Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Edwin M. Dickey


Only recently, the well-documented shortage of secondary mathematics teachers is being attributed to retention. Wenger’s Communities of Practice (CoPs) and the provision of same subject mentors have been shown to provide teachers with support, opportunities to collaborate, and a reduction in their feelings of isolation – all factors known to impact retention positively. The rapid advancement and prevalence of online social media provide easily accessible, cost effective means to connect teachers with each other and with same subject mentors.

This study investigated the primary question: What, if any, is the relationship between the retention of first-year secondary school mathematics teachers and their participation in an Online Support Group (OSG) that employs strategies for successful CoPs proposed by Wenger and includes a mentor who is trained in secondary mathematics education? To answer this question the following sub-questions were studied: How do members of a CoP negotiate and finalize the selection of a social media platform to serve as the means of providing online support and communication? What are the characteristics of this OSG of induction-year secondary mathematics teachers and an online same subject mentor? To what degree, if any, does the OSG function as a CoP with the structural characteristics defined by Wenger? To what degree, if any, does participation in the OSG CoP mitigate factors found in the literature known to impact teacher retention negatively? To what degree, if any, does an off-site, online mentor who is trained in mathematics education impact retention?

This study documents how a same subject mentor and a cohort of teachers negotiated the selection of an online-communications platform and formed an OSG in an effort to impact teacher retention positively. This OSG consisted of ten induction-year secondary mathematics teachers – who were part of the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program and recently graduated from a large southeastern university – and one same subject mentor – an adjunct faculty member (the researcher) – at the same university – using the educational social media platform, Edmodo.

Using a qualitative, netnographic approach, data sources included four months of participant observation, transcripts and fieldnotes from the Edmodo private group, individual and focus group interviews with community members, and surveys of community members.

Findings suggest that the Edmodo OSG was able to function as a CoP, with the structural characteristics defined by Wenger, to provide support and opportunities for collaboration as well reduce participants’ feelings of isolation – all factors associated with increased teacher retention. The key impact of the same subject mentor was her creation and implementation of a pay-for-participation plan which served as a catalyst for meaningful, frequent, and sustained participation of community members.


© 2015, Beth Rexroad Oliver