of Web based resources in relation to the content is a core premise established by existing research on classroom based technology integration (Hughes, 2005; Ferdig, 2006). The content driven nature of this practice is evidenced by the variations in its implementation based on the value demonstrated for the content area. In addition, the integration of Web based resources also provides students with multiple opportunities for interacting with the content. In providing these opportunitie s, virtual school

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132 Because of the diversity of the students enrolled in their courses and the lack of any information regarding their prior knowledge with th e content, by integrating resources, teachers are provided with the opportunities to both support and challenge student learning. Implications Implications for Practice In consideration of the growing interest in virtual schooling and the number of indivi duals interested in teaching for these institutions, the findings of this study have relevant implications for those preservice and in service programs established to prepare interested individuals for the teaching experience. As virtual school continues t o evolve, so should the content of the programs they administer to prepare individuals for teaching in the virtual course setting. The knowledge gained from the results of this study can both be a valuable asset to the content included in virtual school pr eservice programs, as well as be a basis for extending in knowledge about the selection of pedagogies and technologies that are appropriately matched to the content and medium of delivery (Russell, 2004). It is important to acknowledge h ere that the concept of preservice programs that prepar e individuals just entering the field of teaching is an implication for practice. Programs providing preservice teachers that have no experience teaching in any K 12 instructional context are in the be ginning stages of development. The knowledge gained from this study about the skills and instructional practices associated with successful teaching in virtual course environments will have particular relevance as these programs continue to evolve. As such the implications address three sets of skills associated with virtual school teaching: pedagogical skills, technical skills, and interpersonal communication skills.

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133 Pedagogical Skills The set of implications that relates to the pedagogical skills of vir brings to the table important curriculum development considerations for preservice and in service training programs. Based on the findings related to the pedagogical practices of the virtual school teachers who participated in th is study, it appears that the curriculum of preparation programs should focus on providing individuals with the understanding and skills necessary to implement learner centered practices. The fluid nature of the practices the participants described to help the content. Using questioning strategies was one example of how participants used an intuit ive process to identify gaps in student knowledge. While questioning strategies and practices for understanding gaps in student knowledge are common practice in face to face settings, the kgrounds put a greater emphasis on the need to use these practices as an important part of teaching in virtual course environments. The integration of content knowledge and an understanding of the online learning context also have relevant implications f or the curriculum of preservice and in service training programs. A repetitive theme communicated by participants was the importance of being highly adaptive i n To support the practices associated wi th being highly adaptive, the participants had to draw from their extensive content knowledge, and knowledge of the nature of online learning. This understanding leads to the realization that in addition to core skills associated with teaching in the virt ual core context, there are also specific skills associated with different content areas. Evidenced by the variation in the practices English, science, social studies, and math teachers described using for integrating resources to support

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134 learning, individuals new to teaching in the virtual course context need to be prepared with new skills for integrating their content and pedagogical knowledge for the Web based medium. Additionally, t his finding has implications for organizations publi shing best practice documents. Consistent with these documents, the outcomes of this study do reveal a set of core skills and practices used by teachers. However, what is also indicated by the findings of this study is extensive amount of variation and ad aptation that occurs as virtual school teachers adopt these skills and practices to make them their own. This consistency between the findings of this study and the best practices documents currently in publication, serves to reinforce the relevance of th e practices identified in both and distinguish the outcomes of this study as an extension of the body of best practices work. an instructional designer. As such, preservice and in service training programs need to prepare individuals with the ability to draw from their extensive content knowledge to further develop and adapt the initial structure of courses and the content of such. The ability of the particip ants to modify a courses content and structure utilizes their extensive content knowledge to accommodate the learning styles of students enrolled in the courses. Therefore, this finding has relevant implications for the curriculum of preservice and in serv ice programs that point to the importance of including both the skills associated with instructional design and the skills used for While instructional desi initial structure of content, technical skill was also required to help ensure the enhancements made were pedagogically sound.

