Definition and History of Online Professional Development

Definition and History of Online Professional Development

Carol A. Brown (East Carolina University, USA) and Renée E. Weiss Neal (East Carolina University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5780-9.ch012
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There exists a consensus on the importance of teacher professional development. This chapter provides a knowledge base for environments, describes the benefits, best practices, and sources for quality online professional development. The attributes associated with online professional development can be examined within the framework of web conferencing, web cast, and online teaching and learning. An annotated bibliography and extensive glossary related to online professional development are included in this chapter.
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Professional development (PD) is an important source of growth for practitioners as well as faculty working in academia. Even though a valued activity, most people are less than enthusiastic about scheduling the time needed for workshops, seminars, and other venues for learning the practical aspects and skills in their profession. Less than desirable experiences with the one-shot workshop, time constraints both professionally and personally, economic changes leading to shortfalls related to salaries, resources, and opportunity for travel have led to an increasing interest in online education. For practitioners and faculty in education, opportunities for online professional development are becoming attractive alternatives to traditional methods for professional growth. The purpose of this chapter is to provide a knowledge base for environments, tools, benefits, current best practices, and sources for quality online professional development (OnLPD).

The National Staff Development Council remains a strong advocate for teachers by grounding the organization’s research in professional development. Much of what they do is based on the definition of the term professional development--“a comprehensive, sustained, and intensive approach to improving teachers’ and principals’ effectiveness in raising student achievement” (NSDC, 2011). Teaching as a function of university and college faculty can adopt a similar definition. The comprehensive, sustained, and intensive approach to improving faculty effectiveness could be described as teaching practices grounded in research, focused productivity as a scholar, and thoughtful service to the academy or community. Teaching and research understandably require support through professional development (PD) activities. One does not usually associate activities in professional service with professional development, however we make the choice to grow professionally through these service oriented tasks. Teaching springs forth from our life-long pursuit of learning. Inquiry is the driving force behind our learning. Whether concepts, principles, or skills, inquiry leads to learning, and ultimately, is translated into our knowledge base. As academics, we like to think of knowledge as entirely delivered to the student, yet as we entered 20th century classrooms it was discovered that learning is generated within the learner (Dewey, 1916, 1991). Transformation was needed to move students from the receiver of information to problem solvers capable of generating solutions and new ideas; thus began the age of constructivism with the learner as the central focus of instruction. Teacher-centered lectures, while useful for presentation of base knowledge, were often being replaced with small group dialog and Socratic questioning (Davis, 2007). Learning becomes deeper, more durable as students personalize concepts. Through small group discussion, there are connections between concepts and authentic life experiences (Innes, 2007). Traditionally, the instructional use of small groups was designed as face to face interaction in the classroom; however, group dialog has become a common instructional method used within the design of online instruction (Courtney & King, 2009).

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