To teach online - contradictions and potentials of development from practice

Student thesis: Master thesis (including HD thesis)

  • Maren Cæcilie Berg Heising
  • Christina Biber Hartz

The activity of online teaching is spreading through education institutions and countries, making it a relevant and discussable topic. Teachers supplement their teaching activities in the classroom with activities in an online setting with possibly changes in their practice to follow. But how is the ‘online practice’ of teachers and which challenges do they face when teaching online? These questions are affected by the context and surroundings in which the activity takes place.

This master thesis are based on empirical data gathered from the Danish University College UCC and the purpose of the study is to investigates how online teaching can be developed in the organization based on Contradictions in the teachers Activity Systems. The investigation takes the view of the teacher to study possibilities for development from the base of ‘the practitioner’. The potentials for development are found in the challenges of the teachers in their practice of online teaching. To explore this the Activity Theory as of the professor Yrjö Engeström are used to map the Activity Systems of the teachers and study the Contradictions in their activity systems. As the theory prescribe this is done to find Zones of Proximal Development and thereby state possibilities of development for the organization. The Activity Theory carries the ontological stand that the individual and the surrounding world are inseparable and have a dualistic relationship. The potential for development therefore include the entire organization but in this thesis based on the practitioners experiences.

The informants of the study are 5 teachers from 3 different educations at UCC. The study is conducted through the empirical data of part participant observations of the teachers synchronous and asynchronous online teaching activities, semistructured interviews with them and document analysis of organizational documents to get a broad insight in the activity of online teaching and the context.

The analysis consists of a representation of the Activity systems of each og the teachers and findings of Contradictions in an overall Activity system of the group of teachers from the general categories of subject vs tools, subject vs object, subject vs community, subject vs rules, subject vs division of labour and subject internal. From the Contradictions Zones of Proximal Development are pointed out and discussed with the possibility to lead to expansive learning for the organization. Among the findings emphasis are laid on the Contradictions of the design and affordances of the virtual environment and the experienced expectations of the students against the teacher's view of learning. Furthermore the intention of a community around online teaching from the organization side against the teachers perceptions of this and their ‘unheard’ wishes.

In the thesis it is concluded that the developmental possibilities are based on both new actions and understandings for the teachers and on a mutual learning in the organization. The new actions for the teachers concerns the opportunity for them to practise in relation to their social constructivist view of learning in the online setting by exploiting the possibilities for dialog with and between students in virtual environment. Furthermore the development of actions demands the development of understandings among the teachers. This regards understandings of their roles in the online setting and the virtual environment as a learning environment.
Finally there are opportunities in working with a common understanding of the activity of online teaching in the whole organization.
The Activity Theory has shown to be useful in capturing the complexity of the activity online teaching but the results are bounded by the teachers perspective. Further studies should therefore include other Activity Systems in the organization e.g. the management and the students.
LanguageDanish
Publication date1 Aug 2016
Number of pages102
ID: 237847876