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135 Finally, there are implications of the outcomes rela ted to classroom management that need to be considered in relation to the content of preservice and in service education programs. Classroom management is an area completely unexplored by existing virtual school research (Waterhouse & Rogers, 2004; Rice, 2 006). The considerations introduced by the participants of this study for addressing cheating and the maintenance of the safety of course environments are unique to the virtual teaching experience. Developing a body of knowledge regarding these issues can facilitate the formation of a set of practices that can, at the minimum, provide a basis of understanding and a guide to help virtual school teachers address these situations. Likewise, establishing a basis of understanding for the practices that can be us ed to deal with these issues can better prepare those individuals seeking to become virtual school teachers. Technical Skills If the implication for including instructional design as part of preservice and in service education curriculum is justified by the need for virtual school teachers to be able to make adaptations and modifications to their courses, then it should be equally important to prepare virtual school teachers with the technical skills for how to make those changes. The participants in this study indicated the importance of knowing about and utilizing various features built into content. Because the virtual course environment is preloaded with the core content, teachers are able to focus on making adaptations to content based on the needs of both the courses and the enhancements to the course content and ada pt the course environment is not currently addressed by any preservice or in service training programs (Davis & Roblyer, 2005; Davis & Niederhauser, 2007). Therefore, it is important to consider providing new virtual school teachers

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136 adequate knowledge abou t the tools available in the environment and instructing them as to how these tools can be used to scaffold student learning. One caveat to this recommendation is the variance in the course management systems used by virtual schools. Not all course manage ment systems consist of the same tools and affordances. What this study touches on by attributing value to the tools built into a course environment is this: There is a need for future research to explore the value of these tools in order to make recommend ations to the designers of content management system for the features and abilities that should be included in order to be st su it the needs of virtual courses, virtual school teachers and their students. A second implication that addresses the technica l dimensions associated with virtual This has relevance for preservice and in service curriculums not only for providing individuals interested in teaching in these environments with the appropriate skills, but also considering their role in the larger picture of virtual schooling In preparing individuals with the basic technology skills required to teach a virtual school course implies it is important to not only illustrate to the various technologies available for virtual school teachers to use, but also how to be critical evaluators of those technologies The approach to integrating these activities is not a one size fits s clear understanding of the content and the students in a course. The fact that the participants struggled at times to find quality resources and to develop the skills to critically select those resources that would best fit their courses, coupled with th e distinctions in practices, indicates the value of establishing a basic set of criteria to integrate into in service training programs.

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137 Many are familiarly man a fish and feed him for a day, but teach him how to fish and y programs in the larger picture of virtual schooling, it is important to ask the role these programs are serving. Particularly in the case to preparing future virtual school teachers with technology ask then is how to inform preparatory programs so that they are able to teach these individuals efront the lack of a unified framework that can be implemented to address these issues. By considering the structuring of a curriculum around a framework, such as the Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCK) Framework, better outcomes may be had in terms of virtual school teacher preparation. This is because frameworks such as TPCK indicate the importance of multiple factors regarding the integration of technology, and runs counter to a one size fits all mentality regarding its use. Therefore, by approaching the design of preservice and in service programs based on a framework such as TPCK justice can be done to the consideration of technology in relation to the varying the content based differences associated with the pedagogical practices of vir tual school teaching Interpersonal Communication Skills The last set of implications relates to the interaction associated with virtual school teaching and how it is closely tied to the first set of implications regarding pedagogy. The interpersonal skil communicate effectively both with students as well as with other individuals. One such individual is the mentor. The mentor is a new role specifically associate d with the virtual school to face schools. Establishing and maintaining communication with these individuals reflects the utilization of all the support structures underlying students enrolled in virtual courses.

