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The role of coaching in teacher competence development for telecollaboration

Le rôle du coaching dans le développement des compétences des enseignants au service de la télécollaboration
Kristi Jauregi et Sabela Melchor-Couto

Résumés

Les échanges télécollaboratifs sont de plus en plus présents dans les différents niveaux et contextes d'enseignement. Malgré cela, la télécollaboration est encore de nos jours considérée comme un "élément additionnel" – parfois difficile à mettre en place – plutôt que comme une pratique pédagogique à part entière, et ce, pour diverses raisons : manque de soutien et d'infrastructure pour les enseignants souhaitant l'introduire dans leurs classes ; besoin d'un investissement supplémentaire de la part des enseignants, fort coûteux en temps et en énergie ; contraintes imposées par les programmes d'études. À ces éléments s'ajoute également la nécessité, pour les enseignants, de maîtriser un certain nombre de compétences afin de parvenir à intégrer la télécollaboration en classe de manière adéquate. En effet, malgré l'enthousiasme et les efforts fournis par les enseignants pour innover et élargir leurs pratiques d'enseignement-apprentissage grâce à des projets de télécollaboration, les recherches menées dans ce domaine démontrent que l'innovation pédagogique et technologique ne va pas de soi. En d'autres termes, sans un accompagnement adéquat, les enseignants persistent pour la plupart à enseigner en reproduisant les modèles pédagogiques par le biais desquels eux-mêmes avaient appris, sans être véritablement outillés pour relever le défi d'une société mondialisée, de plus en plus connectée et diversifiée. Afin d'étudier de plus près cette question, nous avons souhaité, dans la présente contribution, analyser le rôle du coaching en tant que dispositif d'accompagnement des pratiques enseignantes au sein d'un projet de télécollaboration. Plus précisément, nos questions de recherche ont été formulées de la manière suivante : 1. comment les enseignants apprécient-ils l'accompagnement pédagogique effectué par leur coach tout au long des étapes de préparation, de mise en œuvre et d'évaluation d'un projet de télécollaboration ? 2. dans quelle mesure le coaching contribue-t-il au développement des compétences des enseignants nécessaires à la réussite des échanges télécollaboratifs ? Pour répondre à ces questions, nous avons mené une enquête auprès de 23 enseignants de l'enseignement secondaire, ayant tous participé au projet européen TILA (Telecollaboration for Intercultural Language Acquisition). Les données ont été recueillies par le biais de deux enquêtes par questionnaire (questions fermées et ouvertes), l'une portant sur le coaching et l'autre sur les compétences des enseignants. Précisons également que les enseignants de notre enquête ont tous bénéficié au préalable d'un accompagnement pédagogique et technique (par courrier électronique et par le biais de réunions à distance) tout au long du projet TILA, avant, pendant et après les séances de télécollaboration. Cet accompagnement a été confié aux chercheurs impliqués dans le projet TILA. Les résultats obtenus lors de cette enquête montrent que les enseignants apprécient l'aide apportée par le coaching, notamment lorsqu'il s'agit de revisiter leurs pratiques pédagogiques habituelles. Les participants ont également signalé une amélioration – tout au long du processus de coaching – des compétences nécessaires pour la mise en œuvre d'un dispositif d'échanges télécollaboratifs.

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1. Introduction

1Telecollaboration (TC) has been defined by O'Dowd (2014) as the integration of online communication tools with the purpose of bringing together classes of learners in geographically distant locations in order to promote the development of both content-related and social skills and intercultural communicative competence through collaborative tasks and projects. Although the first TC activities in L2 education are found as early on as in 1920 (O'Dowd, 2014: 341), the real irruption of TC for language learning took place upon the emergence of the Internet in the late 1990s. Since then, the use of TC in the language classroom has increased gradually across the different stages of education, including secondary education (Jauregi & Melchor-Couto, 2014; Kroon, Jauregi & Thije, 2015) as a potentially rich method to foster intercultural awareness and communication skills.

2The intense research activity on the subject conducted by researchers across Europe bears witness to this, as does the number of TC projects funded by the European Union, both at higher education level: INTENT, "Integrating Telecollaborative Networks into Foreign Language Higher Education" (Guth, Helm & O'Dowd, 2012); NIFLAR, "Networked Interaction in Foreign Language Acquisition and Research" (Canto, Jauregi & van den Bergh, 2013) and secondary school level: TILA, "Telecollaboration for Intercultural Language Acquisition" (Jauregi & Melchor-Couto, 2014; Kroon, Jauregi & Thije, 2015) and e-Twinning (Cook, 2013).

3At a time when technology is known to be an important asset that can enhance the learning experience, educational institutions are now better equipped than ever. Considerable investment has been made by governments in recent years to increase the number of computers per student and to provide educational institutions with more powerful Internet connections (Wastiau et al., 2013). In addition, digital literacies have now acquired a prominent place both in teacher training programmes and across all educational sectors with regards to the range of skills that students must develop. However, TC is still seen as an add-on in the language classroom and, as highlighted by O'Dowd (2011: 8), is yet to be normalised. This seems to be mainly due to the additional time that these activities require of teachers and to the constraints imposed by the curriculum. Teachers must also master a number of very diverse competences in order for TC to be successful. O'Dowd divides these competences into four broad blocks (organisational, pedagogical, digital, and attitudes and beliefs). Furthermore, in a recent study, he concludes that digital and organisational issues seem to be the most challenging of all for novice teachers working in higher education (2015: 77). One of the main objectives of this paper is to highlight the importance of in-service teacher training in combination with intensive coaching and to study the effect that this has on the development of teacher competences.

