Going Behind the Scenes at Teacher Colleges: Online Student Knowledge Sharing through Social Network Technologies

Smadar Bar-Tal, Christa S. C. Asterhan
Interdisciplinary Journal of e-Skills and Lifelong Learning  •  Volume 13  •  2017  •  pp. 167-184

The present study aims to describe existing peer-to-peer, social network-based sharing practices among adult students in teacher colleges.

Ubiquitous social network sites open up a wide array of possibilities for peer-to-peer information and knowledge sharing. College instructors are often unaware of such practices that happen behind the scenes.

An interpretative, qualitative research methodology was used. Thirty-seven Israeli students at a teacher college in Israel participated in either focus group discussions of (N = 29) or in-depth interviews (N = 8).

Whereas knowledge sharing has been a main focus of research in organizational and information sciences, its relevance to educational settings has thus far been underscored. Recent research shows that peer–to-peer knowledge sharing is wide-spread among teenage students. The current study extends that work to an adult student population.

The findings show that knowledge sharing of this type is a common and even central feature of students’ college life and study behavior. It takes place through a variety of small and larger social network-based peer groups of different formations, including mostly college students but at time also practicing, experienced teachers. Sharing groups are formed on the spot for short term purposes or are stable, continuous over longer time periods. The contents shared are predominantly lesson summaries, material for exams, reading summaries, and lesson plans. They are used immediately or stored for future use, as students have access to vast data bases of stored materials that have been compiled throughout the years by students of previous cohorts. Teacher students mentioned a range of reasons for sharing, and overall regard it very positive. However, some downsides were also acknowledged (i.e., superficial learning, exclusion, attentional overload, and interruptions).

College faculty and teaching staff should be cognizant and informed about these widespread peer-based knowledge sharing practices and consider whether perhaps changes in teaching formats and task assignments are required as a result.

Future research should extend this work to other higher education settings, cultures and countries, and should map the perceptions of higher education teaching staff about peer-to-peer, online knowledge sharing.

social network technology, knowledge sharing, teacher training
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