The impact of online professional development on teaching practice: a case study
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AbstractThis research investigates one online professional development program for K-12 teachers to determine if it impacted teaching practice. To do so, it employed the traditions of ethnography (Patton, 1990), case study research (Merriam, 1998) and frame and code analysis (Goffman, 1959, 1974) in an attempt to provide a holistic account of the real-life experience of online professional development for online educators. The research methods include the use of digital audio clips to maintain interview authenticity and accuracy. Supported by evidence from the literature of teacher change, teacher professional development, the requirements of online educators and the experiences of the ePD participants, the findings of this research suggest that the ePD program did have an impact on the teaching practice of its participants. This impact was described and interpreted across five frames and their associated codes, which were supported by the literature and validated by the experiences of the interviewees. The frames include: (1) Fundamentals, (2) Change and Impact, (3) Program Design, (4) Implementation and Use, and (5) Learning Culture and Sense of Community. Further, this research suggests that the online teaching and learning environment has different characteristics and possibilities than those previously available in traditional educational settings (Reyes-Mendez et al, 2003). Consequently, as teachers are now being asked to create online learning opportunities for their students (Advisory Committee for Online Learning, 2001), in an environment they are not familiar with (Stein et al. 1999), they will need support in order to develop their own potential for working online. The ePD program offered by the Calgary Board of Education in Alberta, Canada appeared to be a model that attempts to provide this type of support.
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