Using the How People Learn Framework for Online Course Design in Teacher Education

Using the How People Learn Framework for Online Course Design in Teacher Education

Sharon Dole (Western Carolina University, USA) and Lisa Bloom (Western Carolina University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-779-4.ch018
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The demand for online teacher education programs continues to grow in the United States. Two trends have fueled this dramatic growth for such programs: (1) The shortage of teachers in certain areas has prompted the spread of alternative routes to teacher preparation; (2) The nature of the higher education student in alternative programs has transformed from a traditional to a non-traditional profile. With the growth of online programs comes the need for effective courses. This case study uses the How People Learn (HPL) framework as the conceptual model to examine online courses in a teacher education program for evidence of high level learning outcomes. The case study involved data collection in the form of surveys, interviews and artifacts from four online classes using the HPL framework. Results of the study demonstrate that the HPL framework provides a powerful structure for creating and assessing environments conducive to the work of prospective professionals.
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Case Description


Collaboration, critical thinking, and problem solving are critical skills for teachers in the 21st century. While teaching in the past century tended to be more of an isolated activity, teachers today are expected to be active participants in decisions that affect the entire school and to work collaboratively in teams to address school and student issues. In addition to that of a collaborator, the role of the teacher has been described as one of an adaptive expert (Darling-Hammond, 2007; Darling Hammond & Bransford, 2005) who is able to solve problems, construct new knowledge and in turn, solve new problems as opposed to a worker who engages in routine tasks. Filling the role of an adaptive expert requires considerable reflection, critical thinking and evaluation. As an adaptive expert, teaching is viewed as the work of a professional as opposed to that of a technician. While technicians practice a set of known solutions to known problems, the work of professionals involves crafting new solutions to problems and predicaments that change on a daily basis.

Preparing teachers for their work as collaborators and problems solvers is a challenge facing teacher educators. Online courses are often criticized for focusing on the knowledge acquisition level rather than engaging students in complex problem-solving activities. Additionally, collaboration in online courses is often limited to superficial discussions on discussion boards. In this case, faculty used available technology and the How People Learn (HPL) framework as a conceptual model to design courses to maximize collaboration, reflection, and problem solving. The distance teacher preparation program provides evidence of high level learning outcomes that involve collaboration, reflection, mentoring, and problem solving

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