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The role of critical discussion

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Sarah Prestridge of Griffith University analyses the role of collegial discussion in ICT PD in her 2010 paper. Her state-of-play statement in the introduction is beautiful.

If we have any hope of enabling our teachers to use ICT in ways that will capture new learning styles and pathways for students living in a digital culture, ICT professional development intentions need to move from ‘re-tooling’ with infrequent curriculum integration to a model that will enable teachers to see the ‘transforming’ possibilities of ICT. (p.252)

Prestridge identifies three professional learning activities vital for meaningful ICT teacher PD; collegial dialogue;investigation; and reflection. She chooses to investigate the role of collegial dialogue in developing learning communities and enabling pedagogical change. This is intended to inform a model for ICT professional development, using online discussion forums to facilitate discussion.

The analysis of discussions found that dialogue could play two important roles with respect to teacher PD. Prestridge makes the disctinction between the different kinds of dialogue and outcomes. namely:

  • Collegial discussion → develops community
  • Critical discussion → transforms teachers’ pedagogical beliefs

Despite the complementary role of the collegial and critical discussion, they don’t exist without conflict.

Tension arises as collegiality is opposed to critique but without critique there is no need for collegiality. In other words, a learning community is built on camaraderie but without the opportunity for learning to occur through critique, there is no point in membership. (p.257)

This astute observation lead Prestridge to review her model for ICT PD, highlighting the relationship between critique and reflection, the latter being necesary for change.

Limitations of the online forum are also discussed.

The data reveal a number of practical aspects of online environments that inhibit critical discussion. These include the opportunities for teachers to ‘lurk’ or disengage at any given time and the ease with which misunderstandings or comments can silence participation.(p.257)

These limitations whilst significant are certainly not crippling. Further, ongoing experience in online environments will likely alleviate these issues.

  • Prestridge, S. (2010). ICT professional development for teachers in online forums:Analysing the role of discussion. Teaching and Teacher Education. 26. p. 252–258
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