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138 Virtual school teachers need to be familiarized with the roles these individuals serve and opportunities they offer for supporting students. While the exact function of a mentor may vary from school to school, virtual school teachers need to be prepared to engage these individuals and negotiate how they can cooperatively provide students with the best learning experiences. The fact that there is no common understanding for the roles of mentors, an additional implicatio n of this finding is that there is a need to develop training programs for mentors. The the quality of support the mentors provided students as closely tied t o their understanding of their purposes. An additional implication for the practices associated with the interpersonal aspects of the What is descriptions is the importance of connecting with students; not only for motivating and engaging students in the course content but also for directing the practices instructors select to teach content topics. Preparing new teachers with the skills necessa ry for self monitoring their communications with students may prevent misinterpretations or miscommunications from negatively impacting the experiences of new teachers or their students. Carefully crafted written communications with students to prevent mis interpretations is a critical component for motivating students and fostering their commitment to courses. These self monitored communications also serve as the basis for forming relationships with students. Another point to be addressed by preparation pro grams is the value these relationships hold for providing virtual school teachers with the opportunities to gain knowledge about students and the

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139 establishing connections through a variety of communication methods and the related skills to guide their adaptations of content and integrations of resources to support learning. is based on the finding of this study related to the demonstration and establishment of presence in needs. The participants provided students with multiple means for contacting them and encouraged students to come to them for needs was b y being responsive communications through quick replies to e mails. Several participants commented about how, often, new teachers do not understand how mails quickly because the new teachers do not realize the negative eff course. The preparation programs that individuals new to the experience of teaching in virtual environments go through should address these issues and emphasize those asp ects of communication that are distinctly unique to virtual course settings. Implications for Research This study approached the exploration of virtual school teaching practices by gaining the perspectives of those most directly involved: the teachers. Ex plorations into the perspectives of teachers in face to face settings demonstrate the value of taking this approach to form an understanding of the pedagogic practices of teachers from each. Research exploring the perspectives of teachers in face to face s ettings proves to be valuable for understanding the roles relation to the content area they teach. The epistemological and content based beliefs teachers

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140 the instructional experience (Shulman, 1999; Kagan, 1992; Pr ime & Miranda, 2006), as well as to assess student knowledge and learning (Prawat, 1992). Gaining insight into these practices has relevance not only for understanding teacher performance (Blase, 1986), but also for providing guidance on how to prepare pre service teachers with the appropriate skills to enter the field (Clark, 1988; Feiman Nemser, 2001). The stated implications of the beliefs, goals, and practices identified in this study begin to give substance to the claim made by Clark (1988) and Fieman Nemser (2001) in relation to virtual schooling. An aspect previously unexplored by researchers is the perspectives K 12 virtual school teachers have for the practices they use to teach virtual school courses This study indicates the value of exploring th ese perspectives to gain insight that can influence preservice and in service curriculums to prepare individuals for the experience. Additionally, exploring su ccessful performances in leading virtual school courses. Establishing the value of exploring the perspectives of virtual school teachers indicates the importance of utilizing this strategy in future research in order to delve more thoroughly into the eleme nts of variation in virtual schooling. While research exploring the perspectives of face to face teachers has had a focus on the practices they use to teach, i nvestigations into the perspectives of postsecondary online teachers has provided different knowl edge. While the knowledge gained is not related to the instructional practices of postsecondary online teachers, it does lend insight into the obstacles and barriers related to online teaching (Goodyear et al.; Kurtz, Beaudoin, & Sagee, 2004). Some of the most cited obstacles identified through this existing research are: an increased amount of time required to teach an online class, a lack of preexisting knowledge regarding the nature of online learning,

