Designing a Protocol for Developmental Observation of Online Teaching

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Many higher education institutions in Canada have identified a lack of professional development and pedagogical support for faculty and their resistance as significant barriers to implementation and growth of online education. This study focused on the observation of online teaching as a way of providing ongoing pedagogical support to online instructors to enhance their professional development. Though teaching observation in face-to-face classrooms for purposes of evaluation or development has received extensive attention from scholars, this method of support in the online learning environments is novel and understudied. Using an iterative design-based research methodology, a protocol for developmental observation of online teaching (DOOT) was designed, refined and evaluated. This process aimed to respond to the question of how such a protocol supports the professional growth of online instructors at a community college setting. The study was conducted at a community college in Western Canada involving the participation of online instructors from the School of Business of the college, as observed instructors, and educational developers from the Teaching and Learning unit of the college, as observers. During different stages of the study, participants provided feedback on the feasibility of the DOOT Protocol, identified their contextual needs, and took part in piloting the initial Protocol and evaluating the Protocol at the last phase of the study. The six key elements of the DOOT Protocol were identified as 1) a clear developmental purpose, 2) clarity of process design and scope, 3) a definition of observable online teaching, 4) observer skills and orientation, 5) engaging in critical reflection, and 6) planning follow-up steps. To effectively facilitate the DOOT process, educational developers need to have skills and knowledge in theory and practice of online teaching, navigating technology that is the medium of the online education, and facilitation. Though all participants reported benefits from taking part in the DOOT observations during the pilot and evaluation of the Protocol, critical reflection and successful follow-up planning was evident when online instructors recognized reflection as a means for incremental improvements and educational developers demonstrated strong facilitation skills. The main contribution of the study is an evidence-based protocol that could be used for developmental observation of online teaching within a relatively short time frame that leads to incremental developmental plans. This study has responded to the challenge of elasticity of time in observation of online teaching, which is not limited to the traditional classroom time frames. Further, observable online teaching for the context of the study was defined based on the Community of Inquiry (CoI) theoretical framework for online education (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000). More research in other contexts can increase transferability of the findings of this study to other types of higher education institutions to adopt the DOOT Protocol as a means for providing ongoing pedagogical support to online instructors.
Online Teaching, Educational Development, Professional Development, Online Teaching Observation, Higher Education
Mahdavi, F. (2020). Designing a Protocol for Developmental Observation of Online Teaching (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from