2. Literature review

4TC is becoming one of the main methods to develop intercultural awareness in the language classroom (Corbett, 2010; Thorne, 2010), as learners have opportunities to discuss intercultural "rich points" (Agar, 1996) with "real" informants in the target language by engaging in dialogue (O'Dowd, 2014). In these interactions, students develop strategies that enable them to find pragmatically appropriate utterances (Belz, 2003, 2007; Chun, 2011; Liaw & Bunn-Le Master, 2010; Zhang, 2014), oral communicative competence (Canto, Jauregi & Bergh, 2013), lexical learning (Edasawa & Kabata, 2007; Pérez Cañado, 2010), and intercultural competences (Canto, Graaff & Jauregi, 2014; Lee, 2009b, 2011; Fuchs, Hauck & Müller-Hartmann, 2012; Liaw & Bunn-Le Master, 2010).

5In what follows we provide an overview of the research studies that have been carried out so far on TC. We then discuss the studies that have addressed teacher training in further detail. Some researchers have examined how students engage in negotiation and provide corrective feedback (Edasawa & Kabata, 2007) according to the tool being used (Bower & Kawaguchi, 2011). Multimodal interaction and the way it affects interactive learning has also been a focus of research (Codreanu & Combe Celik, 2013) as well as moderator behaviours and their effects on interaction patterns (Bayle & Youngs, 2013). In addition, researchers have analysed the impact that TC exchanges have on students' motivation (Jauregi et al., 2012; Lee & Markey, 2014) and anxiety (Melchor-Couto, 2017). Recently, TC has been used to address issues related to world citizenship and social justice (Kulavuz-Onal & Vásquez, 2015; Charry Roje & Martins, 2015) by promoting collaboration, critical thinking, reflection on controversial topics and intercultural understanding among students (Tcherepashenets, 2015). Some scholars have carried out research on effective pedagogies and institutional strategies for integrating TC as a practice of inclusion (Al-Khatib, 2015; Turula, 2015; McPherson et al., 2015), whereas others have analysed the impact of TC on learners' identities and the development of self (Anderson & Corbett, 2015; Gupta-Carlson, 2015; Kitade, 2014; Orsini-Jones et al., 2015; Pasfield-Neofitou, 2011).

6Pivotal to researching TC is the adequacy of task design to foster meaningful intercultural collaboration according to the specific affordances of virtual environments (O'Dowd & Waire, 2009; Hauck, 2010; Dooly, 2011; Jauregi et al., 2011; Canto, Graaff & Jauregi, 2014). In this sense, scholars have undertaken research utilizing different tools for TC practices: discussion boards (Fuchs, Hauck & Müller-Hartmann, 2012; Kabata & Edasawa, 2011; Liaw & Bunn-Le Master, 2010), blogs (Lee, 2011; Yang, 2011), chat (Darhower, 2008; Lee, 2009a; Zhang, 2014), video communication (Jauregi & Bañados, 2008, 2010; Jauregi, Bergh & Kriz, 2012), Skype (Bueno Alastuey, 2011), 3D virtual worlds (Jauregi et al., 2011; Canto, Graaff & Jauregi, 2014); wikis (Kitade, 2014). A number of researchers have compared the affordances of different environments for the communication enacted in TC exchanges: Canto, Jauregi and colleagues compared interactions in video-communication and virtual world environments (Canto et al., 2013, 2014); Chun (2011) contrasted asynchronous interactions in discussion boards and synchronous chat, Hauck and Youngs (2008) used blogs and an audiographic environment (Lyceum) to enhance skills and attitudes associated to intercultural communication; Jauregi and Bañados (2008, 2010) used video-communication for the intercultural task-mediated exchanges and a blog for reflective work; Lee (2009b) explored the effectiveness of various social networking tools for the development of intercultural competences message board (Moodle), Blog ( Blogger) and podcasts (Audacity and iMovie).

7English is the language used in most of the TC exchanges reported in existing research studies. However, the use of other target languages is increasing: Dutch (Jauregi, Bergh & Kriz, 2012), French (Bayle & Youngs, 2013; Codreanu & Combe Celik, 2013), German (Chun, 2011), Spanish (Jauregi et al., 2011; Jauregi & Bañados, 2008, 2010; Canto, Graaff & Jauregi, 2014; Lee, 2009a; 2009b; 2011), Japanese (Kitade, 2014; Pasfield-Neofitou, 2011), Mandarin Chinese (Jin, 2013; Zhang, 2014), Japanese and English (Bower & Kawaguchi, 2011; Edasawa & Kabata, 2007; Kabata & Edasawa, 2011), English as Lingua Franca (Bueno Alastuey, 2011; Yang, 2011), Spanish and English (Darhower, 2008).

8All the research studies mentioned above have analyzed TC exchanges in higher education contexts. Very little is known about the effects of TC exchanges in mainstream secondary education. Kroon, Jauregi and Thije (2015) investigated how pupils engaged in video-communication exchanges using meta-communicative devices to achieve intercultural understanding. Chen and Yang (2016) researched the effects of the United Beyond Our Diversity project for the development of language skills and intercultural communicative competence in Taiwanese seventh grade learners who engaged in collaborative work in wikis with pupils from five different countries. Finally, Ware and Kessler (2016) studied the interaction patterns of adolescent students as they built relationships with their intercultural partners through postings and reactions to a blog. They also explored the pedagogical resources upon which teachers rely when introducing innovative literacy practices into the secondary learning environments.

2.1. Telecollaboration in teacher education

9Without adequate training, teachers often teach as they were taught and are not equipped to face the challenges of a globalized, increasingly digitized dynamic and diverse society (Howard, 2013; Eetmer et al., 2010). In an attempt to address current challenges, teacher education programmes are being called on to integrate internationalization (Kissock & Richardson, 2010) and meaningful use of digital environments to prepare educators for the globally interdependent world in which they will work and their students will live, by opening the world to students through international experience and integrating a global perspective throughout the curriculum (Kissock & Richardson, 2010: 89).

10Despite educators' enthusiasm and efforts to innovate and broaden the horizons of education, reality shows that introducing digital and pedagogical innovation in mainstream educational settings is not without its difficulties (Howard, 2013; Eetmer & Otterbreit-Leftwich, 2010). Research has shown that training and coaching seem to be instrumental for successful pedagogical innovation (Lofthouse, Leat & Towler, 2010).

11A number of teacher education institutions have integrated TC experiences following experiential learning approaches (Kolb, 1984). Jauregi, Graaff, and Bergh (2012) describe how trainee language teachers from the Netherlands were given the opportunity to engage in the use of TC, not just by having them read key papers on TC topics, but by actively involving them in the preparation, implementation and evaluation of TC exchanges with Czech students. This involvement took place at three different levels: task design, task completion in the TC environment with the Czech students, and task evaluation. In this final stage, student-teachers carried out action research on the effects that the TC tasks designed and the TC exchanges implemented had on various aspects, namely communication processes, the development of intercultural awareness and language proficiency of students and their role as teachers in the TC exchanges. They finally reflected on the challenges faced and the added value of TC to enhance intercultural language learning processes. Similarly, Dooly and Sadler (2013) carried out a telecollaborative project in teacher education whereby student-teachers in Spain and the US were required to collaborate online to co-create podcasts, along with accompanying pedagogical tasks, and to give peer feedback on several activities, including teaching sequences. To this end, they used different computer mediated communication tools: emails, podcasting, wikis, Moodle, Skype and Second Life. The study showed that the TC experience enhanced teacher development through opportunities to become familiar with innovative computer-mediated communication methods for communicative-based language learning and enabled them to better connect theory and practice. Very recently, Fuchs (2016) investigated how student teachers of English in the US and in Turkey negotiated the design, implementation and evaluation of technology-based English language learning tasks. Fuchs analyzed different data sources (questionnaires, telecollaboration logs and computer-mediated communication data such as blogs and email) to examine the types of negotiation that telecollaborative teams displayed at the project's micro (TC) and macro levels (institution). Finally, Tanghe and Park (2016) present the teacher-educators' implementation of a TC project as well as students' experiences with TC, by focusing on the students' intergroup interactions and how these cooperative experiences and positioning patterns facilitated co-construction of meanings.

12But what are the specific skills and competences that teachers need in order to be able to successfully integrate TC exchanges in the languages curriculum? Ernest et al. (2013) examined the main competences and skills used by a group of teachers to successfully collaborate in virtual environments. These authors presented the skills that teachers need to promote virtual collaborative learning, such as planning and managing the collaboration, designing appropriate tasks, giving clear instructions and fostering students' negotiation of rules for participation, moderating at the right level, and choosing the right environment and the appropriate tools. O'Dowd (2015) developed a model of competences for the telecollaborative teacher consisting of 40 "can do" statements that are divided into four categories: organisational, pedagogical, digital competences, and attitudes and beliefs. (See Table 1 for an example of the "can do" statements related to pedagogical competences.)

Table 1–Pedagogical competences of the telecollaborative teacher (O'Dowd, 2015: 67-68).

The telecollaborative teacher

  • can identify tasks for the online exchange which meet at least some of the objectives of the participating classes' curricula;

  • can support students in discerning and reflecting upon culturally contingent patterns of interaction in follow-up classroom discussions;

  • can apply his/her knowledge of the culture and language of the partner class to organise culturally and linguistically rich tasks for the exchange;

  • can design tasks which are attractive and relevant for students and which serve to develop culturally and linguistically rich interaction;

  • can design tasks which support the activities of collaborative inquiry and the construction of knowledge;

  • can integrate appropriate assessment procedures and rubrics which accurately reflect the activities which students carried out during their exchange;

  • can explain clearly to students what is expected from them during an exchange–deadlines, performance objectives, learning outcomes, etc.

  • can integrate seamlessly and effectively the content and themes of the telecollaborative exchange into his/her contact classes (when they exist) before, during and after the exchange itself;

  • can provide learning support for learners either through scaffolded guidance (in the classroom or in online tutorials) or through the provision of reflective tools, such as learning logs or journals.

13This model of competences will certainly contribute to the design of adequate training and coaching programs for teachers willing to integrate TC exchanges in their curriculum. However, as far as we know, no research study has so far addressed the adequacy or effectiveness of training and coaching programs for secondary school teachers in the process of integrating TC practices as a means of innovating and enriching pedagogical goals.

2.2. Coaching

14Coaching in education is a relatively new field of research, as the first publications only go back to the early 2000s (Nieuwerburgh, 2012: 7). Coaching has been defined as:

focused professional dialogue designed to aid the coachee in developing specific professional skills to enhance their teaching repertoire. (...) For teachers, it often supports experimentation with new classroom strategies (Lofthouse, Leat & Towler, 2010: 8).

15Nieuwerbugh highlights the importance of increasing self-awareness and a sense of personal responsibility in the coaching process. According to McGrane and Lofthouse (2010: 188), the key qualities of coaching are:

  • promoting professional dialogue on teaching issues that are of interest to the coachee;

  • planning, developing and evaluating teaching activities in collaborative way;

  • facilitating experimentation and reflection;

  • fostering reflection that will help effective teachers when planning and evaluating their teaching by discussing pedagogical issues in their teaching.

16Taking these coaching principles as starting points, within the TILA project, secondary school teachers were trained and intensively coached in the process of preparing, carrying out, and evaluating TC exchanges in their language course.

3. Study

17The study described in this paper was carried out as part of the already mentioned TILA project, which was funded by the European Commission and aimed to integrate TC across secondary schools in France, Germany, Holland, Spain and the UK. Numerous TC projects were implemented between 2013-2015 in English, French, German, and Spanish at levels ranging from A2 to B2 (CECR levels). Both synchronous and asynchronous projects were conducted for oral and written interaction. A variety of tools was used, namely videocommunication software, chat applications, virtual worlds and forums among others. Secondary school teachers were trained throughout the project on how to implement telecollaborative activities in the foreign language classroom. Every teacher was allocated a partner in a different country so that their classes could work together. They were then assigned to a "coach," one of the TILA researchers, according to their expertise in the teachers' foreign languages. Coaches provided teachers with pedagogical guidance and technical support before, during, and after TC sessions. An estimated 550 hours of coaching were provided through weekly or biweekly remote meetings and email communication between the coach and the two collaborating teachers. Comprehensive guidance was provided in terms of pedagogical and technical issues. Below is a description of some of the aspects dealt with:

  • Goal-setting, including agreeing on the number of TC sessions to be organized in a term, setting relevant dates, and selecting the topics that they would like to work on.

  • Session planning, which involved designing task sequences, producing supporting materials, dealing with pedagogical and technical considerations, such as student pairings, identifying challenges and solutions.

  • In-session coaching, which consisted of remote troubleshooting during TC sessions (solving problems with log-in, regrouping students due to absences, etc.)

  • Post-session reviewing after each TC session. The recorded interactions, which both the coach and coachee could view, was a useful starting point for discussion on which aspects worked and which could be improved.

3.1. Research questions

18The present study seeks to address the gap in TC research studies on the role coaching plays in developing specific teacher competences for TC, as no previous study has addressed this issue.

19Two main research questions are addressed in this case study:

  1. How do teachers value the pedagogical guidance provided by the coach in the process of preparing, implementing and evaluating TC exchanges in their language classroom?

  2. To what extent does coaching contribute to the development of teacher competences necessary to successfully implement TC exchanges?

3.2. Participants

20The participants in the study are 23 secondary school teachers who were actively involved in the TILA project at the time of the study: six teachers from six French schools, three teachers from two Dutch schools, seven teachers from five Spanish schools, three teachers from two English schools and four teachers from three German schools (see Table 2). For most of them, it was their first experience with TC. Informed consent was obtained from all participants.

Table 2–List of participating teachers

Country

Number of teachers

Lingua Franca

Tandem

Foreign

Languages

France

6

5

1

English, German

The Netherlands

3

2

1

English, German, Spanish

Spain

7

4

3

English

United Kingdom

3

1

2

German, Spanish

Germany

4

2

2

English

Spanish

 

3.3. Data collection

21Two surveys were created: a coaching evaluation survey (Annex 1) and a competences survey (Annex 2). The coaching evaluation survey was devised in close collaboration with all the TILA researchers, who provided feedback on a draft version. It was available in all the project languages, namely Dutch, English, French, German and Spanish and it consisted of 17 items referring to the support received from the allocated coach before, during, and after the TC experience. The participants were asked to rate on a 5-point Likert scale the support provided by their coach regarding task design, technical assistance, organizational issues, TC assessment, and, finally, to express their level of satisfaction with the coaching service provided. Additional items on aspects such as the timeliness and frequency of teachers' exchanges with their coach were also included. For all items, 5 is the highest possible score and 1 is the lowest. The survey was disseminated electronically to all participants on completion of their TC activities. Below is a sample item:

8. How would you rate the advice provided during the telecollaboration period in terms of the organisational issues involved (matching students, splitting groups, working during class time or outside class, etc.)?

(1 = Very poor; 5 = Excellent)

Additional Comments:

22The competences survey was designed to gather specific information about the teacher competences developed through the TC experience. It was circulated after the TC experience via SurveyMonkey in Dutch, English, French, German, and Spanish only to a subset of the teachers who completed the coaching survey and who took part in at least three TC sessions during the project (a total of 15 participants were contacted and 12 completed the questionnaire). The survey is based on O'Dowd's model of competences for the telecollaborative teacher (2015) and includes 34 items: nine items on organizational competences; five items on pedagogical competences; three items on digital competences, and two items on attitudes and beliefs. The remaining items correspond to demographic questions. Only the descriptors that refer to aspects dealt with in the coaching programme have been included in this survey. Participants were asked to rate on a scale from 1 to 10 their ability regarding the selected descriptor at the beginning and at the end of the TC experience. An additional 15 items were included at the beginning of the questionnaire to gather demographic and background information. Below is a sample item:

Rate your ability to design an exchange which is suitable for your students

AT THE BEGINNING OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE:

AT THE END OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE:

Comments:

3.4. Data analysis

23The data analysis carried out was primarily quantitative, although qualitative data were also gathered through open-ended written questions. Descriptive statistics were calculated to identify trends (mean) and distribution (standard deviation). Answers to open-ended questions and comments were grouped according to topics following the principles of grounded theory (Ralph et al., 2015).

4. Results

4.1. Coaching evaluation survey

24The data collected through the first coaching survey provide more specific information about the nature of the coaching provided. Most teachers were in contact with their coach weekly (39%), biweekly (26%) or every month (22%) with just a minority having less frequent meetings (5%). The most widely used means of communication between coach and coachee was email, followed by the video-communication software BigBlueButton and Skype and the virtual world OpenSim. Only in a minority of cases were there face-to-face meetings, given that most participants were geographically dispersed. The main results of the coaching survey are displayed in Table 3.

Table 3–Coaching survey results. 5-point Likert scale (5 highly positive....1 very negative). N: 23.

Item

Mean

StDev

Help setting up partnerships

4.5

0.8

Help with task design

4.5

1

Help with technical problems

4.3

1

Help with platforms

4.3

1

Help with organisational aspects

4.4

0.8

Help with evaluation

4.2

1.3

Confidence for TC

3.9

1

Satisfaction with coaching

4.7

0.8

Coaching responded to needs

3.9

1

Timeliness in coach's response

4.8

0.5

25Teachers valued very positively their coach's support for setting up TC partnerships (Mean: 4.5; StDev: 0.8). In terms of the assistance provided, most respondents highly valued the guidance offered in terms of task design (Mean: 4.5; StDev: 0.8), with 70% of the participants rating it 5 points out of 5. The assistance offered to solve technical problems also scored highly (Mean: 4.3; StDev: 1), with 57% of the participants rating it 5 points and 26% 4 points out of 5. Positive feedback was obtained in terms of the help provided in learning to use new platforms such as BigBlueButton or OpenSim (Mean: 4.3; StDev: 1) and with organizational issues (Mean: 4.4; StDev: 0.8), with a majority of 5 and 4 scores in both cases.

26When asked how confident they feel to undertake telecollaborative activities in the future, most teachers indicated that they feel quite prepared to be able to successfully integrate TC in their courses (Mean: 3.9; StDev: 1). Finally, according to the data gathered, the satisfaction with the coaching provided is extremely high (Mean: 4.7; StDev: 0.8), with 78% of the participants rating it 5 points out of 5. In fact, most teachers state that the coaching responded to their needs (Mean: 3.9; StDev: 1) and valued very highly the timeliness in their coach's responses (Mean: 4.8; StDev: 0.5).

27The quantitative data detailed above is accompanied by a series of open-ended comments provided by the teachers. Teachers value greatly the support provided by coaches in terms of the encouragement and ideas offered. They also mentioned more practical aspects such as their role in helping both parties meet previously agreed deadlines, which can be a challenge when combined with heavy teaching workloads. The coaches' availability and the timeliness of their responses feature highly in the comments gathered, as is their crucial role in coordinating work with their partner teachers. In terms of task design, teachers highlight the importance of their coaches' input in creating and organizing realistic tasks. Finally, the coach is also a valued guide when it comes to solving technical difficulties, something which is mentioned repeatedly in the comments provided by most participants. Although teachers indicate that, after having received coaching in TILA, they feel more prepared to undertake telecollaborative activities in the future, some of them point out that technical difficulties still pose a challenge. There are also some concerns about the feasibility of fitting telecollaboration into their full teaching workloads.

28A very limited number of negative comments were collected. They refer to specific problems with partnerships that did not succeed due to technical problems and delays in communication amongst the parties involved. Other isolated negative comments were recorded referring, on the one hand, to the difficulties involved in setting up new partnerships and, on the other, to the limitations imposed by the national curriculum followed in each country, which do not necessarily converge.

4.2. Telecollaborative competences survey

29According to the data gathered in the teacher competences survey, the participants' perceived telecollaborative competence increased after the TC experience across all items. As shown in Table 4, the most noticeable improvement was recorded in descriptors relating to digital competences. Teachers also expressed considerable progress in organizational aspects and, to a lesser extent, in pedagogical competences and attitudes and beliefs.

Table 4–Perceived competence scores before and after the TC experience.

Organisational

Pedagogical

Digital

Attitudes and Beliefs

After

8.34

8.51

8.25

8.75

Before

6.89

7.32

6.69

7.7

  • 1 The descriptor codes used in O'Dowd's model of competences have been used. A2 to A7 refer to organi (...)

30An item-specific analysis (see Table 5) reveals that the most noticeable changes in teachers' ability, according to their own perception, are in items related to the following aspects1:

  • Implementing an exchange experience successfully: organizing synchronous interactions (C5, +1.83) and designing an exchange effectively (A3, +2.17), adjusting to changing conditions and difficulties (A7, +1.34).