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141 and the challenges the technical nature of the envir onment in and of itself poses to teachers. Such knowledge is influential for understanding the impact that the general change in context has on individuals in charge of student learning in these environments. As such, research exploring the perspectives po stsecondary online teachers have for their practice is a fruitful area that can provide the administration of postsecondary institutions guidance and direction in terms of how they can better support their faculty who teach online. How research can best i nform administrators regarding the support they provide to online teachers is another implication of this study. T his study developed a definition of success to facilitate the selection and sampling of virtual school teachers from a single virtual school. While this definition is appropriate for the current state of the field, the conception of success has implications for researchers. I t is important to acknowledge that, like evolving nature of virtual schools, so to o will conceptions of success change o ver time. It is important for researchers to utilize this as a means for exploring the complexity of these educational environments. The inherent nature of delivering course content via a Web based medium implies the need to reconceptualiz e instructional practices and has been addressed by this study. However, as the medium, content management systems, and digital technologies evolve and progress definitions of what successful teaching is in virtual course contex t s will evolve with it. Acknowledging the complexity of virtual schooling and engaging in research that explore s the many aspects of its complexity can inform future iterations of success defined within the virtual course context. Approaching research from this way can also help the administratio ns of K 12 virtual school programs provide their teachers with timely, relevant support that will have a direct impact on the practices virtual school teachers use as well as providing knowledge that can inform the developing body of policy associated with K 12 state led virtual schools.

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142 The final implication this study has for research is related to barriers associated with conducting research in these settings. The majority of K 12 virtual schools exist without a brick and mortar building to establish as a home base. Additionally, virtual school teachers can live in varied geographic locations Sometimes residing in the state the virtual school they work for serves, and sometimes not. The lack of a centralized location and geographic distance between the core individuals associat ed with a virtual school course such as administrators teachers, and mentors can present a barrier to researchers interested in exploring the complexity of virtual schooling. The Adobe Connect software was used to address this ba rrier by providing a platform to conduct interviews with virtual school teachers living in a geographic location over 800 miles away from the researcher. Telecommunication tools such as Adobe Connect extend beyond the forms of Internet based research utili zing E mails and discussion boards to offer researchers with a greater opportunity to engage in real time, interaction with a participant. E qually important to consider when establishing the value of telecommunication tools such as Adobe Connect for conduc ting research is the opportunity they offer for the researcher to implement different types of data collection methods, such as hosting focus groups and conducting observations. Implications for Policy The results of this study have implications for deve loping policy in that they contribute a basis for understanding quality teaching in virtual school environments, which can facilitate the current interest in establishing a certification endorsement specifically for virtual school teachers. Additionally, t he outcomes of this study have implications for the lack of research underlying the current best practice publications in circulation. Collaboration between organizations producing these documents and researchers could be beneficial for establishing a foun dation of knowledge to support the practices highlighted in these publications. Forming a collaborative partnership could also serve to expand upon the current focus of the publications on content to include issues

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143 that are identified to be of primary conc ern by those individuals serving virtual schools in an administrative, instructional, and supportive capacity. The outcomes of this study have a second general implication for the developing policy associated with virtual schooling. Currently, there are no set standards, qualifications, or certifications for virtual school teachers as there are for teachers in face to face settings. Therefore, the skills and competencies identified by this study not only have relevance for the curriculums of preservice and in service training programs, but also have relevance for the formation of a certification endorsement. Certification endorsements indicate those areas in which a teacher is recognized by the state as an expert. Different certification endorsements are req uired to teach AP courses, to teach any subject area specialization such as biology and physics, and to be a library media specialist. The state based nature of teacher certification restricts the geographic locations at which an individual is permitted to teach. However, some states have reciprocity agreements, meaning they accept certification endorsements obtained from other states. The issue of between state reciprocity draws national attention and thus, makes the relevance of establishing a certificati on for virtual school teachers even more important. Lacking the need to be in a specific physical locale, certified teachers could then easily teach for virtual schools in other states with which their certifications share reciprocity. This could open the pool of available qualified teachers and help make more virtual course opportunities available to more students. In addressing issues of certification and state accreditation, it is important to discuss in tangent the criteria used to define success in t his study and the implications the criteria have for developing policy. Using the term successful without providing a defined context for its use holds little meaning when trying to categorize the quality of instructional practices a teacher

