During an internship phase of a pre-service teacher education program, a group of thirty-five pre-service teachers was asked to participate in two synchronous online discussions that were conducted - initially to frame a research project and later, to investigate successes in their teaching. The program in which the pre-service teachers were enrolled was delivered mainly in a face-to-face mode, but in the internship phase-the final phase of the program - academics' instructional interactions with the pre-service teachers occurred via online instruction.
During the online instruction two different protocols, based on the work of the Australian National Schools Network, were used to guide the small group discussions, and built upon the prior experiences that the pre-service teachers had had in the use of protocols in face-to-face settings. At the conclusion of each of the virtual sessions, the pre-service teachers were invited to complete an online survey, which included a combination of Likert-scale and open-ended prompts where they could make comments about how they worked with the protocol and the extent to which the protocol assisted their learning.
Twenty percent of the pre-service teachers completed both surveys, which pointed to the difficulty of capturing information from the students whilst they were on an extended placement, and even though conclusions cannot be drawn from a relatively small sample, it was the open-ended comments that the participants made that provided valuable insights into future utilisation of protocols on Web 2 platforms. Feedback from the pre-service teachers who participated in the surveys suggests that structuring their conversations via the use of protocols enabled - and required - all participants to have a say and also assisted some of the participants to be more honest than what they may have been able to be in face-to-face settings. Several participants also commented about their ability to reflect upon the work that they had been doing on their extended practicum. If, as some of the students indicated, it is necessary for pre-service teachers to be instructed using virtual means during extended practicums, then the structured conversations that the protocols required were well-suited to synchronous discussions using Web 2 technologies.
This research provides opportunities for further opportunities to investigate the reaction of students when their prior interactions with lecturers are predominantly in face-to-face mode and when they have opportunities to practise known protocols in an online environment prior to being away from the university on extended practicums.