PROFESSIONAL LEARNING IN INFORMAL ONLINE PROFESSIONAL LEARNING IN INFORMAL ONLINE ENVIRONMENTS: EXAMINING

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  • PROFESSIONAL LEARNING IN INFORMAL ONLINE ENVIRONMENTS: EXAMINING

    ELEMENTARY TEACHERS’ COGNITIVE PROCESSES AND LEARNING EXPERIENCES

    AS THEY NAVIGATE A PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT WEBSITE

    By

    Pamela-Jane Kathleen Beach

    A thesis submitted in conformity with the requirements

    for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

    Graduate Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development

    Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the

    University of Toronto

    © Copyright by Pamela-Jane Kathleen Beach 2015

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    PROFESSIONAL LEARNING IN INFORMAL ONLINE ENVIRONMENTS:

    EXAMINING ELEMENTARY TEACHERS’ COGNITIVE PROCESSES AND

    LEARNING EXPERIENCES AS THEY NAVIGATE A PROFESSIONAL

    DEVELOPMENT WEBSITE

    Doctor of Philosophy, 2015

    Pamela-Jane Kathleen Beach

    Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development

    University of Toronto

    Abstract

    This thesis is comprised of two studies. The first is a mixed methods study comparing three

    types of think aloud methods for examining elementary teachers’ cognitive processes as they

    use a multimedia professional development website. Forty-five elementary teachers were

    assigned to one of three think aloud conditions—concurrent, retrospective, and virtual revisit.

    Participants in the concurrent condition verbalized their thoughts while simultaneously

    navigating the website for 20 minutes; participants in the retrospective condition verbalized their

    thoughts immediately following their 20-mintue navigation without any aids; and participants in

    the virtual revisit condition verbalized their thoughts while viewing a screen recording of their

    20-minute navigation. Results revealed differences (p < .05) in the complexity of verbalizations

    produced by participants in each condition, in task completion, and in reported comfort levels

    with thinking aloud.

    The findings of study 1 revealed that participants from the virtual revisit condition

    produced extensive complex verbalizations reflecting higher cognitive thought processes.

    Therefore, a second study was conducted using qualitative methods. Specifically, a grounded

    theory approach to analysis provided an in-depth understanding of the learning experiences of

    participants from the virtual revisit condition as they navigated the given website. A theoretical

    model was developed describing: (1) causal conditions that affect elementary teachers’

    navigation of a professional development website, (2) the central phenomenon, navigating a

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    professional development website, (3) navigational strategies, and (4) potential learning

    outcomes.

    Overall, the findings of this thesis provide insight into the benefits and limitations of

    each think aloud method and of elementary teachers’ cognitive processes and learning

    experiences during informal online professional learning. The results also highlight the need for

    further investigations of teacher cognition and online learning using the virtual revisit think

    aloud method. Educational and research implications are discussed for both studies.

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    Acknowledgements

    I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my thesis supervisor, Dr. Dale Willows

    for the endless encouragement, guidance, and advice. She contributed immensely to this

    thesis—by conceiving significant aspects of the virtual revisit think aloud, as well as providing

    insightful comments and questions to refine my thoughts throughout the entire process. It has

    been an honour to work under Dr. Willows’ guidance. Her dedication to teaching, learning, and

    knowledge mobilization is inspiring.

    I would like to thank my committee members, Dr. Rhonda Martinussen and Dr. Joan

    Peskin, for their commitment, support, and valuable feedback during the entire process. I would

    also like to express my gratitude to Dr. Vera Woloshyn for her willingness to undertake the role

    of the external examiner, and for her insightful comments and questions. As well, I would like

    to thank Dr. Janette Pelletier for her time and thoughtfulness.

    I am indebted to Ronna Kluger and Robin Bennett for their ongoing support,

    encouragement, and assistance during data collection. I would like to thank Jayme Herman for

    her role as the second coder during the initial stages of coding, and for her insights and advice

    during analysis. I am thankful to Dr. Yiola Cleovoulou for her continued encouragement,

    guidance, and for sharing her knowledge of qualitative research with me. I would also like to

    thank Dr. Eunice Jang and Dr. Olesya Falenchuk—the knowledge that I gained from their

    research methods courses was instrumental in carrying out my analyses.

    I would like to acknowledge the incredible Balanced Literacy Diet website team for their

    dedication to the development of an amazing online teacher resource. Your support and

    friendship are invaluable. Thank you to Madison Aitken, Kate Bryant, Lesley Dookie, Julia

    Forgie, Kasia Kania, Nathalie Rothschild, and Taj Uppal.

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    Thank you to all of my friends and family for their positive energy, interest, and ongoing

    support. I am especially thankful to my parents, Ross and Jane Beach for their enthusiasm,

    endless encouragement, and occasional editing. And to Dani Oore—thank you for listening to

    me think aloud about my research, for your thoughtfulness, support, and kind heart.

    Finally, I would like to thank the teachers who participated in this research. Their

    willingness to share their thoughts and experiences contributed to the understanding of teacher

    learning.

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    Table of Contents

    Abstract ............................................................................................................................................ ii

    Acknowledgements......................................................................................................................... iv

    Table of Contents ............................................................................................................................ vi

    List of Tables ................................................................................................................................... x

    List of Figures ................................................................................................................................. xi

    List of Appendices ......................................................................................................................... xii

    CHAPTER 1—General Introduction .......................................................................................... 1

    Introduction to the Studies ..................................................................................................... 1

    Thesis Overview ..................................................................................................................... 6

    CHAPTER 2—General Methodology.......................................................................................... 8

    Context ................................................................................................................................... 8

    Participant Recruitment ........................................................................................................ 11

    Data Sources ......................................................................................................................... 12

    Demographic Questionnaire ............................................................................................ 12

    Think Aloud ..................................................................................................................... 15

    Screen Capture Technology ............................................................................................. 16

    Semi-structured Interview ............................................................................................... 16

    Procedure .............................................................................................................................. 16

    One-on-One Meeting ....................................................................................................... 16

    CHAPTER 3—Study 1: Comparing Three Think Aloud Methods for Examining

    Teachers’ Cognitive Processes as They Use a Multimedia Professional Development

    Website.......................................................................................................................................... 19

    Literature Review ................................................................................................................. 19

    Think Aloud Methodology .............................................................................................. 19

    Teacher Cognition ........................................................................................................... 23

    Research Questions .............................................................................................................. 25

    Methods .....................