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144 uses. Therefo re, lacking any prior contextual definition of instructional success, a set of criteria was developed to facilitate the identification and recruitment of successful virtual school teachers for this study. These criteria serve to provide indications of qua lity for virtual school teaching and impact policy in two ways. First, by reinforcing the importance of establishing certifications specifically for teaching in the K 12 virtual course setting. The fact that such criteria could be developed to specifically target a successful population of virtual school teachers clearly indicates the unique requirements needed to teach in virtual settings. Second, these criteria can be used to inform the requirements developed for obtaining a virtual school endorsement or certification. Since certifications are associated with the ability of a teacher to demonstrate quality a nd expertise in a specific area the criteria associated with identifying successful virtual school teachers in this study can be used as a basis for u nderstanding quality and expertise. Future Research There is no common conception of what successful teaching is. However, as new policy and legislation is written that will influence the formation of state led virtual schools, research is needed that des cribes the characteristics of quality virtual school teachers (Watson & Kalmon, participants by using a predefined conception of successful that related to each in education, certification, and teaching experience. In addition to the findings and implications presented in this chapter, there are four venues for future research that should be explored in understanding of virtual schooling. Recommendation for Future Research #1 There are three pedagogical implications this study has for future research in virtual schooling. The first stems from the expressed value by the participants in this study for havi ng knowledge and understanding of theories related to online learning in order to best support

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1 45 student learning. While the existing theories related to online learning can inform and provide direction for virtual schooling, like the practices associated wi th this instructional context, perhaps the theory underlying it needs reconsidered in terms of the specific context of virtual school courses One way to explore the ways current conceptions of online pedagogy may be transformed when considered in terms of the virtual school context is by delving further into the beliefs of virtual school teachers. By implementing a study that focuses on the beliefs of virtual school tea chers and the conceptions they have regarding the craft on virtual school teaching, a d eeper knowledge of how theories of online learning are adapted or refined to best suit the virtual course setting may be gained. Another dimension of virtual school pedagogy that should be explored by future research is the content area beliefs held by the participants in relation to the practices they used. The value of conducting future research in this area is indicated by the distinctions in the way participants used Web based and course Knowledge gained fro m exploring an avenue of future research that specifically focuses on the differences in practices used by teachers from different content areas would benefit preservice and in service training programs. In addition, this information would add to what is c urrently known about the types of resources virtual school teachers use in their courses. The relationship among content knowledge, knowledge of students, and selection of Web based resources indicates the potential for exploring the Technological Pedagog ical Content Knowledge (TPCK) framework in a virtual school context. Building off existing research on the relationship between content and pedagogy, the TPCK framework includes technology as an equally important aspect of consideration. Exploring the prac tices of virtual school teachers could provide further insight based resources across content areas.

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146 Recommendation for Future Research #2 A second recommendation based on the outcomes of this study is to enga ge further exploration into the transition the participants described as a result of their roles shifting from a knowledge giver to knowledge guide. Although all participants indicated experiencing this transition to some degree, in the most extreme case, it was articulated in terms of a drastic shift from the perspectives previously held regarding the nature of knowledge and learning. Molly (6.15.07) described the specific shift in her beliefs as directly related to the experiences she had teaching online. Her perspective moved from one that seemed representative of an objectivist view of the mind, where knowledge is externally created, to one that exhibited characteristics of a constructivist view of the mind. This was indicated through the role transition she described, which moved her from being a knowledge giver to being a knowledge guide. This transition impacted the approach she took to teaching both her online and face to face classes. It is important for future research to explore cases like this fur ther to determine to origin of this transition. Recommendation for Future Research #3 There are few online resources available for virtual school teachers to search and find high quality, relevant Web based tools to integrate into their classes. The Virt ual School Clearinghouse, the Orange Grove, and Merlot are some examples of the Web based resources currently available for K 12 virtual school teachers to find information about pedagogi c or technological innovations. Considering the emphasis placed on th e use of Web based tools by the participants, in combination with their apparent varied use of these tools across content areas, it is important to explore the value of designing resources that meet the specific needs of virtual school teachers. Engaging i n such an exploration would also inform the field in terms of the best

