Slide 1: An analytical review of the literature on online professional development for teachers and tutors. Presented by Jane Feener as partial fulfillment of the course requirements for Education 6610. This analysis of the literature on online professional development was based on 15 studies.
Slide 2: Online professional development refers to Internet-based learning opportunities which can include educational courses, activities, workshops, resources and online interactions with colleagues, instructors and mentors (Chan, Chan & Tsai, 2009).
Slide 3 : The changing landscape of the 21st century requires today’s teachers to be lifelong learners who are continually developing new skills. Traditional face to face professional development for teachers and tutors who do not live close together has been difficult to plan and provide (Cornelius & Macdonald, 2008). In contrast, teacher professional development that is delivered online has helped many organizations to develop OPD programs which take advantage of computer-based technology to create learning environments that allow professionals to access training from a remote site and schedule learning at their own pace (Zhou, Varhagen, Searts, Kasprzak, & Shervey, 2007).
Slide 4: As part of the analysis, 15 sources were selected from 10 peer-reviewed educational technology journals and five educational technology books. All sources included an electronic medium and had the words online, web-based and professional development as part of the title. Furthermore, the studies had to include research participants which excluded meta-analyses and book reviews from the analysis. All the studies were identified through database searches of both Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) and Google Scholar and ranged from 2004 to 2010.
Slide : The nature of the studies in this analysis contained a variety of features. The most common delivery method of the courses in the studies was in the online format using either a synchronous or asynchronous discussion format. Although two studies followed a blended format. The participants were all teachers or tutors with most of the learners being K-12 teachers with two studies having graduate students. The number of teachers and tutors in the studies ranged anywhere from 8 up to 421. The most common subject matter studied was teacher education and mathematics.
Slide 6: The purpose of this analysis was to identify similarities and differences, to identify patterns and search for common themes on online professional development. Using a content analysis where all documents were sorted and thought about, a number of common topics were identified and further analysis of the results
Slide : The analysis of the 15 studies revealed four main themes regarding online professional development. These themes were 1) flexibility, 2) communities of practice, 3) effective learning, and 4) challenges of using technology for online professional development.
Slide : Online professional development has the potential to offer its participants flexibility (Marrero, Woodruff, Schuster & Riccio, 2010; Summerville & Johnston, 2006; Zhou et al., 2007). OPD can make available to educators anytime, anyplace professional development (Chen et al., 2009)
Slide 9: Furthermore, OPD course which are asynchronous allow educators to complete coursework either at home or work and to log on anytime day or night (Summerville & Johnston, 2006). Similarly, a synchronous course format gave teachers an opportunity to interact, collaborate, and gain knowledge from other like-minded educators without having to travel (Marrero et al., 2010).
Slide 10: In addition, online professional development offers flexibility to teachers and tutors by providing them with choice over which courses to take as well as allowing for self-paced learning. Personal preference by the participants to choose courses that dealt with specialized topics relating to their particular area of teaching is a benefit of OPD. Likewise, the ability of teachers and tutors to have the convenience of working at their own pace was an attractive feature of participating in online courses (Summerville & Johnson, 2006; Zhou et al., 2007).
Slide 11: Another theme that emerged about online professional development is that it supports a community of practice. A community of practice can develop collegial contacts, facilitate sharing, promote collaboration and reflection as well as reduce isolation. However, a community of practice can also experience challenges in the online medium.
Slide : Online professional development can help teachers build a network of collegial contacts from which they can receive support. Teachers can meet new colleagues and share new ideas (Summerville & Johnson, 2006). OPD can promote collaboration among teachers by increasing communication (Vavasseur & MacGregor, 2008) and providing the opportunity for diverse educators to work toghether toward a common goal (Vassiliki & Swan, 2010). Oonline professional development courses facilitate the sharing of information within the communities of practice as well as helping keep teachers up to date with current developments in their field. The discussion forum in online courses was used for requesting advice and help, giving notices, disseminating information, making social exchanges (Cornelius & Macdonald, 2008). Furthermore, beginning teachers supported each other during their online course through the use of the online discussion forum by offering words of encouragement to each other (Romano, 2008).
Slide : Online professional development is an effective way to develop a professional learning community. The formation of the professional learning community can be achieved through videoconferencing as a type of face-to-face synchronous online discussion (Stockero, 2010) and through face-to-face discussions with colleagues in a school community of practice (Mackey, 2009). Initiating a learning community can be difficult in the online learning environment and even harder to maintain after the course was completed (Zhou et al., 2007)
Slide 14: The theme of online professional development being effective is evident throughout the results. Participants reported an increase in knowledge (Cady & Rearden, 2009; Mackey, 2009; Marrero et al., 2010; Romano, 2008; Vassiliki & Swan, 2010; Wearmouth et al., 2004). Participants reported an increase in knowledge in four of the studies (Cady & Rearden, 2009; Mackey, 2009; Marrero et al., 2010; Vassiliki & Swan, 2010). Online courses had a positive impact on classroom instruction and gains were shown in content knowledge (Vassiliki & Swan, 2010) as well as pedagogical content knowledge (Cady & Rearden, 2009). The use of a blended online professional development course promoted learning among online participants as they were introduced to new ideas and challenged to expand their knowledge (Mackey, 2009). Furthermore, online professional development was shown to improve teaching skills. Teachers engaged in online PD were exposed to new ideas as to how to teach which made a positive impact on their teaching. Furthermore, teachers felt that through a critical discussion of issues they were conceptualizing and thus sharing ideas as well as problem solving with other students (Wearmouth et al., 2004)
Slide 15: Online professional development can increase teacher’s use of technology. Teachers gained more favorable views and profieciency with using technology after completing an online course (Vavasseur and MacGregor, 2008). Teachers not only improve their content knowledge but they also become more tech-savvy because of their involvement with online PD (Vassiliki & Swan, 2010). Teachers reported that they became more capable to integrate ICT after completing an online course and understood the appropriate teaching methods for ICT integration after completing an online course (Zhou et al., 2007)
Slide : A final theme related to OPD that emerged from the analysis is the challenges faced by this form of learning. One challenge raised by participants is the issue with technology and their profieciency with using it. Teachers felt that the unpredictable nature of internet connections was a short-coming of the online course structure (Cady & Rearden, 2009). Furthermore, a number of barrier can exist to online learning such as access issues, unfamiliarity with the medium, and a lack of confidence by participants to express their personal views in the dicussiion forums (Wearmouth et al., 2004). Another chanllenge raised in one of the studies was whether or not this form of professional development has really been successful in achieving all the goals some online professional development courses they set.
