The problem? Imagine you are a teacher educator. Your Dean (or whomever) says to you, “We have to train our student teachers better than we are now. We also have to cut our budget by 10%.” What would your answer be?
Traditional supervision commonly involves having a student teacher work closely with a cooperating teaching in the field. A supervisor from the University will observe the student teacher periodically and monitor progress. The quality of mentoring varies from placement to placement. More often than not, student teachers are rewarded for imitating their cooperating teachers (who often use traditional lecture-style strategies) and learn little about teaching in new or innovative ways.
Our solution? At San Diego State University, my colleague Dr. Christianna Alger and I developed eSupervision (http://www.esupervision.net) as our answer to that dilemma. With initial input and support from Drs. Nancy Farnan and Allison Rossett (to whom we owe a debt of gratitude), we developed an online system that improves the supervision of our student teachers while in the field (i.e. clinical experience).
What did we do? Using the open-source course management tool called Moodle, we developed a technology-driven cognitive apprenticeship. Cognitive apprenticeships consist of a number of elements that technology has the potential to support, including modeling, scaffolding, coaching, reflection, and community. With technology, the benefits of social constructivism and distributed cognition (see also computer-supported collaborative learning) can be more fully realized.
Supervisors engage in less face-to-face observation and more online coaching, support, and guidance. A lot more. Online discussion boards. Video. Modularized, self-paced instruction. Just-in-time support. Individualized feedback. Participation in a community of learners. We took the well-known, research-based uses of technology and pedagogy that improve student teacher supervision and blended them together in an online environment.
The results? Awesome. eSupervision students perform as well, if not better, on average than students who receive traditional supervision [we used a quasi-experimental design with matched control group]. Many eSupervision students report larger gains in self-efficacy that those who receive traditional supervision, and attribute it, in part, to greater coaching and feedback from a wider variety of experts and peers.
If you are thinking about moving towards eSupervision at your own institution, or with your own group of student teachers, please let me know how I can help. We’ve been honing eSupervision and our research on it for the better part of the last four years; I’m happy to consult or share my thoughts in greater detail.
- Alger, C., & Kopcha, T. J. (in press). Technology Supported Cognitive Apprenticeship Transforms the Student Teaching Field Experience. The Teacher Educator.
- Alger, C., & Kopcha, T. J. (2009). eSupervision: A Technology Framework for the 21st Century Field Experience in Teacher Education. Issues in Teacher Education, 18(2), 31-46.
- Kopcha, T. J. (accepted 2011). Technology as a tool for increasing self-efficacy knowledge during the field experience. Paper accepted for presentation at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA.
- Kopcha, T. J., & Alger, C. (accepted 2011). The impact of technology-enhanced student teacher supervision on student teacher knowledge, performance, and self-efficacy. Paper accepted for presentation at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA.