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Virtual Teacher Collaboration: A Case Study of Singleton High School Teachers


Teacher professional learning communities (PLCs) provide a promising approach for improving teacher practice and student learning. However, challenges such as a lack of stable settings, lack of content-alike PLC groupings for singleton teachers, and interpersonal issues related to the collaborative inquiry process, impede their effective implementation in schools. Virtual PLCs (vPLCs) may solve some logistical obstacles yet exacerbate interpersonal issues, given their own unique challenges. This descriptive case study examines how a strategically designed vPLC was implemented to foster group social connection among four geographically spread singleton high school teachers, who sought to improve psychology instruction. This study utilizes observations, participant perceptions, and web-based document analyses to provide a detailed description of a 12-week vPLC. Specifically, it investigates the establishment and development of group social connection, and ways in which the vPLC was implemented to support group social connection. The study imparts two broad categories of findings. First, the findings suggest the importance of establishing and developing two interrelated types of group social connection in the virtual context: group social presence, and collegiality via joint productive activity (JPA). Practitioners can privilege and structure group social connection by providing time and space for teachers to engage in intentionally designed tasks and prompts that support teachers’ interpersonal interactions and JPA. Second, evidence suggests that group social connection is supported by technical mediators enacted by a trained facilitator to promote media naturalness in the virtual context. Practitioners can specifically support group social connection by intentionally addressing three dimensions of media naturalness to support group social connection in the virtual context: audiovisual, collaboration, and facilitation naturalness.

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