  • Communicating with the partner-teacher (in terms of their plans and expectations, A2, +1.59, and negotiating the specific aspects of an exchange bearing in mind both institutional contexts, A4b, +1.75).

  • Task design and task selection: identifying tasks that meet the curriculum's objectives (B1, +1.66) and designing attractive tasks that lead to rich interaction (B4, +1.5).

  • Working with the students: creating effective partnerships (A5b, +1.75) and explaining to students how to use a given tool (C3, +1.5).

Table 5–Items showing the most noticeable perceived improvement.

Item

Before

After

Total

Mean

SD

Mean

SD

Implementing an exchange experience successfully (organising synchronous interactions)

6.33

1.74

8.16

1.02

+1.83

Designing an exchange effectively

6.25

2.13

8.42

1.16

+2.17

Adjusting to changing conditions and difficulties

6.41

1.97

7.75

1.71

+1.34

Communicating with the partner-teacher (in terms of their plans and expectations)

7.33

1.96

8.5

1.16

+1.17

Negotiating the specific aspects of an exchange bearing in mind both institutional contexts

7

1.70

8.16

1.46

+1.16

Task design and task selection (identifying tasks that meet the curriculum's objectives)

6.75

1.60

8.41

1.31

+1.66

Designing attractive tasks that lead to rich interaction

7.25

1.81

8.75

0.96

+1.5

Working with the students (creating effective partnerships)

6.5

1.62

8.25

1.21

+1.75

Explaining to students how to use a given tool

6.66

1.87

8.16

1.46

+1.5

31The participants' perceived ability before the TC experience was markedly low (scores below 7 out of 10) in all the items listed above except for B4, which relates to the ability to design tasks that fit into the curriculum. No other items have scored below 7 in the whole questionnaire, which might suggest that through their experience as participants they succeeded in strengthening the very competences that they lacked.

32On the other hand, minor perceived improvements were reported in items relating to teachers' ability to support students (B9), matching students (A5a), integrating TC topics into regular classes (B8) and in their willingness to reach a compromise in how the TC is designed (D3) (see Table 6). This might be due to the fact that these are competences that teachers develop on a daily basis in their teaching.

Table 6–Less noticeable perceived improvements.

Item

Before

After

Total

Mean

SD

Mean

SD

A5a: employ various strategies to "match" learners from the different institutions

7

1.86

7.43

1.46

+0.43

B8: integrate seamlessly and effectively the content and themes of the telecollaborative exchange into his/her contact classes (when they exist) before, during, and after the exchange itself

7.3

1.8

8.25

1.13

+0.95

B9: provide learning support for learners either through scaffolded guidance (in the classroom or in online tutorials) or through the provision of reflective tools, such as learning logs or journals

7

2

7.5

1.6

+0.5

D3a: willingness to look for compromise with the partner-teacher in relation to task design, exchange structure, and other issues

7.9

2

9

0.7

+1.1

33The open-ended commentaries support the findings yielded by the quantitative data. They refer to improved pedagogical competences, particularly when it comes to choosing the right tool for a specific task, designing tasks that are appropriate for TC, creating task sequences, and learning to fine-tune tasks according to previous experiences. Organizational competences are also mentioned in the open-ended comments, where the supporting role of the coach is highlighted by several participants. Finally, teachers also report considerable improvement in their digital competences, with special mention to how to solve technical problems and how to work with certain tools.

34When asked about the role played by their coach in the development of their TC competences, the participants highlighted the assistance provided concerning organisational issues:

Very helpful, especially for organisational aspects.

Their guidance in solving organisational and technical problems has been useful and they have helped us achieve our common goals.

35In general, teachers seemed to value highly the support provided:

Excellent guidance.

The help provided by our coach has been priceless.

The experience would not have been so positive without the support and empathy provided by our coach.

We have felt supported and motivated by our coach.

Essential. I've felt supported at all times.

5. Discussion and conclusion

36As shown in the data gathered in this study, coaching seems to have an exceptional value, according to teachers' perceptions, when it comes to innovating curricula in education and supporting teachers in this challenging endeavour. Teachers very much appreciated the coaching during the TC projects. The reality is that few teachers are willing to engage in innovative digital pedagogical practices in mainstream education: from the 269 secondary school teachers who participated in TC training, only 48 teachers from 27 schools and 837 pupils took part in TC exchanges throughout the whole TILA project. The participants in this study were 23 teachers who successfully engaged in more than three telecollaborative practices. Prior to initiating their TC implementation experiences, they undertook training on TC consisting of 4-8 hours of hands-on sessions. However, as we can see from the high values recorded in the coaching survey, coaching has an added value when it comes to successfully integrating complex pedagogical innovation in the curriculum. Indeed, working with partners internationally, negotiating and aligning pedagogical objectives, developing digital literacies for pedagogical purposes, designing, implementing and evaluating rich tasks for TC, coaching pupils to help them develop intercultural communicative competences, social skills, digital literacies, and assessing adequately this multifaceted development are extremely demanding tasks for teachers, who mostly follow a much simpler way in mainstream education, heavily based on their chosen textbook.

