The Extent of K-12 Online Teacher Development: A Disconnect Between Preparation and Practice

The Extent of K-12 Online Teacher Development: A Disconnect Between Preparation and Practice

Jean S. Larson (Arizona State University, USA) and Leanna Archambault (Arizona State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8009-6.ch003
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This chapter, updated for the second edition of this volume, reviews the current research specific to the characteristics and preparation of those involved in K–12 online teaching. While few teacher education programs integrate any aspect of online teaching into their coursework or field experiences, existing programs are discussed. Limited, but notable progress is being made with respect to K–12 online teacher preparation. However, there continues to be gaps in the literature examining the extent to which teachers are being educated, trained, and otherwise prepared to function in online settings. Over the past decade, the need for teacher education programs and current K–12 online schools to work together to prepare teachers has become increasingly clear. Effective online teaching techniques must be defined, empirically proven, and then efficiently implemented by both future and current K–12 online teachers to ensure quality online educational experiences and outcomes for students.
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K–12 online education has seen steady growth during the past decade and continues to expand as a viable addition or even alternative to traditional, face-to-face schooling (Miller & Ribble, 2010). The need for highly-qualified, classroom teachers has always been critical, but now such teachers must also be prepared to meet the challenges of educating students who are separated from the teacher in space and time (Pulham, Graham, & Short, 2018). Competencies for online teachers include many skill sets in areas such as designing and developing course content in a technology-based environment as well as facilitating content and communicating with students, parents, and mentors both synchronously and asynchronously using technology tools (International Association for K–12 Online Learning [iNACOL], 2011). Unfortunately, there is a significant disconnect between the growing expectations for online education and the preparation of teachers. While some form of online learning has been 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 their teacher education programs (Archambault, 2011; Archambault & Larson, 2015; Dawley, Rice, & Hinck, 2010). The current status of online K–12 education must be viewed against a background of teacher preparation that includes 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.

Key Terms in this Chapter

State-Level Structure: Online schools that are sanctioned and governed pursuant to the same legislative initiatives that extend to all public schools.

District Structures: District-level online programs that can include a single district that produces and offers online programs for its own students or multiple districts that work together to produce programs for common use within their combined districts.

Post-Secondary Structure: University-based online programs designed for K–12 students and offered through post-secondary institutions.

Consortium Structure: A cooperative group of educational entities that share in the creation, distribution, and operational costs associated with courses that benefit their students.

Blended Learning: Education in which a student learns partially on a face-to-face basis and partially through formal online learning.

Online Learning: Education in which a student learns in an educational program through student-controlled Internet delivery of content and instruction.

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