Slide : OPD is a viable means to offer professional development to teachers and tutors. A major benefit that OPD offers over traditional face-to-face professional development is flexibility. The ability of teachers and tutors to chose their courses, work at their own pace and at any time was valued (Chen et al., 2009; Marrero et al., 2010; Summerville & Johnston, 2006; Zhou et al., 2010). Furthermore, OPD is an effective way to deliver professional development. Results showed that OPD leads to improved knowledge (Cady & Rearden, 2009; Mackey, 2009; Marrero et al.,2010; Vassiliki & Swan, 2010), teaching skills (Romano, 2008; Wearmouth et al., 2004) and reflective thinking (Romano, 2008; Wearnouth et al., 2004). As teachers move into the 21st century is a model which fits well in today’s fast changing educational climate that demands teachers to continually learn new content and teaching methods (Lloyd & Howell, 2010; Whitehouse et al., 2010).
Slide : There was some evidence to suggest that being a part of a community of practice in an OPD course offers many benefits to participants (Cady & Rearden, 2009; Mackey, 2009; Romano, 2008; Wearmouth et al., 2004). This formation of collegial contacts as part of a community of practive in OPD is important because it allowed teachers and tutors to share information and promote teacher reflection (Cornelius & Macdonald, 2008; Romano, 2008; Wearmouth et al., 2004). However, there is evidence to suggest that using technology in OPD courses can also pose difficulties to teachers and tutors. Issues with students’ proficiency with technology can hamper students’ ability to be successful (Cady & Rearden 2009; Wearmouth et al., 2004). Moreover, it can be hard to form an online learning community and even harder to maintain it (Mackey, 2009; Zhou et al., 2007). There is a need to support teachers as they use OPD by providing support staff to assist with technical problems (Cady & Rearden, 2009; Marrero et al., 2010; Summerville & Johnson, 2006) and act as mentor teachers to encourage collaboration (Chen et al., 2009; Romano, 2008; Wearmouth et al., 2004; Zhou et al., 2007)
Slide : There are a number of limitations which may have affected the results of this analysis. For example, the studies used different course formats. Two of the studies included a blended course format which may have different results than if the articles has focused entirely on either online or face-to-face interactions. Another limitation is that the analysis of the studies included both tutors and teachers at both the K-12 education system as well as at the post secondary level. The use of post secondary students and tutors may have affected the results. References to tutors could have been excluded which would have then left OPD to be examined as it related just to teachers (Cornelius & Macdonald, 2008; Romano, 2008). A final boundary that could have been changed was to either look only at studies that were asynchronous or synchronous in nature. Both of these types of discussions were included in the 15 studies that were examined and the use of different forums may have impacted the analysis especially concerning the results on community of practice.
Slide : A number of implications for OPD emerged from the results of the analysis of these studies. First, there is a need to provide more support to teachers taking OPD courses. This support may be accomplished by helping teachers to learn how to use the technology and providing support when there are technical issues (Cady & Rearden, 2009;Vassiliki et al., 2010). Second, the role of a ‘guest expert’ or a mentor teacher is seen as helpful in facilitating reflective thinking (Wearmouth et al., 2004). Finally, many of the studies highlighted the importance of a community of practice for offering support, sharing ideas and information (Cornelium & Macdonald, 2008; Mackey, 2009; Marrero et al., 2010; Vavasseur & MacGregor, 2008)
Slide 21: The results of the analysis of the 15 articles suggested that online professional development offers many benefits to teachers and tutors. Online professional development provides teachers and tutors with flexibility, a community of support and an effective learning environment. However, this analysis has also shown that there are challenges that are presented when using OPD courses as a way to deliver professional development. The findings from this analysis can be helpful in the design of future online courses (Chen et al., 2009). The studies highlighted the importance for OPD to be flexible so that teachers and tutors can access the courses when needed. Similarly, OPD courses should incorporate features which allow teachers and tutors to form a community of practice. Finally, OPD was an effective way to provide teachers and tutors with content and pedagogical knowledge so there is a need for further research to examine how this new knowledge is being transferred into classroom practice (Stockero, 2010).
An analytical review of the literature on online
An analytical review of the literature on online professional development for teachers and tutors<br />Jane Feener<br />Education 6610<br />
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