Serving Rural Teachers Using Synchronous Online Professional Development

Serving Rural Teachers Using Synchronous Online Professional Development

Shari L. Stockero (Michigan Technological University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-899-9.ch007
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This chapter describes the design and implementation of a blended online synchronous teacher professional development course that was developed to meet the needs of rural educators. The author discusses how research on teacher learning influenced both the course design and instruction and then describes course activities and the ways in which the participants engaged in them. Specific features of the course that supported teacher learning are discussed, the instructor’s and participants’ perspectives on the course are shared, and evidence of teacher learning is presented. The chapter concludes with lessons learned and a discussion of potential areas of research related to supporting teacher learning in online environments.
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To meet the needs of teachers who cannot easily travel to a university to complete coursework or attend professional development sessions to satisfy licensure requirements, teacher education programs have increasingly turned to distance education as a means of providing teacher learning opportunities. Many of the online courses described in the literature are asynchronous in nature; this model is beneficial in that it allows participants to complete coursework at their convenience, but may limit the kinds of professional development that can be offered and the sense of community that can be developed (Lock, 2006; Parr & Ward, 2006). Synchronous online courses tend to most often use text chats (e.g., Anagnostopoulos, Basmadjian & McCrory, 2005; Jin, 2005) or video conferencing (e.g., Rovai & Lucking, 2003) for real-time interactions among participants. Although these models might offer some advantages over asynchronous courses, there are still substantial limitations. Text chats, for instance, leave the participants essentially anonymous to one other, while traditional video conferencing often requires travel to a site where the necessary technology is available—which may be a substantial distance for some rural educators. Furthermore, all of these online models pose challenges to teacher educators who wish to engage teachers in substantive discussions about content and pedagogy in ways that are responsive to research on teacher learning (e.g., Ball & Cohen, 1999).

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