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147 The integration of Web based resources provides many opportunities for students in a virtual cou rse. The motivational and educational value described by the participants indicates the importance of the use of Web based resources to supplement many of the hands on opportunities that would be offered in a face to face setting. All virtual school course s are delivered online; however, there are based tools and Web based resources to support student learning in various content areas (Ferdig et al., 2005). As such, the skills underlying the selection of these resources should be addressed in programs preparing individuals for the experience of teaching virtual school courses. Finally, the descriptions provided that indicate the use of these resources to serve content specific goals indicate the need for future research to explore the use of these resources, as well as their variations of use across content areas. content management systems hosting the courses they taught for supporting student learning. Therefore, in addition to preparing virtual school teachers to effectively select and integrate Web based resources, virtual school teachers must also be prepared with the knowledge necessar y to use the tools and resources available in the course environment. A caveat to this recommendation is the variance in the course management systems used by virtual schools. Not all course management systems consist of the same tools and affordances. Wha t this study touches on by attributing value to the tools built into a course environment is this: There is a need for future research to explore the value of these tools in order to make recommendations to the designers of content management system for th e features and abilities that should be included in order to best suit the needs of virtual courses, virtual school teachers, and their students.

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148 Recommendation for Future Research #4 The final category of implications relates to the support structures associated with virtual schooling specifically, the role of the mentor. The role of the mentor is unique to the virtual school setting and is in need of additional research to form a more consistent understanding and description for it. The mentor has emer ged as a new role associated with virtual schooling to compliment and support the instruction provided by virtual school teachers. By working cooperatively with mentors, virtual school teachers are able to further extend the support they can provide studen ts. While there is currently to be developed a consistent, widely accepted d escription for it. T he field of virtual schooling could benefit from future research that explores the work these individuals d o and how virtual school teachers work with these individuals to have successful outcomes with student knowledge. By defining the role of the mentor better selection and training strategies can be implemented to optimize their collaborative role in the v irtual course classroom. As the orientation course or training program would help mentors gain a better understanding for their role which could result in more consi stent performance. addressed in terms of the quality of content based support provided to students. This was attributed by participants to the reality that the mentor may not be an expert with the content area in which they ar e trying to supports students development of knowledge. By implementing standards or providing a context to structure the interaction among virtual school teacher s and mentor s these issues could be address ed and impact the quality of s upport available to s tudents

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149 Validity One threat to the validity of this study emerged in relation to the initial sampling criteria. Although all 16 teachers met the qualification of successful as defined by the selection criteria, not all of the sampling categories were fil led. Ideally, one virtual school teacher that taught an AP level course and one that taught a general level course would have been recruited to represent the content areas of math, English, science, and social studies. However, MDVS currently employs only one AP English teacher. In order to minimize the threat this posed for the reliability of the study, an additional AP science teacher from MDVS was recruited to participate. Conclusion Teaching is a unique, customized craft that results from the interac tion of teacher, the student, and the content. Hence, it is important to form an understanding regarding how these three elements are involved in the instructional process. Through this study, an understanding of the instructional process was formed throug h the implementation of a research protocol that focused on the perspectives of teachers. The outcomes of this research reveal knowledge regarding the beliefs, goals, and practices of virtual school teachers, which serve as a basis for understanding the pe dagogic practices associated with K 12 virtual school teaching. These categories underlie the instructional practices utilized by virtual school teachers and represent fundamental concepts that are influential to the process of teaching and learning online The findings of this study have relevant implications for those programs intended to prepare both individuals new to the virtual school teaching experience as well as those already engaged in the practice of virtual course teaching. In this chapter, the presentation of findings demonstrates the value the outcomes have for the field of virtual school teaching. Additionally, the implications of

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150 the findings were also discussed in relation to future research in order to indicate their relevance for developin g the growing body of knowledge underlying virtual school teaching.

