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The Tennessee Department of Education

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Instructional Problem
The Tennessee Department of Education (2014) states that 70% of Tennessee Virtual Academy’s 8th grade students report rarely working in small groups or pairs to discuss written work. This is 15% lower than Union County, 39% lower than the district of East Tennessee, and 46% lower than the state (see Table 4). Toten (1991) claims that students who engage in dialogue by actively collaborating and debating ideas within a peer-group are more likely to become critical-thinkers both in and outside the educational setting. With the push for Common Core standards, critical thinking skills will be more important than ever within our school systems.
Despite commitment and dedication, teachers at Tennessee Virtual Academy, a fully-online school, have difficulty facilitating significant and meaningful academic peer collaboration during live, synchronous sessions. The school, which uses Blackboard Collaborate to host online sessions, has not provided official or mandatory training for teachers on effective group interactions in the virtual setting. Now closing its third year in operation, observation and survey feedback suggest that teachers randomly assign students to groups and do not prepare students for effective collaboration.
Current Conditions and Desired Conditions
Current Conditions
The current teaching and learning environment at Tennessee Virtual Academy does not consistently provide meaningful and dynamic teamwork between students in the virtual classroom. Over 80% of students surveyed believe that they are randomly assigned to groups (see Table 1), and only 33% of teachers surveyed believe they have spent sufficient class time training students to collaborate effectively (see Table 2).
Observations of teach...

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...ion of the effective use of breakout rooms as well as a student satisfaction survey.
Goal of Instruction
Given company laptops, Blackboard Collaborate tools, and Microsoft PowerPoint, Tennessee Virtual Academy teachers will plan and implement lessons on a weekly basis that provide purposeful peer interaction among students during synchronous sessions with a satisfaction rating of 3.0 or better as scored by a proficiency rubric.

Works Cited

Tennessee Department of Education (2014). 2012-1013 Responses to Writing Survey.
Totten, S. (1991). Cooperative learning: A guide to research. New York: Garland.
Beckman, M. (1990). Collaborative Learning: Preparation for the Workplace and Democracy. College Teaching, 38(4), 128-133.
Slavin, R.(1980). Cooperative Learning. Review of Educational Research, 50(2), 315-342. Retrieved May 8, 2014 from the Wilson Web database.
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