Moving Beyond Trial and Error: Exploring Case Studies of Professional Development Models in K–12 Blended Learning

Moving Beyond Trial and Error: Exploring Case Studies of Professional Development Models in K–12 Blended Learning

Aimee L. Whiteside (University of Tampa, USA), Amy Garrett Dikkers (University of North Carolina Wilmington, USA) and Fredrick W. Baker III (University of West Florida, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8009-6.ch012

Abstract

Through 15 years of research on social presence examining the level of connectedness among students and instructors, the authors uncovered a recurring theme: the need for districts to provide better support professional development (PD) in K-12 settings. In this chapter, they address some of the challenges in implementing PD, describe and explain the social presence model (SPM), provide evidence from multiple case studies, and summarize the key findings. The research uncovered that while online and blended teachers often recognized the need for continued support and its role in helping them be more effective educators, they often moved forward without adequate PD. Because the passion and perseverance of these teachers predict long-term success for students, districts need to have a plan in place to help them get the PD needed to maximize their experience and impact student learning most effectively. In closing, the authors offer micro-communities as one robust, socially present, easy-to-implement, and budget-conscious solution that at least partially addresses this growing concern.
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Introduction

This chapter leverages 15 years of case study research on social presence—the level of connectedness among students and instructors in online and blended learning environments. Our research centers on the social presence model (SPM) as a theoretical framework, examining student-teacher connectedness. In this chapter, we focus our findings on the topic of professional development (PD) within two very different K12 cases studies of blended learning models.

Our research uncovered that K12 teachers recognize the need for continued support in helping them be effective online educators, but are unable to articulate their specific needs for PD in online and blended learning environments. This finding means that districts must plan ahead and provide a multitude of options for addressing teachers’ continuous PD needs for blended and online learning. We provide help and suggestions for academic leaders considering PD programs or modifications.

In this chapter, we begin with a brief background on the rise of online and blended learning in K12 settings and the resultant need for PD, describe and explain the social presence model (SPM), provide evidence from multiple case studies, summarize the key findings, and offer micro-communities as a powerful partial solution to this growing concern.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Continuous Professional Development (CPD): Process of growth and skill development for teachers beyond initial training.

Social Presence: A level of connectedness, including sharing and interaction, among instructors and learners that can offer a pathway for cultivating meaningful learning experiences.

Blended Learning: Learning that combines online and face-to-face instruction.

Communities of Inquiry (COI): A group of people working together to address a challenge.

Communities of Practice (CoP): A group of people who come together to share a profession, craft, or trade.

Micro-Community: A small number of researchers or practitioners who are engaged in ongoing direct communication with and between members of the micro-community, which can be facilitated by new technology-enabled modes. These groups also share resources and collaborate on activities centered on highly-focused questions or challenges, are governed and negotiated within the micro-community, and often produce work in non-traditional dissemination outlets. Key to this concept is that the micro-community has, or develops, a shared perspective and ways of thinking (i.e., a micro-paradigm).

Transformative Practice: The act of absorbing theory and research to do more than replace or simply amplify learning, but rather to heighten learning in ways previously unimagined.

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