37The challenges that the telecollaborative teacher faces are tremendous. Coaching seems to be a very powerful method to support teachers in the process of implementing complex pedagogical innovations at school. This is done in a highly supportive atmosphere, that teachers highly appreciate, and in which they reflect upon, analyze, evaluate, and share complex issues related to organizational, pedagogical, and digital concerns of TC. The results of this case study show that, according to the teachers' perceptions, coaching contributed to develop several TC skills: teachers learned among other things to (1) design an exchange effectively, adjusting to changing conditions and difficulties, to communicate with the partner-teacher (in terms of their plans and expectations) and negotiate the specific aspects of an exchange bearing in mind both institutional contexts; (2) design and select rich and attractive tasks that fit into the curriculum's objectives and that lead to rich interaction and (3) work with the students to create effective partnerships and explain how to use a given tool.

38When reviewing the existing literature on TC, it becomes apparent that, despite the wealth of bibliographical literature (cf. our theoretical section), very few studies have addressed TC in secondary education. This small number of studies has initially focused on students: their language skills development, their intercultural communicative competence, and the strategies employed in order to establish intercultural exchange. In this sense, despite a restricted number of participants, our study presents a double interest, to our knowledge not previously explored. Firstly, it addresses a body of secondary level language teachers; and secondly, it explores a) the role that training and coaching play in developing crucial pedagogical, organizational, and digital competences for TC activities, and b) the promoting of attitudes conducive to the implementation of TC. Further research will consist in reviewing the results of this initial case study so as to validate them, based on enquiries conducted on a more significant participant sample.

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Annexe

ANNEX 1

Coaching evaluation survey

1. School's name and country:

2. Name of the coach(es):

3. Coaching period:

Before the telecollaboration

4. How would you rate the support provided initially by your coach to set up the telecollaboration partnership? (creating teacher and student Moodle accounts, Moodle courses, technical requirements to use BBB and Opensim at school, etc.)

(1 = Very poor; 5 = Excellent)

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5

Additional Comments:

During the telecollaboration period

5. How would you rate the support provided for task design during the telecollaboration period?

(1 = Very poor; 5 = Excellent)

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5

Additional comments:

6. How would you rate the support provided during the telecollaboration period to solve technical problems?

(1 = Very poor; 5 = Excellent)

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5

Additional comments:

7. How would you rate the support provided during the telecollaboration period to use a given platform (Moodle chat, forum, wikis, BBB, Opensim, etc.) confidently?

(1 = Very poor; 5 = Excellent)

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5

Additional Comments:

8. How would you rate the advice provided during the telecollaboration period in terms of the organisational issues involved (matching students, splitting groups, working during class time or outside class, etc.)?

(1 =Very poor; 5 = Excellent)

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5

Additional Comments:

9. How often have you been in touch with your coach during the telecollaboration project (preparation, implementation, evaluation)?

Every day____ Every week____ Every two weeks____

Every month____ Every six weeks____ Every two months

Additional Comments:

10. How would you rate the timeliness of the coaching provided?

(1 = Not very timely at all; 5 = Extremely timely)

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5

Additional Comments:

11. What was the most frequently used mode of communication for coaching?

(Tick all that apply and sort them in order, starting with the most frequently used to the least frequently used)

___ Email

___ BBB

____ Skype

____ OpenSim

____ Face to face

Additional Comments:

12. Would you say that your technical and pedagogical needs have been covered during this period?

(1 = Not at all; 5 = Absolutely)

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5

Additional Comments:

Evaluation

13. Has the teacher been active in evaluating the experience (tasks, pupils, objectives…)?

(1 = Not at all; 5 = Absolutely)

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5

Additional Comments:

14. Has your coach played a role in this process?

(1 = Not at all; 5 = Absolutely)

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5

Additional Comments:

15. To what extent do you think that the coaching provided has equipped you with skills to implement telecollaboration practices confidently in the future?

(1 = Not at all; 5 = Absolutely)

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5

Additional Comments:

16. How satisfied are you with the coaching provided so far?

(1 = Not satisfied at all; 5 = Very satisfied).

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5

17. Do you have any suggestions on how we can improve the coaching process?

ANNEX 2

Telecollaboration Competences Survey

Thank you for taking the time to complete this survey.

1) About you

1. Name (optional):

2. Delete as appropriate: male ____ female ____

3. Which country do you work in?:

France

Germany

Holland

Spain

UK

Other: ____

4. Which foreign language(s) do you teach:

Dutch

English

French

German

Spanish

Other: ____

5. How many years have you been working as a secondary school teacher?

6. Before taking part in TILA, did you have any telecollaboration experience?

Yes____ No____

Please elaborate:

7. How many telecollaboration sessions did you implement with your students during the TILA project?

8. In which language did you carry out the telecollaboration project?

9. In which communication constellation?

Lingua Franca

Tandem

A combination of both

10. Which tools did you use for the telecollaboration sessions?

11. On a scale of 1 to 10, how satisfied were you with the telecollaboration experience?

(10 = extremely satisfied; 1 = not satisfied at all).

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5

Please elaborate:

12. Have you continued using telecollaboration in your classes?

Yes

No

If you answered "no", why?

13. Would you like telecollaboration to become a part of the curriculum at school?

Yes____

No____

Why?

14. What would you need in order to include telecollaboration experiences in your courses in a sustainable way?

a. Equipment

b. Better Internet connections

c. The assistance of an IT expert at school

d. A reliable partner

e. Coaching

f. Other:

2) Your competences

Now you are going to be asked to rate your ability at the beginning and at the end of the telecollaboration experience in a series of competences that are divided into four broad blocks: organisational, pedagogical, digital, and attitudes and beliefs. Use a scale from 1 to 10 where 1 is the lowest ability and 5 the highest.

