Establishing Communities of Practice for Effective and Sustainable Professional Development for Blended Learning

Establishing Communities of Practice for Effective and Sustainable Professional Development for Blended Learning

Terrie Lynn Thompson (University of Alberta, Canada) and Heather Kanuka (University of Alberta, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-296-1.ch008
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The growing need for professional development to help university instructors with the adoption of online teaching is being propelled from several directions. But innovative professional development initiatives, intended to help university instructors better leverage technology, particularly through blended approaches, are not without tensions. The objective of this research study was to delve into these tensions. Directors in several North American professional development centres were interviewed in order to explore how their programs supported the integration of technology into teaching. Findings suggest that there is a tension between what professional development centres are doing and what they would like to do regarding: (1) deeper integration of technology into their own teaching practices as a centre, including blended approaches; and (2) how to nurture communities of practice, comprised of university instructors focused on teaching-related issues in higher education, such as adoption of blended learning strategies. Four themes emerged: uncertainty about how best to leverage technology and blended learning, questions regarding a professional development centre’s role in cultivating communities, the importance of being strategic, and desire for scalability. The chapter concludes with policy implications and recommendations for future development of effective and sustainable professional development practices.
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The growing need for professional development to help university instructors with the adoption of online teaching is being propelled from several directions: efforts to enhance the student learning experience and therefore the quality of teaching, the constant churn of new technologies, and the evolution of higher education institutions driven by, and driving, changing expectations. The need for effective and sustaining professional development is also linked to a desire for innovations in teaching and learning methods, including blended learning.

Professional development programs do feel some pressure to integrate technology and move beyond traditional classroom approaches. Innovative professional development strategies can include not only a mix of face-to-face (F2F) and online approaches, but also nurturing communities of practice (CoP) throughout higher education institutions. But innovative professional development initiatives are not without tensions.

The overarching objective of this study was to gain a broader understanding of these tensions. We therefore interviewed directors in professional development centres in higher education institutions (most often referred to as teaching and learning centres in North America) located in the United States and Canada. We were interested in the direction professional development centres were taking to support university instructors. One objective of this research was to better understand effective and sustainable professional development programs intended to support the integration of technology into teaching through blended learning strategies and CoP.

We begin this chapter with a review of the literature on blended learning and CoP within professional development contexts, followed by a description of our data collection, analysis, and a discussion of our findings. We close this chapter with recommendations for creating CoP in blended learning environments and conclude with implications and considerations for future developments.

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Robin Mason
Elizabeth Stacey, Philippa Gerbic
Chapter 1
Elizabeth Stacey, Philippa Gerbic
Blended learning is now part of the learning landscape in higher education, not just for campus-based courses but for courses designed for students... Sample PDF
Introduction to Blended Learning Practices
Chapter 2
Philippa Gerbic
Online discussions are now available as a pedagogical option in blended learning environments in universities. Much of the research to date has... Sample PDF
Including Online Discussions Within Campus-Based Students' Learning Environments
Chapter 3
Ruth Geer
This chapter describes an investigation of strategies for fostering higher order cognition in a blended learning environment. The exploration, which... Sample PDF
Strategies for Blended Approaches in Teacher Education
Chapter 4
Mary Simpson, Bill Anderson
A teacher education programme previously taught in distinct on-campus and distance forms was redesigned to take advantage of the affordances offered... Sample PDF
Redesigning Initial Teacher Education
Chapter 5
Ana A. Carvalho, Zdena Lustigova, Frantisek Lustig
This chapter describes two European projects that respond to blended learning by integrating innovative technologies into blended learning... Sample PDF
Integrating New Technologies into Blended Learning Environments
Chapter 6
Guglielmo Trentin, Steve Wheeler
This chapter provides a further two European perspectives on blended learning. The first section is an overview of the ways in which the concept of... Sample PDF
Teacher and Student Responses to Blended Environments
Chapter 7
Peter J. Smith, Elizabeth Stacey, Tak Shing Ha
The majority of research and literature in collaborative learning online has been focussed on groups of students organised into units of study by an... Sample PDF
Blending Collaborative Online Learning with Workplace and Community Contexts
Chapter 8
Terrie Lynn Thompson, Heather Kanuka
The growing need for professional development to help university instructors with the adoption of online teaching is being propelled from several... Sample PDF
Establishing Communities of Practice for Effective and Sustainable Professional Development for Blended Learning
Chapter 9
Julie Mackey
Blended learning is examined via the experiences of teachers participating in qualification-bearing online professional development courses while... Sample PDF
Virtual Learning and Real Communities: Online Professional Development for Teachers
Chapter 10
Suzanne Riverin
This chapter examines the use of blended learning in an online community which supported teacher professional development in the province of... Sample PDF
Blended Learning and Professional Development in the K-12 Sector
Chapter 11
Faye Wiesenberg, Elizabeth Stacey
This study explores the similarities and differences between Canadian and Australian university teachers’ face-to-face and online teaching... Sample PDF
Blended Learning and Teaching Philosophies: Implications for Practice
Chapter 12
Gayani Samarawickrema
This chapter focuses on the factors relating to adopting blended learning by teaching academics and the associated social world around technology... Sample PDF
Blended Learning and the New Pressures on the Academy: Individual, Political, and Policy Driven Motivators for Adoption
Chapter 13
Gail Wilson
This chapter draws on a collective case study of six faculty members working in ICT-enhanced blended learning environments at a large regional... Sample PDF
Case Studies of ICT-Enhanced Blended Learning and Implications for Professional Development
Chapter 14
Cathy Gunn, Adam Blake
An accredited course in Academic Practice aligns with university and national strategic goals related to teaching and learning enhancement within a... Sample PDF
Blending Technology into an Academic Practice Qualification for University Teachers
Chapter 15
M. Brooke Robertshaw, Heather Leary, Andrew Walker, Kristy Bloxham, Mimi Recker
For teachers in the 21st Century it has become critical that they develop the skills to be able to teach in a world that is being transformed by... Sample PDF
Reciprocal Mentoring "In The Wild": A Retrospective, Comparative Case Study of ICT Teacher Professional Development
Chapter 16
Conclusion  (pages 298-311)
Philippa Gerbic, Elizabeth Stacey
The conclusion draws together the main themes identified under the sections of the book with a synthesis of the recommendations presented by the... Sample PDF
About the Contributors