Online Mathematics Teacher Education: Examples From Professional Learning Programs for Inservice Teachers

Online Mathematics Teacher Education: Examples From Professional Learning Programs for Inservice Teachers

Jennifer Chauvot (University of Houston, USA), Stephen J. Pape (Johns Hopkins University, USA), Sherri K. Prosser (Austin Peay State University, USA) and Kimberly Hicks (Houston Independent School District, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1476-4.ch001

Abstract

In this chapter, the authors describe two online programs that sought to impact teachers' content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, and instructional practices in K-12 classrooms. One program was a master's program for middle grades science and mathematics teachers, and the other was a yearlong professional development program for third- through fifth-grade general and special education teachers. They share the theoretical perspectives that informed the design and implementation of the programs and outcomes from each program. Examples of learning activities from each of the programs are provided. The authors contend that deliberate, theoretically-based design and implementation of online professional development programs with science and mathematics teachers is not only viable but also vital in supporting teachers' ongoing knowledge growth of learner-centered instruction.
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Introduction

Online programs have emerged as venues for delivering instruction (Allen & Seaman, 2013) and are beginning to emerge in inservice teacher education. (e.g., Dash, deKramer, O’Dwyer, Masters, & Russell, 2012). “The need for professional development that is tailored to teachers’ busy schedules, that draws on valuable resources not available locally, and that provides work-embedded support has stimulated the creation of online teacher professional development programs” (Whitehouse, Breit, McCloskey, Ketelhut, & Dede, 2006, p. 13). Given the prevalence of online professional learning opportunities and the emergent nature of this practice, program developers, regardless of the delivery platform, need to consider several features that align with impactful professional learning contexts (see Darling-Hammond, Hyler, & Gardner, 2017).

After a systematic review of empirical studies, Darling-Hammond et al. (2017) determined that effective professional development is content focused; incorporates active learning utilizing adult learning theory; supports collaboration that is typically in job-embedded contexts; uses models and modeling of effective practice; provides coaching and expert support; offers opportunities for feedback and reflection; and is of sustained duration. Professional learning communities, for example, constitute a collaborative, job-embedded professional development model that includes several features of effective professional learning and supports improved student outcomes (Darling-Hammond et al., 2017). Cohort models are one way to support the creation of professional learning communities.

Within their implications for practice, Darling-Hammond et al. (2017) suggest technology-facilitated professional learning and coaching opportunities, particularly as a means to reach educators in rural communities and to support intradistrict and intraschool collaboration. Additionally, effective professional development should be responsive to the needs of educators and the contexts in which they practice (Darling-Hammond et al., 2017), which could be accomplished through subject area and grade level-specific content as well as activities that include modeling and authentic tasks. During face-to-face learning experiences, teacher educators model best practices as a way to teach about learner-centered instruction. Teacher educators are challenged to do the same within online settings. Research into how to effectively teach face-to-face practices within online contexts and ways teachers make sense of and translate what they learn in the online environment to the K-12 classroom has become imperative.

This chapter will explore two online programs in teacher education that sought to impact teachers’ content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, and instructional practices in K-12 classrooms. It provides the underlying perspectives that inform the programs as well as outcomes from each of these projects. We will explore the feasibility and the power of online instruction with teachers that contribute to their professional growth. Finally, the development of effective online professional development programs provides potential support for all mathematics teachers especially in areas where professional development programs are difficult to attend (e.g., rural areas or congested large urban centers), which will lead to more equitable practices in mathematics education.

We start with sharing the theoretical perspectives of Community of Inquiry (CoI) (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000) and transactional distance theory (Moore, 1993) that have informed our programs. Next, we describe the design, implementation, and outcomes from two programs – iSMART and Prime Online. We conclude with a reflection on each of these programs in relation to the findings of Darling-Hammond et al. (2017) as well as the theoretical foundations for these programs.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Asynchronous Online Instruction: We define asynchronous online instruction to be the delivery of content in an online environment where the group is not required to be physically present at a designated time or place.

Synchronous Online Instruction: We define synchronous online instruction to be the delivery of content in an online environment where the group is required to be physically present at a designated time at physical locations that may be different for each member of the group.

Face-to-Face Instruction: We define face-to-face instruction to be the delivery of content in a face-to-face environment where the group is required to be physically present at a designated time and a designated place.

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