Teacher Professional Development through Virtual Campuses: Conceptions of a ‘New’ Model

Teacher Professional Development through Virtual Campuses: Conceptions of a ‘New’ Model

Athanassios Jimoyiannis (University of Peloponnese, Greece), Maria Gravani (Open University of Cyprus, Cyprus) and Yiasemina Karagiorgi (Ministry of Education and Culture, Cyprus)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-762-3.ch017
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This chapter acknowledges the increasing impact of eLearning and the associated rise of Virtual Campuses (VCs) for Teacher Professional Development (TPD). On the basis of reported literature, in particular, deficiencies identified in Bell’s (1991) traditional “individual”, “group,” and “school development” approaches, the authors propose an alternative model for TPD delivered through VCs. In support of this “new” model, key issues underlying the VC paradigm in terms of the design and implementation of such environments are further discussed. In particular, the authors argue about the value and complications behind the adoption of this model and suggest principles supporting the design of such type of environments.
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In order to thrive in increasingly demanding school contexts, teachers must adapt to diverse students’ needs through adjustment to new pedagogical approaches, education policies and educational reform efforts. In this regard, teachers need continuous support through multiple professional development opportunities to deepen content and pedagogical knowledge and to improve teaching skills.

Studies on either school-based training programmes or training programmes designed and implemented by outside providers -at the local and national level- often prove such training ineffective (Clarke & Hollingsworth, 2002; Glazer & Hannafin, 2006). Traditional and popular approaches to Teacher Professional Development (TPD) appear to have negligible impact on teachers’ ability to put innovative teaching approaches to practice. In other words, conventional approaches to TDP in support of teachers’ continuous learning seem to fail (Mouza, 2002).

At the same time, the rapid expansion of the Web, as a potential course delivery platform, provides a significant incentive for educational institutions to develop e-learning programmes through both on-line and blended approaches (Harasim, 2000). E-learning is nowadays commonly accepted, not just as a popular alternative to traditional face-to-face education, but also as a tool for lifelong learning.

Consequently, since traditional education appears inadequate to provide an effectual answer to teachers’ enhanced professional development needs, Virtual Campuses (VCs) emerge as a route towards high-quality TPD. Thus, this chapter acknowledges the value of such settings, not only in building individual knowledge and skills but also in enhancing collaboration among colleagues across the world against feelings of isolation, often inherent in the education community. Through such settings, teachers can strategically position themselves in relation to others, enacting a collaborative rather than isolated professional role (Cohen, 2008). As Tickle (1994) proposes, online communities of reflective practitioners contribute towards development, beyond private introspection while networked intelligence can be utilized when planning educational interventions (Ryymin et al., n.d.). Therefore, the need arises for teacher trainers to design programmes of web-based learning that will break the boundaries of individual teachership and create activities for collaborative TPD (Ryymin et al., n.d.).

In an effort to draw the qualities and limitations of a ‘new’ teacher development model based on VCs -the VCTPD model- this chapter aims, primarily, to address authors’ concerns to re-define and re-design meaningful teacher professional development through virtual settings and, secondarily, to highlight the roles of academic and professional institutions as external forces in the implementation of this model to meet the learning needs of individuals and organizations (Sandelands, 1998).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Apprenticeship Model: A teacher professional development model where teachers learn about their professional roles by working alongside other teachers. Contact with colleagues is very important but this is a limited and insufficient form of development.

Virtual Communities of Practice (VCoP): A group of people who share a common interest and/or a profession through various technologies. The members of a CoP can evolve personally and professionally by sharing information and experiences, and developing knowledge based on common interests or targets in a particular field.

Virtual Campus: Cooperation between higher education institutions through e-learning settings regarding the design and development of joint curricula by several universities and including agreements for the evaluation, validation and recognition of acquired competences.

School-Focused Model: The school professional approach is characterised by the extent to which teachers make choices about needs, priorities and provision at the whole-school, the group and the individual level.

Teacher Communities of Practice (TCoP): On-line communities of practice where teachers develop their profession by sharing pedagogical, instructional and technological knowledge, and also experiences and school practices, in specific fields.

Virtual Campus Teacher Professional Development (VCTPD) model: This professional development model combines those aspects of the various conventional models that have been proved effective in practice. In fact, the model aims to support several development forms, including initial and in-service supplementary training, individual (course-based) learning, group learning, developmental approaches, e-learning practices, activity-based practices as well as communities of learning.

Teacher Professional Development: The various processes by which teachers review, renew and extend their commitment as change agents to the moral purposes of teaching and by which they acquire and develop critically the knowledge, skills, planning and practice with students and colleagues through each phase of their teaching lives.

Course-Based Model: This model is based on the assumption that change in schools can be brought about by changing selected individuals within these schools, who will then successfully generate change in others to such an extent that the school itself will be transformed. It is the most common and widely accepted approach to teacher professional development.

School Development Approach: It is characterised by the extent to which teachers make developmental choices about needs, priorities and provision at the whole-school and the individual level.

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