Teacher Interaction: Motivating At-Risk Students in Web-based High School Courses

Stephen Lehman6
Estimated H-index: 6
,
Douglas F. Kauffman11
Estimated H-index: 11
+ 2 AuthorsRoger Bruning23
Estimated H-index: 23
Sources
Abstract
Abstract At-risk high school students working in a Web-based beginning composition course interacted for seven weeks with an online teacher in one of four different styles of interaction. Students received e-mails enhanced with motivation-building content and/or caring/personal-investment content. Students were observed as they worked in the course, and four variables—including ratings of electronic communication between teacher and student—were analyzed to determine student engagement in course content. Results indicate that enhancing motivation-building and personal-investment content in teacher communications increases at-risk student engage-ment in Web-based courses. Advantages of motivation-building enhancements over personal-investment enhancements and the importance of teacher interaction with at-risk students in Web-based environments are discussed. Educators are increasingly turning to computer-based learning experiences to enhance instruction for their students. Proponents of technology typically cite such features as rapid access to information, increased capacity for authentic ex-periences, and enhanced opportunity to communicate. These potential benefits fit well with current sociocognitive views of learning. There is a growing worry, however, that an increasingly technologically based education system may not benefit all learners equally. Of particular concern are students who are at risk for academic failure for a variety of reasons, ranging from low socioeconomic status and learning disabilities to substance abuse and gang-related activities. The pos-sibility of a widening gap—a “Digital Divide” between the technology “haves” and “have-nots”—appears to be a serious possibility (National Telecommunica-tions and Information Administration, 1999), with limited access to technology standing as a barrier to student participation (Gladieux & Swail, 1999).Arguments citing both advantages and disadvantages of technology-based approaches to teaching at-risk students can be readily constructed. Advantages include increased attention to relevant instructional material (Means, 1997), access to instruction outside the school setting for working students, and de-creased potential for conflicted teacher–student relationships (Birch & Ladd, 1996). On the other hand, technology can make establishing productive teach-er-student relationships very difficult. Though technology-based instruction seems likely to reduce the conflicts often present in teacher interactions with at-risk students, it would seem to have two distinct disadvantages.1. Because of the technology, students are likely to have less access to the teacher’s scaffolding of unfamiliar material.
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References36
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