The Ever-Evolving Educator: Examining K-12 Online Teachers in the United States

The Ever-Evolving Educator: Examining K-12 Online Teachers in the United States

Jean Larson, Leanna Archambault
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8246-7.ch079
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This chapter reviews the current research on the educational, training, and demographic characteristics of those involved in teaching K-12 online. Although very few colleges of education incorporate any aspect of teaching online into their curricula, the existing online teacher preparation programs are discussed. Past and ongoing research reveals a dramatic disconnect between: (a) the rapidly expanding expectations for and implementation of online education at the K-12 levels and (b) the surprisingly limited extent to which teachers are actually being educated, trained, and otherwise prepared to function in this challenging new educational environment. The implications for teacher education programs and current K-12 virtual schools are clear. Effective online teaching techniques must be defined, empirically proven, and efficiently implemented by both future and current K-12 online teachers.
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Online education at the K-12 level is in the early stage of an exponential growth pattern that will ultimately result in an entirely new educational paradigm (Miller & Ribble, 2010). The need for highly-qualified, classroom teachers has always been critical, but now such teachers must also be trained to meet the challenges of conveying knowledge to students that are separated from the teacher in space and time (Charania, 2010). This new category of teachers must be capable of (a) transferring knowledge without face-to-face contact, (b) designing and developing course content in a technology-based environment and (c) delivering content in a way that will both engage the remote student and assure that the content is actually learned. Unfortunately, there is a significant disconnect between the growing expectations for online education and the training of teachers expected to teach in this uniquely different environment. While some form of online learning is now available in every state (Watson, Murin, Vashaw, Gemin, & Rapp, 2011), only a small minority of current K-12 online teachers have actually received formal training on how to teach online during the course of their teacher education program (Archambault, 2011; Dawley, Rice, & Hinks, 2010). The current status of online K-12 education must be viewed against a background of teacher training that includes very little, if any, relevant instruction pertaining to teaching in an online environment.

This chapter will present and discuss the following topics:

  • 1.

    An introduction to online teacher quality and preparation;

  • 2.

    The characteristics of K-12 online teachers based on current research;

  • 3.

    Programmatic online teacher preparation efforts, both at the pre-service and in-service levels; and,

  • 4.

    Implications and recommendations for teacher education programs.

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