Learners begin a lesson by reading and viewing a case study, individually reflecting on the case study and proposing an initial solution to the problem. They then collaborate with other learners to collectively arrive at a single problem solution. The lesson ends with individual critiques of the group solution and reflection on the learning, collaboration, lesson design, and usefulness of the solution to their own professional practice.
The Rationale Behind the Feature (Specific Design Principle):
eStep is based on PBL, a form of situated learning that is grounded in the assumption that learning does not grow solely in the minds of individual learners, but is always related to the social interactions that take place in a particular learning environment. The goals of PBL include not only the development of factual knowledge, such as may occur when concepts are abstracted from their real-world scenarios, but also the development of effective and transferable problem-solving skills.
Learners in eStep are encouraged to acquire and engage in reflective collaborative practices. The socio-technological environment is designed so that knowledge is distributed across participants and technology-based tools. The long-term agenda is to develop new models for teacher professional development that support teachers becoming lifelong learners within communities of practice.
Context of Use:
PBL is designed for developing problem-solving skills in complex, ill-structured knowledge domains. eStep applies PBL in a blended face-to-face/online professional development course for teachers. Its main goal is to promote transfer: the ability by students to spontaneously and automatically activate concepts, skills, and stored case memories in new settings, and also adapt by learning from resources in the new environment.
eStep provides three components: - a Knowledge Web set of hyperlinked web pages that is used to present concepts; - a video library that is used to present case representations - PBL Online, a collection of small-group activities that use the traditional PBL process model.
The specific lesson described in the documentation focused on bridging instruction, a complex pedagogical idea. Teachers were provided with various scaffolds to enable them to collectively design a bridging instruction lesson for a mathematics concept of the groups choice.
Experimental eStep courses thus far have produced the following categories of data: 1) Group instructional plans 2) Online group discourse 3) Individual reflections 4) Pre- and post-course analyses of video cases 5) Pre- and post-course self-reports on beliefs and attitudes related to teaching and learning 6) Log data used to determine individual patterns of use of Web-based tools and resources.
How to analyze these data remains a central concern for eSteps developers.
Performance data demonstrated a statistically significant difference in final performance and performance gains, favoring the eStep course. Attitudinal data indicated that students generally favored collaborative over individual steps in the learning activity.
eStep admittedly lacks extensive experimental studies, and no study has yet been conducted to measure the impact of eStep on teacher performance: the transfer question eStep was purportedly developed to address.
Derry, S. J., Hmelo-Silver, C. E., Nagarajan, A., Chernobilsky, E., Feltovich, J., & Halfpap, B. (2005). Making a mesh of it: A STELLAR approach to teacher professional development. In T. Koschmann, D. D. Suthers & T.-w. Chan (Eds.), CSCL 2005 The next 10 years: Proceedings of the International Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning 2005 (pp. 105-114). Taipei: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.