Virginia S. Little Ph.D.

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Dissertation Abstract

(full dissertation here)

"I keep the subject constantly before me and wait till the first dawnings open little by little into the full light." Isaac Newton


     This dissertation project reports on teaching and learning in the on-line medium. The problem lay embodied in discovering how technology could enhance student learning in ways not possible in the regular literacy classroom. The study provides an overview of pedagogy and research drawn from current learning theory and applied in the new online context. The use of Empowerment Evaluation generated relevant data concerning the dynamics between the design and implementation of the on-line program and insight into how participants constructed their own writing community as they worked to understand, develop, and improve it.

     Thirty students enrolled in the course with an equal number of male and female participants. The multi-aged student population ranged from grades 9-12. The study reports on the data gathered from the core group of 18 students who were continuously involved over the two year period of the research study from August, 1996 through May, 1998.

     The findings suggest that the on-line medium provides a learning environment conducive to significantly improving students' writing skills, increased technology skills, networking, online communications, developing a community of learners and an integrated curriculum based on authentic inquiry. All measures point to the improvement of the students' writing abilities as well as their growth as people and an overall positive learning experience. In addition, the study strongly proves the need for administrative support in such endeavors and the necessity of established policies to guide and protect teachers undertaking the challenge of developing, implementing, and assessing these programs.




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