Generalizable Models for Online Professional Learning Communities for America's K-12 Teachers

Generalizable Models for Online Professional Learning Communities for America's K-12 Teachers

Jennie Larry Johnson (University of North Texas, USA) and Adil Akhtar Khan (University of North Texas, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3476-2.ch023
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Abstract

America's teachers are burning out. The emergence of teacher-centered online professional learning communities (PLCs) is a relatively new phenomenon with unestablished boundaries. The questions to be answered are: (1) What are the opportunities, issues, and challenges associated with online PLCs for K-12 teachers? (2) What are generalizable models for designing, implementing, and managing online PLCs for K-12 teachers? An exhaustive review gathered, organized, evaluated, coded, analyzed, and synthesized 45 relevant studies, dissertations, articles, and reports that examined online teacher PLCs. The goal was to identify and highlight conflicts, contradictory ideas among findings. The intent was to bridge gaps between theories and principles to create a common framework and generalizable models. This study was relevant because it sought to identify opportunities, issues, and challenges associated with online teacher PLCs and successful evidence-based micro-level, meso-level, and macro-level replicable practices for broader generalization.
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Introduction

What would America be without qualified K-12 teachers? While this question might sound rhetorical, Garcia and Weiss (2019) warn education administrators, policymakers, and parents should turn an increased focus toward a coming perfect storm. America’s teachers are burning out from teacher shortages, stressful working conditions, and a perceived lack of support. After examing a stratified sampling of 60,000 teachers that responded to the 2017-2018 National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS), Garcia & Weiss found 48.7 percent of respondents expressed some levels of dissatisfaction with being a teacher, 27.4 percent admitted thoughts they would leave the teaching profession at some point, and a disturbing 57.5 percent felt they would not return to teaching if they went back to college at some point. The primary reasons cited were teachers felt they lacked influence over what they teach (71.3 percent) and the instructional materials they use (74.5 percent). Garcia & Weiss attributed these factors to why America faced a 100,000-teacher shortage during the 2017-2018 school year and described the phenomenon as a recognized but poorly understood national crisis (Garcia & Weiss, 2019a). In subsequent studies, the researchers mapped the strong correlations between on-the-job training and professional development and teacher job satisfaction. Garcia & Weiss recommends improvements in the types and usefulness of the professional supports offered to teachers. They found such efforts should include efforts to help them stay abreast of advances in research on effective teaching practices, strategies for facing challenges, and advocacy (Garcia & Weiss, 2019b).

One particularly promising and emerging trend is the increasing number of online teacher professional learning communities (PLCs). PLCs are usually teams of teachers engaged through social media (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) in e-learning communities where they share and learn from each other (Beach, 2012). However, the rapid growth and prevalence of online teacher-focused PLCs beg the questions: Is the excitement about PLCs as an alternative to traditional teacher professional development approaches justified? What types of PLC peer-directed and self-regulated learning practices work best? Which PLCs are designed to accommodate particular learning styles and learning needs? What types of learning tools are available to PLCs participants that might not otherwise be available? Are investments in administrative-supported PLCs socially and economically smart (Fabio & Antonietti, 2012)?

Key Terms in this Chapter

Pedagogy: The study of how knowledge and skills are imparted in an educational context, and it considers the interactions that take place during learning.

Adult Education: A practice in which adults engage in systematic and sustained self-educating activities in order to gain new forms of knowledge, skills, attitudes, or values.[1] It can mean any form of learning adults engage in beyond traditional schooling, encompassing basic literacy to personal fulfillment as a lifelong learner.

Andragogy: The science of understanding (theory) and supporting (practice) lifelong education of adults.

E-Learning: The use of both physical hardware, software, and educational theoretic to facilitate learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources.

Learning Environment: An educational approach, cultural context, or physical setting in which teaching and learning occur.

Self-Regulated Learning: A process of taking control of and evaluating one's own learning and behavior.

Heutagogy: Self-directed education without the guidance of masters (such as teachers and professors) or institutions (such as schools).

Professional Learning Communities: A method to foster collaborative learning among colleagues within a particular work environment or field.

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