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On the Development of Pedagogical Skills for Mandarin Distance Education through a Teaching Training Program
teacher training program
teaching Mandarin as a second language
Technological advancements have enhanced distance education, which has advantages of enriching teaching materials, fulfilling leaners’ needs, and benefiting Mandarin instruction worldwide. The distance education process involves unique challenges and thus Mandarin teachers may encounter difficulties when conducting distance courses. For example, it requires familiarity with the operating equipment; it is necessary for instructors to adapt to the virtual context of distance teaching; the modifications of teaching method are vital, etc. Researchers have long stressed the significance of training teachers for distance education. However, the quantity of research on teacher training programs for Mandarin distance education is limited and the pedagogical skills of distance education Mandarin teachers are imprecisely defined. There has not yet been a study that integrates teacher training programs, pedagogical skills, and criteria for evaluating these two parameters mentioned above . Therefore, this study applies Action Research, Survey Research, and Content Analysis Research in various research procedures and will be concluded with the effectiveness of the training program, the development of pedagogical skills and integrative evaluating criteria for Mandarin distance education. Regarding the effectiveness of training programs, this study observed the Teacher Training Program for Mandarin Distance Education in 2015. The face-to-face training program was eight weeks long, which includes twenty hours per week. First, the reflective model in Action Research is adapted to illustrate the procedures of the training program. Second, Content Analysis Research is applied to cross-match the correspondence of the weekly topic of the program and assignments for trainees between thematic teacher training models. Third, based on Survey Research, thirty online questionnaires, filled in by applicants, related to motivation and needs for participating in the program as well as nineteen online evaluations for the program, submitted by trainees, were collected and analyzed in order to investigate the effectiveness of training program model designed. In terms of the development of pedagogical skills, both Action Research and Content Analysis Research were utilized in order to observe six trainees who were volunteered to participate pre-and-post teaching experiments. Their teaching performance in these two online Mandarin courses, including course design, teacher talk, interactives and tasks, were analyzed to evaluate their pedagogical skills development before and after the training program. In terms of evaluating criteria for teacher training program, Content Analysis Research was used in order to integrate the findings and among various categories and measurements. The main findings of this research are concern the following: First, this research analyzes effectiveness of teacher training program for Mandarin distance education. Teachers as trainees’ sought to obtain pedagogical skills, application of multimedia, and practice teaching for teaching an online Mandarin course before the training program started. However, most the teachers underestimated the importance of practice and reflective cycles in the reflective model. Therefore, the results suggests that teacher training programs can focus on five core training topics: (1) the introduction to reinforce awareness of the purposes and goals of the program, (2) the perspectives and principles of conducting Mandarin distance course, (3) pedagogical skills and techniques for online courses in a videoconferencing style, (4) the operation of video-conferencing system and other digital teaching resources, (5) the demonstration and practice of operating teaching courseware as well as the online teaching practices. In addition, the analysis concludes that there are 12 essential parameters of pedagogical skills which are highly recommended to be covered in a teacher training program. Tasks for trainees can include online course observation, weekly seminar for the five core topics, review and discussion on teaching practice, small group work for teaching simulation, individual practice teaching. According to the analysis of the evaluation survey, the emphasis of the appropriate arrangement and practicality of weekly seminars and tasks for the training program increases the effectiveness when conducting an intensive program and fulfills participants’ needs. Participants can also benefit from these efficiency training strategies and they serve to ease their stress during the intensive training. Second, this research investigates the development of pedagogical skills through distance education. after participating in the training program, teachers’ consideration of pedagogy for distance education became more precise when they designed courses, manipulate teacher talk and arrange interactivities and tasks in the pre-and-post online Mandarin teaching experiments. A detailed list of improvements include: (1) course design: participants considered more precisely format, purpose, tasks, question-answer, discussion, assessment when organizing a teaching plan. The slides utilized for the online course have been improved by applying the principle of layout, content and interaction of the material. In their teaching journals, the reflection on preparation for the online course, language, content and media used, and unexpected situations and its solutions are documented. Statistical analysis also provides evidence of the improvement on course design skills. (2) teacher talk: according to statistical analysis, in the post teaching experiment, the total utterances, ratio and distribution of teacher-student’s question-and-response tokens reflects the principle of properly restricting the quantity of teacher talk and eliciting the learner’s response. In addition,, teachers manipulate various questioning strategies, including procedural questioning, convergent and divergent elicitation in eliciting questioning as well as the feedback strategies, including evaluating, filling, correcting, drilling and nonverbal feedbacks. They also applied techniques to avoid ineffective questioning (redundant markers, monologuing, narrating, digressing) and ineffective feedback (exceeding response, disregarding accuracy, suspending follow-up-drilling, neglecting fluency). Besides, teachers tend to take advantage of divergent elicitation in order to stimulate learners’ reasoning, application, analysis, and synthesis responses which represent higher level of oral proficiency of language leaner. (3) interactivities and tasks: after the experiment, teachers considered the type, procedure, timing when demonstrating online interactivities and tasks with learners. The five phases in an online Mandarin course are sequentially, opening (greeting, warm-up, pre-assessment), exploring (outline, text, vocabulary, grammar teaching), discussing (cultural, situational and interactive task), reinforcing (review, post-assessment), sparing and easing session (auxiliary materials, wind-down and closure). Furthermore, they carry out linear or spiral teaching model depending on different phases. Through the tilt trend, distribution in sections, and point-or-bar shape showed in Gantt chart, we could learn the sequential organization of interactivities and tasks during online Mandarin course. Third, this research concludes with integrative evaluating criteria for a teacher training program (training hours and its efficiency, auxiliary topics for enhancing the training, tasks design and arrangement for trainees), pedagogical skills through distance education (course design, teacher talk manipulation, and organization of interactivities and task for online Mandarin course), and resource management for a training program (courseware and materials, human resources and responsibility division, assistance and support for teachers as trainees, documentation for the program, materials used for online teaching practice). This research also documented the application and practice during the course of the training program by adapting observation method in Action Research. It includes (1) preparation: dividing training phases, establishing objectives and regulations, potential obstacles and contingency plan for the training program, (2) authentic instances: introduction to the training program, cross-cultural communication and awareness, practice operating the teaching software and the platform, principles and techniques for videoconferencing distance teaching, the application and competence for computer-assisted language instruction, discussion with experienced teachers, small group teaching simulation and individual practice teaching sessions for Mandarin distance courses, discussion and reflection on the practice teaching sessions, and (3) management for training program: coordination of faculty and staff, application of classroom, equipment and software; methods for documentation of the training program. The results and findings of this research could be the basis for further studies on related topics and for institutions to prepare, design and conduct an equivalent teacher training program for Mandarin distance education.
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