Organizing Blended and Online Professional Development Courses
According to Knowles (1984) and his adult learning theory of andragogy, it is important that adult learners have a clear understanding of why they need to know something (as cited in Merriam & Bierema, 2013). When creating an online or blended learning course for K-12 teacher professional development, this rule applies. Because teachers are not always volunteers when they take professional development courses, this rule is even more important. As the professional development provider creates and begins the course with its participants, he or she must know and be able to demonstrate why the pedagogies, tools, or skills the teacher are learning about in this course are important and how is it applicable to their daily teaching?
Once the question as to why participants should engage in this professional development course is answered, the clear understanding of learning goals (Siegesmund, 2017) needs to be identified and shared with participants. In K-12 professional development, the goals should be to find more practical ways to deliver content (Matherson and Windle, 2017) and, according to the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future report (1996) should be able to be embedded in the participant’s daily work (as cited by Onchwari & Keengwe, 2008). To accomplish this, the course should be built with practical classroom applications of pedagogies, tools, and skills that will help the teacher to create a better learning experience for his or her students.
Learning Management Systems
As the reasons for why the course is important and the goals of the course are established, the course instructor needs to determine which method of communication he or she will be using to consistently stay in contact with the participants (Lehman & Conceicao, 2014). The best method for this is to utilize the appropriate learning management system that will meet the needs of the course.
A learning management system is a web-based platform that allows the instructor of the course to send out course materials, assignments, reminders, and feedback. The use of a single learning management system can help to establish course norms that participants and the instructor will follow to ensure there is no confusion on how to access the materials needed, the assignment descriptions and due dates, obtain reminders about upcoming activities, and access the feedback for assignments and activities.
When districts or schools are designing their own online and blended K-12 professional development courses, the learning management system should be something teachers are able to utilize in their own classrooms. If teachers already use the tool as an instructor, they can gain valuable knowledge about how the student interface for the tool works. If the teacher does not currently use the tool, then he or she may find value in it when he or she sees how it can be used to help create an organized and connected classroom environment for his or her own students.
While the choice of learning management system is not the most important component when creating an online or blended K-12 professional development course, it is important that the instructor choose something that is easily accessible on multiple devices, easy to use, and provides all the functionality that will be required to effectively manage the class. The use of the learning management system should be a daily ritual for the instructor. He or she should keep a close watch on the activities of the students so immediate feedback and necessary interactions with students are happening. Students are more motivated when they have a consistent flow of information (Lehman & Conceicao, 2014). Keeping a schedule for announcements and reminders can help students keep focused on their goals, provide them with reminders, and assure them of what they are supposed to be working on.
- Lehman, R. M., & Conceicao, S. C. (2014). Motivating and Retaining Online Students: Research-Based Strategies that Work. San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass.
- Matherson, L., & Windle, T. (2017). What Do Teachers Want from Their Professional Development? Four Emerging Themes. Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, 83(3), 28-32.
- Merriam, S. B., & Bierema, L. L. (2013). Adult learning : linking theory and practice.
- Onchwari, Grace, & Keengwe, Jared. (2008). The Impact of a Mentor-Coaching Model on Teacher Professional Development. Early Childhood Education Journal, 36(1), 19-24.
- Siegesmund, A. (2017). Using self-assessment to develop metacognition and self-regulated learners. FEMS Microbiology Letters, 364(11), FEMS Microbiology Letters, 2017, Vol. 364(11).