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Online learning communities for school teachers’ continuous professional development: the cognitive, social and teaching aspects of an eTwinning Learning Event

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Brian Holmes
Publication date1/08/2012
Number of pages209
Awarding Institution
Award date1/08/2012
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Whereas a reasonable body of research now exists on the use of networked learning and learning communities in higher education, less is known about their use in other sectors of education such as professional development. This research focuses on an example of an online learning community used for school teachers’ continuous professional development (CPD) – in an eTwinning Learning Event (LE). It looks at how the online community supports the development of school teachers’ competence and practice, at how social aspects contribute to the discourse and at the impact of moderation. Action research is used to follow and influence the development of the LE entitled 'Exploiting Web 2.0: eTwinning and Collaboration'.

An analysis of the first LE, using the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework
(Garrison et al., 2000) as a theoretical lens, led to changes being applied in the second LE to reinforce the cognitive, teaching and social presence. The event was lengthened to provide an opportunity for participants to apply what they were learning in the LE to their teaching practice and a final activity was added to support reflection amongst peers. Tutor moderation was reinforced at key points and informal social interaction was encouraged through the addition of a virtual staff room. Data were collected via a participant questionnaire, interviews and the coding of the messages in the discussion forums. The subsequent analysis suggests that the applied changes had a positive impact on cognitive development, social interaction and the orchestration of learning.
Cognitive presence was reinforced with evidence of critical thinking emerging in the participants' discourse. Teaching presence, initially provided by the tutors, gradually emerged from the participants as they self-organised the collaboration and offered their peers mutual support. Collaboration was seen as contributing to the learning, with informal knowledge sharing and participants perceiving a sense of community.
However, the community was ephemeral, lasting only for as long as it served the
purpose of learning. The results suggest an emerging model for future eTwinning LEs and their online moderation by a tutor.