Using an Adapted Continuous Practice Improvement Model to Support the Professional Development of Teachers in a Collaborative Online Environment

Using an Adapted Continuous Practice Improvement Model to Support the Professional Development of Teachers in a Collaborative Online Environment

Pamela Cowan (School of Education, Queen's University Belfast, UK)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch730
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Introduction

This article considers the on-going problem of teacher professional development especially in the area of using ICT for teaching as highlighted by the evidence of a slow pace of implementation of learning technologies, the generational gaps in teachers’ involvement with ICT and change-resistant school cultures (Abuhmaid, 2011, Bound, 2011, Curwood, 2011). It is becoming more widely accepted that many of the educational problems that appear to be intractable are actually embedded in teacher culture and therefore it is teachers’ readiness (Hassan, 2010) which needs to be the focus of attention if positive technological change is to be achieved in educational institutions. By using the Continuous Practice Improvement (CPI) model (Schifter, 2008), teachers are immersed in a new, technology-enhanced learning environment (TELE) where they gain first-hand experience of how to teach through the medium of ICT. Through observing and co-teaching in this TELE, the teachers’ preconceived notions of ICT usage in the classroom are challenged and it awakens their interest and motivation to adopt new ICT-based pedagogical approaches into their own teaching in light of the affordances the technology offers to learners.

The context of the study reported in this article focuses on one specific aspect of technology enhanced learning, namely the incorporation of a virtual learning environment (VLE) into classroom practice using a blended learning approach – whereby the teacher mixes face-to-face classroom teaching with opportunities for online collaboration by the pupils. By utilising a similar approach of blended learning for the delivery of the CPI programme, the teachers become ‘apprentices’ receiving both the knowledge of how to construct effective online courses in the VLE and also exemplification of the support mechanisms needed to guide, moderate and facilitate online learners in this environment. As the article reveals, teachers’ self-efficacy and motivation to use new technologies are enhanced through this immersive experience, leading to a change in their mindset resulting in the dissemination of ideas within the teachers’ network of school-based colleagues. To the delight of the school principals, the cascading of this new knowledge to other interested teachers occurs naturally in the form of impromptu professional development sessions at a whole school level, providing the context necessary for a shift in the school culture towards ICT and technology-enhanced learning through VLEs.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Cascade Model: The movement of information in a top-down manner; the training of others by their more knowledgeable peers.

Live Classrooms: Equivalent to a lecture delivered via video-conferencing only with additional functionality to allow listeners to interact with the speaker or each other via real-time chat on a shared workspace, to vote or participate in a poll, to act as a speaker or moderator when the microphone is opened to the floor/audience. The whole session can be recorded and uploaded so that it can be replayed online after the event.

Virtual Learning Environment: An online platform (e.g. BlackBoard, Moodle, Fronter, etc.) which supports the creation of online courses. Functionality includes features such as uploading resources, asynchronous and synchronous communication channels (discussion forums, shared whiteboard, chat), assessment or quiz facilities, digital dropbox for submitting work and receiving tutor feedback, weblinks. Usually referred to as a VLE and is typically connected to a Managed Learning Environment (MLE).

Teach Meets: Short online presentations delivered by teachers via video-conferencing usually to share innovative classroom practice or to discuss policy. Tend to be more informal than webinars and usually organised amongst friends or peers on a regular basis.

Massively Online Open Courses (MOOCs): Freely available courses on the Internet for anyone wishing to develop their expertise through participation in a collaborative environment.

Professional Development: Normally formal training sessions aimed to upskill and update staff to maintain their effectiveness in their job or for career advancement. May be replaced by computer-based training or online courses. Informal learning experiences contributing to professional development are not usually acknowledged although they can also develop the person as a professional.

Video-Conferencing: The process of connecting people in real-time so that they can view each other on screen and also communicate orally (e.g. Skype).

Community Of Practice: A group of like-minded individuals with a common interest typically connected online.

Technology-Enhanced Learning: The process of utilising any combination of information and communications technologies to support and ideally improve the quality of learning.

Microblogging: A mix between a blog and a text message, limited to 140 characters in length. Examples include Twitter.

Co-Teaching: The process of two or more teachers (often a novice and an expert in the field) sharing the responsibility of teaching, some or all of the pupils in a class.

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