Promoting an Ethic of Care Through Teacher Reflection: A Technology-Based Action Research Study

Year: 2018

Author: Killham, Jennifer

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

While the field of teacher education has committed to “reflective practice” as a key improvement model, there is a dearth of research related to teacher mindfulness in online spaces. This study explored evolving challenges around teacher reflection in an online educational project called Place Out of Time (POOT), a semester-long text-based character-playing game (Removed for Blind Review, 2014). This practitioner-based action research project examined key moments identified as challenging or troublesome by participating teacher. Through this study, teachers sought to better understand the pedagogical dynamics surrounding key challenging moments, moments when young people defied the established norms in their digital classroom. The teacher-researchers delved into the relational ruptures that occurred between participants during gameplay, and the ability for research-based mindfulness practices to illuminate ways to repair.
The research-reflection methods for this study were intentionally chosen to better understand the relational complexities. The theoretical significance underpinning this research was Freire’s (1993) liberation philosophy, and therefore participating middle schoolers and teachers were intentionally engaged as co-constructors of knowledge. Longitudinal qualitative data was derived of in-game data, semi-structured interviews, and reflection journals from project directors, as well as middle school students and teachers at 21 participating schools across North America and Asia from 14 POOT iterations. Methods were implemented based on their ability to elicit critical discourse (Fine, 2003; Ngunjiri, 2007), as well as elucidate relational dynamics identified by participants during phase one of the larger research project. Inclusion criteria was data coded as a young person who challenged the boundaries established by their classroom teachers and associated teacher in-game responses and post-game reflections. Data analysis applied voice-centered methods, such as multilayered narratives (Goffman, 1981, Kupperman, 2002) and polyvocal case histories (Removed for Blind Review, 2014), which revealed the complexities of the teacher-student relationship in online spaces.
Analysis revealed a pedagogical choice teachers made between a caring versus justice orientation. Findings exposed an increase in student autonomy gave rise to feelings of isolation and uncertainty. While teachers initially assumed a range of reason behind the observable behaviors. Amidst the young persons’ efforts to gain independence, raise their status, and please superiors responsible for assessment, feelings of loneliness and vulnerability persisted. Careful, slow analysis illuminated the struggles of seemingly “defiant” young people in POOT, but it also shed light on ways to support divergent learners through a caring orientation, inspired by Noddings and Gilligan.