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151 APPENDIX A CODING TRAIL Open Focused Selective Core Category Adapting course to accommodate pacing Structure content to scaffold learning Supporting Student Success Cultivate Knowledge Creating an organized environments Outlining expectations to foster student responsibility Structuring content to focus students Using course tools to adapt course structure Com municating with mentors Utilize support structure Cooperating with mentors Encouraging students to go to each other for support Meet students needs Encouraging students to share resources Establishing community Provide options for getting Support Providing multiple means for contacting Structuring content to facilitate student responsibility Making themselves accessible

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152 Increase their accessibility Cultivate Knowledge (continued) Communicating w/students to address needs Encouraging and helping st udents establish a routine Giving feedback Helping Students Achieve their goals Using directive communication Adapting practices to support students Individualize Learning Fluid Practice Adaptive Practices Communicating to individuali ze instruction Tailoring resources and support for individual students Varying use of practices based on student needs Answering content based questions Guide Students Construction of Knowledge Being responsive to students Connect stu dents & content Connecting content to real world of students Illustrating the relevance of content for students lives Facilitate content related conversations

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153 Helping students in crisis Keep the course a safe place Managing the Course Cultivate Knowledge (continued) Ma naging to support quality vs. reprimanding behavior Modeling communication constructive communication Moderating student discussions Utilizing the resources available Setting guidelines for communication & interaction Aligning course content w/standards Academic Integrity Interact w/ Course Environment Maintaining the environment Meeting standards Posting academic honesty policies Individualizing consequences Monitoring for cheatin g Being active in all parts of the environment Effective Communication Communicate to motivate Communicating emotion

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154 Communicating to engage students Connect with Students Cultivate Knowledge (continued) Establishing credibility Focus on Students vs. Conten t Helping students feel like they have a real teacher Sharing information about themselves Using clear communication Preventing miscommunications Self Monitoring Communications Being excited about content to engage students Integrating T echnology Engaging Students with Content Getting students excited about content Integrating technology to motivate students Motivate students to interact w/c ontent Motivating students through the structure of content Using technology to facilitate learning Using technology to illustrate content Accommodating Learning styles Integrate interactive elements Illustrating the concepts embedded in the content

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155 Alternative assessments Make Content Accessible Engaging Students with Content (continued) Cultivate Knowledge (continued) Being intuitive to determine students level of understanding Content specific strategies Effectively assess knowledge Encourage exploration of students content related interests Enhancing environment to support content Expand general content knowledge Multiple opportunities to demonstrate knowledge Presenting in content in many ways Providing many chances to interact w/content Selecting re sources to enhance content Using content knowledge and knowledge of students to select activities Using multiple assessment strategies Using practices that support the independent nature of online learning

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156 APPENDIX B SAMPLEMEMOS Mem o Coding 6/24 1:00 p.m. (after interview with Elisha, Math) mediating force b/t the two which is why it is impt. to work closely w/them Elisha talked about the foll owing qualities that she feels facilitates her successful experience as a virtual school teacher: Responsive with parents & students; interactive with parents & students; Isolation of VS teacher Technology is difficult to select for integration into course Cooperating w/mentors Being responsive Adaptive practices 6/28 8:00 p.m. (after interview with Julie, English) regardless of the medium of delivery. They also acknowledge that these practices must change, or be adapted to best suit the online delivery of their cours es. What is unique about the experience of virtual school teaching? The experience of virtual school teaching requires participants to adapt practices based on elements of variability present in VS courses such as: course pacing & instructional level (wh ich is really related to course pacing). In the course pacing example adaptations to the activities included in the course, as well as the structuring of content are made. Adaptive practices Adapting course to accommodate pacing 6/30 4:30 p. m. (after interview with Nancy, Math) Personalizes course through interactions she has w/students She identified the following practices: Good communication skills; feedback; taking advantage of the opportunity offered by instructional context to shift f ocus from preparing content to the instructional strategies used; communicating w/mentor; communicating w/students on the phone having no fear with technology trying & testing out; late to content, by drawing from knowledge of content to direct the practices used; importance of connecting content to students world Adaptive practices Communicating skills Giving Feedback Focus on students Communicating with mentor Connecting c ontent to students world 6/30 8:00 a.m. (after interview with Casey, Science) Presenting content in many different ways to engage students in a way that is most consistent w/their learning style (learning style is a consistent theme indicated by Present content in many ways

