Telementoring and Virtual Professional Development: A Theoretical Perspective from Science on the Roles of Self-Efficacy, Teacher Learning, and Professional Learning Communities

Telementoring and Virtual Professional Development: A Theoretical Perspective from Science on the Roles of Self-Efficacy, Teacher Learning, and Professional Learning Communities

Matthew J. Maurer (Robert Morris University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-783-8.ch319

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Introduction

As of 2008, approximately 150 institutions of higher education, with 550 partnering K-12 school districts, had received funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to implement Math Science Partnership (MSP) programs which focused on improving teacher content knowledge and pedagogical skills (NSF, 2008). A common strategy for professional development (PD) in these programs was to develop professional learning communities (PLCs) between teachers and higher education faculty members to collaborate to positively impact student learning. In order to attain this goal, effective instruction of the participating teachers cohorts was essential (Loucks-Horsley, Love, Stiles, Mundry, & Hewson, 2003).

Many educators have likely encountered PD partnerships that have been extremely successful in training teachers, as well as programs that have struggled. Based on years of personal experiential evidence in conducting PD programs, several common challenges for teachers attending one of these programs often include:

  • 1.

    A lack of background or familiarity with the content or the technology being addressed.

  • 2.

    A lack of understanding of inquiry and its place in the science classroom.

  • 3.

    A perceived lack of support from administrators.

  • 4.

    A perceived lack of acceptance from colleagues (feeling like they are doing this alone).

  • 5.

    The perception of a significant time commitment to attend the training.

  • 6.

    Not enough incentive(s) to attend the training.

  • 7.

    Poor understanding of the context in which the knowledge or methods can be applied in the classroom.

  • 8.

    The influence of poor teaching self-efficacy.

Normally involvement in a PD program brings numerous incentives for teachers and their partnering school districts. As a result, the composition of the cohort may exhibit a large percentage of novice-level teachers (not master level teachers) who may be more extrinsically motivated to attend rather than intrinsically motivated to better themselves and their teaching. They may see the program as a means to achieve tenure, points toward re-certification, or even a source of free classroom supplies. While these reasons for participation are not inappropriate, when they become the primary reasons for participation, the long-term success of the PD program may hang in the balance.

All of these issues may impact how effectively teachers will interact with the information being communicated. Lack of personal motivation, inability to visualize context or applicability, and low self-efficacy for teaching may have negative impacts on the learner. As one examines how teachers are learning in science PD programs specifically, it is often evident how many of these issues are not addressed, and may be exacerbated by the program itself.

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