Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Clayton Lewis

Second Advisor

Lorenzo Gonzales

Third Advisor

Sarah Hug

Fourth Advisor

Edwidge Simon

Fifth Advisor

Noah Finkelstein

Abstract

Teachers in rural Native American Pueblo schools in New Mexico lack professional development opportunities due to the long distances between the Pueblos and academic institutions. Previously, most schools received “hit and run” professional development sessions conducted once or twice a year that did not address the real issues faced by teachers each day. To remedy this, Los Alamos National Laboratory established the Math & Science Academy (MSA) in 2000, a K-12 professional development program for teachers that provides intensive and continuous three-year training and support for schools in Northern New Mexico. Though very successful, the MSA program was limited by lack of an online component of the program therefore lacking continuity between professional development sessions. This led to a desire to incorporate a collaborative online component that could bridge gaps between professional development sessions by making the program accessible anytime, anywhere, and on any device, while capturing the camaraderie and collaborative spirit shared in the physical meetings. This research is an ethnographic study of the design, development, and implementation of this online component, herein referred to as CLASET (Collaborative Learning and Support Environment for Teachers). The study setting is in rural, low socioeconomic, resource-poor Northern New Mexico, and involves 67 teachers and 6 principals in seven Native American schools distributed within a 100-mile radius from MSA’s staff office.

Data was collected via observations, interviews, focus group, math assessment, and web analytics. The data analysis shows that CLASET was not successful in bridging the MSA gap due to lack of adoption by the teachers. Further investigation demonstrated that five assumptions made implicitly at the beginning of the study, based on pre-assessment data, were violated. The five assumptions were: 1) teachers had math content mastery that they could feel comfortable sharing among peers; 2) CLASET would not require technical knowledge and skill beyond what teachers had acquired; 3) schools had Internet and technology support structures to allow teachers to use CLASET; 4) CLASET’s purpose was clear to teachers; and 5) teachers had time to dedicate to CLASET use. Lessons from the study suggest that CLASET has a place in bridging the professional development gap in the communities in this study and in other rural, low socioeconomic, and resource poor environments, but only if the basic assumptions are first met.

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