Organisational competences

15. Rate your ability to design an exchange which is suitable for your students.

AT THE BEGINNING OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

AT THE END OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

Comments:

16. Rate your ability to negotiate effectively with your partner-teacher the structure of the exchange taking into account both institutional contexts (needs and interests of both sets of participants).

AT THE BEGINNING OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

AT THE END OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

Comments:

17. Rate your ability to negotiate effectively with your partner-teacher the organisational technicalities of the exchange taking into account both institutional contexts (calendars, etc.).

AT THE BEGINNING OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

AT THE END OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

Comments:

18. Rate your ability to employ various strategies to "match" learners from the different institutions.

AT THE BEGINNING OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

AT THE END OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

Comments:

19. Rate your ability to create effective partnerships.

AT THE BEGINNING OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

AT THE END OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

Comments:

20. Rate your ability to maintain a good working relationship with your partner-teacher throughout the exchange, identifying problems as they arise.

AT THE BEGINNING OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

AT THE END OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

Comments:

21. Rate your ability to alter the logistics of the exchange to adapt to developments and problems as they arise (e.g. low levels of participation, access to technology problems, etc.).

AT THE BEGINNING OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

AT THE END OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

Comments:

22. Rate your ability to articulate to your virtual partner teachers the learning objectives and pedagogical beliefs that lie behind your proposed tasks.

AT THE BEGINNING OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

AT THE END OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

Comments:

23. Rate your ability to explain clearly to possible partner-teachers your plans and expectations related to a possible exchange.

AT THE BEGINNING OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

AT THE END OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

Comments:

Pedagogical competences

24. Rate your ability to identify tasks for the online exchange which meet at least some of the objectives of the participating classes' curricula.

AT THE BEGINNING OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

AT THE END OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

Comments:

25. Rate your ability to design tasks which are attractive and relevant for students and which develop culturally and linguistically rich interaction.

AT THE BEGINNING OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

AT THE END OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

Comments:

26. Rate your ability to explain clearly to students what is expected from them during an exchange: deadlines, performance objectives, learning outcomes, etc.

AT THE BEGINNING OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

AT THE END OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

Comments:

27. Rate your ability to integrate seamlessly and effectively the content and themes of the telecollaborative exchange into your contact classes (when they exist) before, during, and after the exchange itself.

AT THE BEGINNING OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

AT THE END OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

Comments:

28. Rate your ability to provide learning support for learners (through in-class or online support, through reflective tools like learning logs, etc.).

AT THE BEGINNING OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

AT THE END OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

Comments:

Digital competences

29. Rate your ability to choose the appropriate online communication tools to fit both the everyday online practices of the students as well as the project's aims.

AT THE BEGINNING OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

AT THE END OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

Comments:

30. Rate your ability to explain the use of the chosen tools to your students.

AT THE BEGINNING OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

AT THE END OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

Comments:

31. Rate your ability to organise real-time student interaction taking into account the particular affordances and technicalities of synchronous tools such as videoconferencing, chat, etc.

AT THE BEGINNING OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

AT THE END OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

Comments:

Attitudes and beliefs

32. Rate your openness to partner teachers' alternative pedagogical beliefs and aims.

AT THE BEGINNING OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

AT THE END OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

Comments:

33. Rate your willingness to look for compromise with the partner-teacher in the telecollaboration activities (e.g.: task design, exchange structure, etc.).

AT THE BEGINNING OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

AT THE END OF THE TELECOLLABORATION EXPERIENCE

__ 1 ___2 ___ 3 __ 4 __ 5 __ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10

Comments:

The coaching experience

34. Finally, please indicate whether your coach has played a significant role in you acquiring any of the competences mentioned during the telecollaboration experience.

Thank you very much for your time.

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Notes

1 The descriptor codes used in O'Dowd's model of competences have been used. A2 to A7 refer to organisational competences, B1-B4 to pedagogical, C3 and C5 to digital and D3 to attitudes and beliefs.

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Pour citer cet article

Référence

Kristi Jauregi et Sabela Melchor-Couto, « The role of coaching in teacher competence development for telecollaboration », Alsic [En ligne],  | 2017, mis en ligne le 10 novembre 2017, Consulté le 11 décembre 2017. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/alsic/3149 ; DOI : 10.4000/alsic.3149

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Auteurs

Kristi Jauregi

Dr Kristi Jauregi is a lecturer-researcher at Utrecht University. Her main area of research is telecollaboration. She has initiated and coordinated innovative EU-funded projects (NIFLAR and TILA) and has participated in the Euroversity network. She is co-chair of the Eurocall SIG Virtual Worlds & Serious Games and a member of the Dutch Expertise Team for Foreign Language Pedagogy.
Email: k.jauregi@uu.nl
Address: University of Utrecht (Holland), Department of Languages, Literature and Culture, Trans 10, 3512 JK Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Sabela Melchor-Couto

Dr Sabela Melchor-Couto is a senior lecturer in Spanish at the University of Roehampton (London). Sabela's research interests are the use of virtual worlds for telecollaboration and affective variables in language learning. She has been involved in the TILA project, both as work package leader and researcher.
Email: s.melchor-couto@roehampton.ac.uk
Address: Queen's Building, Department of Media, Culture and Language. University of Roehampton, Roehampton Lane. SW15 5SL London, UK.

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