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157 parti cipants as a means for directing the practices they select as well as the technology they integrate.) Accommodate learning styles 7/3 7 p.m. (after interview with Melanie, Math) Some of the practices addressed were organ izations, knowledge of content particularly in relation to the ability to answer students questions online; well written specifically in relation to the ability to communicate clearly and using emotion in communications to connect w/students; the need to adapt practices in relation to the pacing of the course, integrating technology to provide resources and additional experiences w/content (attending to learning styles), Introducing content so students see the personal relevance it has for their li ves Answering content questions Clear communication, Communicating emotion Adapting course to accommodate pacing Integrate technology to facilitate learning Connecting content to students world

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158 APPENDIX C SAMPLE EMAIL TO VIRT UAL SCHOOL TEACHERS Go od afternoon First, let me say how much I am looking forward to working with you and other MVS teachers. Having been an elementary school teacher and media specialist before coming back to the University of Florida I know how valuable your time is and a ppreciate your willingness to participate in this study. The purpose of this study is to explore the best practices of MVS teachers. This inquiry will look at the practices of MVS teacher's in relation to varying co ntent areas and course levels (general or advanced pl acement). Your participation in the study will involve two conversations with me, the first will be to document your agreement to participate in this study, and will last no longer than 30 minutes. The second conversation will be the intervie w session, and last no longer than 50 minutes. Before we begin to think about the interviews I ask that you reply to this message, answering the following questions: Do you have a headset and microphone for your computer? Are you comfortable using a te lecommunication tool, like Elluminate Live or Adobe Connect, to conduct our interviews? Once I receive your response we'll move forward and schedule a time to conduct the first interview when it is most convenient for you. Again, thank your interest in participating, Meredith DiPietro Doctoral Candidate Educational Technology, School of Teaching and Learning

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159 APPENDIX D INTERVIEW PROTOCOL 1. What are the general pedagogical practices you use to teach virtual school courses? 2. Why do you use these practice s? 3. Drawing from your experience teaching different courses within your content area, do you use different pedagogical practices based on the con tent area focus of the course (biology, c hemistry, etc)? If so, how do these practices differ? 4. Why do you us e different pedagogical practices in relation to the content focus? 5. How do you use different technologies (such as discussion boards, chat tools, wikis, etc.) built into the virtual school course environment to support your pedagogical practice? 6. How do you use technologies not built into your online course environment (such as web based tools & resources) to support your pedagogical practice? 7. What are your values/beliefs regarding virtual school teaching, and the pedagogical practices you implement?

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Meredith DiPietro graduated from the School of Teaching and Learning in 2000 with an MEd in Educational Media, after which she served as a Media Specialist for three years at an e lementary school is South Florida. In 2003 she returned to Gainesville in pursuit of her doctoral been on the exploration of varying technologies and their valu e for educational environments. Over the past three years her research and assistantship experiences have focused her research on two primary areas: electronic gaming and virtual school pedagogy. Her work investigating electronic game play draws from he r Liberal Arts background in Media Studies, and incorporates theories of psychology to facilitate the investigation of the internal processes associated utilizing this media. Her experience as a teacher, and pre service educator, has driven her virtual sc hooling research, and integrates pedagogic theory in order to explore the unique teaching and learning interaction taking place in the virtual course environment.