A case study of professional development in an online environment: The experiences of a group of elementary teachers
Rebecca Davis Adams, New Mexico State University, United States
New Mexico State University . Awarded
Professional development of teachers is a critical component of school improvement. Professional development that is not embraced and valued by school staff cannot accomplish goals of supporting teachers in continuous improvement toward best practice.
The purpose of this research was to study a small group of elementary school teachers as they participated in a professional development initiative set up online so that issues regarding the quality and effectiveness of professional development for K-12 teachers were addressed by the strengths of an online environment: choice, community building, and extended learning over time.
This 9-month phenomenological case study focused on a small group of elementary school teachers from the same school who chose to participate in professional development online using WebCT Campus Edition. The study goals were to record what happened as they used this mode of learning, to determine whether they became a learning community, and to identify how they transferred learning to practice.
Many teachers are accustomed to professional development that is driven by people whom they never see, who seem far removed from classrooms and the needs and desires of classroom educators. In fact, much staff development is removed from teachers' needs. Research indicates that successful teacher professional development activities extend over time and encourage the development of collaborative learning communities where teachers can share experience, discourse, and active learning approaches will colleagues as they explore new strategies for teaching and learning.
Online learning offers opportunities that support diverse learners in school settings. When teachers become the learners, can this convenient environment assist in meeting the challenges that teachers face in order to participate in effective professional development? The online environment can be set up to support each of these areas for participants as e-learning extends beyond access to information and builds on communicative and interactive features. Participants can be engaged in collegial learning through discussions, chats, and problem-based exercises and then transfer the new ideas to classroom strategies while enjoying collaboration that has otherwise been a challenge in this profession.
Adams, R.D. A case study of professional development in an online environment: The experiences of a group of elementary teachers. Ph.D. thesis, New Mexico State University.
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