Singer & Zeni Creating an Online Conversation Community for Preservice Teachers

Singer, N. R., & Zeni, J. (2004). Building bridges: Creating an online conversation community for preservice teachers. English Education, 37(1), pp. 30-49.

Summary: Two supervisors conducted action research into their use of an online discussion board to facilitate conversations between them and their PSTs as well as among the PSTs.

Key Words: inquiry, action research, technology, discussion boards, supervision, seminar, supervision in teacher education, supervisor


Conceptual Framework:

None listed


Research Questions:

How can we improve our practice of supervision with our limited human and fiscal resources?

(While that may be their question, their action research did not answer that question. As it was more focused on the online discussions.)



Collaborative action research

Messages (2152 total)

Student teachers (61)

Supervisors’ field notes

Formal open-ended interviews with student teachers

Informal interviews during classroom visits and seminars

Group focus sessions



Two supervisors

Student teachers



  • In the online discussions, PSTs told stories. “Using narrative, our student teachers replay their classroom experiences and offer each advice” (pp. 34-35).
  • “Student teachers – not university supervisors or instructors – determine the direction and depth of the conversation. We found that supervisors on our listserv post approximately 22% of the messages” (p. 40).
  • “Many of the messages from supervisors are short, procedural postings” (p. 41).
  • “In our longer messages, supervisors try to write as fellow teachers – more experienced peers rather than resident experts. We frequently respond to a tale of distress with a story from our own teaching lives” (p. 41).
  • In addition to stories about their experiences, the PSTs’ talked about their journeys to becoming a teacher.
  • “For us as supervisors, talking online has been more than a way to mentor student teachers. It has helped us build and maintain friendships” (p. 47).


Additional Key Passages:



Research Questions:



Mixed methods

Semi-structured interviews with 40 student teachers

Close-ended questionnaire with 121 student teachers



  • PSTs felt positively and negatively towards their observations with their supervisors. They listed more positives than negatives.
  • They appreciated immediate and constructive feedback.
  • Observations with their supervisor allowed them to problem solve about their practice and it also sometimes confirmed their own teaching.
  • They appreciated the caring approach and the opportunity to plan lessons.


Additional Key Passages: