01 SES 13 A, Online and Distance Learning
Professional development is a vital part of teachers’ ongoing growth, and both in a local context and internationally educators highlight the use of different ways to facilitate conditions for teachers’ continued learning (Bates, Phalen, & Moran, 2016; Parsons et al., 2019). While policy makers, teachers, and school leaders for years have searched for efficient ways to organize professional learning, different kinds of online resources continue to grow. Digital technologies allow for new and cheaper forms of professional development where various resources have potential to reach teachers and school leaders across local schools, communities and countries. Even though an increased number of virtual learning opportunities are at hand, it may be difficult for school leaders and teachers to make use of the available resources, to make sense of their content and their quality, and to judge how they fit with the individual teachers’ needs and the whole schools’ professional learning ambitions and goals. Despite the growing interest in online platforms as arenas for professional learning, we still need to know much more about how schools with their teachers interpret their online experiences, how they make use of what they learn, and what kinds of experiences schools have with the virtual learning conditions (Fishman et al., 2013). Research investigating these requests could provide a broader understanding of online learning environments and how these new opportunities influence professional learning both on an individual level and on a collective level concerning the community of teachers and school leaders in the local school.
The purpose of this paper is to contribute to deeper understanding when it comes to the experiences with online resources in professional learning and school development processes. We use a particular case from Norway, the “Competence Packages”-project (“Kompetansepakke-prosjektet”) to illuminate how teachers and school leaders in schools all over the country receive and make use of an actual (and newly developed) online program meant for professional development in the context of a revised curriculum (Kunnskapsdepartementet, 2016). In 2020, the Norwegian curriculum from 1-13 grade (students from 6-18 years) is renewed and teachers need to acquire new knowledge in their subjects as well as develop transdisciplinary knowledge and renew their classroom practices. In Norway as well as in other countries, online resources are available for professional learning and development for this purpose. In connection with the revision of the curriculum (“Fagfornyelsen”), and on behalf of the Directorate of Education, the Inland University has developed a range of school-based online resources (“Competences Packages”) to support the schools in their work on the implementation of the curriculum. The objective from the authorities was that all schools in Norway should make use of the online resources in their ongoing work with the school reform. The online resources will be available for all so that teachers’ and school leaders’ may use them to enhance their competences related to expectations and demands in the curriculum.
The research questions guiding this paper are: In what ways may (or may not), online resources contribute to professional learning in the school as a community of learners? Under what possible conditions will professional learning take place? A broader question concerns how educators make sense of this growing landscape of online professional learning and what kind of professional development will influence teacher education and continuing professional learning programs in a short and in a longer term. In our analysis we use theories and models for school development and professional learning (Elstad & Helstad, 2014; Stoll, 2007). The theoretical approaches will shed light on various aspects of professional learning and school development while professionals are using online resources in professional development.
A central part of the “Competences Packages”- project, is to evaluate if the participants have increased their professional learning. The data rely on a combination of quantitative and qualitative data, where the quantitative part is a survey where participants report on their knowledge and skills before they start using the online resources. The data that forms the basis for the analysis in this paper rests on the survey where school leaders assess their competence in leading teachers’ learning, and where teachers assess their skills and competence regarding curriculum implementation. So far (January 2020) the material consists of answers from 2500 school leaders and 12 000 teachers. We use the data to search for patterns and correlations between the school leaders’ answers and the teachers’ answers when they assess their own competence. While school leaders have reported on how they go about guiding professional learning in their local schools, teachers have responded on how they judge how school leaders facilitate professional learning conditions in their daily work. As the project proceed, we will use findings from group interviews with teachers and school leaders and compare the data with findings from the survey. In an up-coming paper we will explore how participants make use of the online resources in their local practices. Additionally, we will compare our findings with what we know from research on online professional development. The online resources developed for this project is facilitated by the use of a common set of curriculum materials as the content for professional learning. While one of the authors of this paper is a key developer of this particular project, the other author relies on a researchers’ perspective. Together the authors aim to describe and understand how online resources may, or may not, contribute to professional development. In contrast to a linear design that often ignore contextual factors the design of the actual online resources is dynamic, based on an assumption that the teachers and the school leaders in the local schools are at different levels of competence when it comes to understand and enact on new expectations in the curriculum (Postholm, 2018);(Vescio, Ross, & Adams, 2008). Based on this reasoning, the online resources are dynamically where the purpose is that learners jointly take ownership of their own learning. Whether this design influence the participants’ learning outcomes is a question of interest but so far, it is too early to know.
Some of the preliminary findings from this particular project show a tendency that school leaders rate the competence of their teachers lower than what teachers do within the same competence areas. Another finding is that teachers judge their own competence relatively high when it comes to implementing the new curriculum. What this means when it comes to the outcome of this online program remains unknown. Fishman (et. al) examined differences in teacher and student learning from professional development in two modalities: online and face-to-face, and whether there were differences in teacher knowledge and beliefs, and student learning outcomes related to these modalities. Findings indicate that actors exhibited significant gains in both conditions, and that there was no significant difference between conditions. Whether online professional development reported in this paper might be a good choice with many benefits to teachers and school leaders, or, on the other hand, a less productive choice compared to traditional in-person professional development, is a question to be further explored. The project is still in an early phase and the findings so far are scarce. As the participants will start to make use of the available resources in their daily work, we hope to collect data on how teachers and school leaders experience new ways of professional development. As the project proceed, we will collect and analyze findings in a nuanced way and supplement the quantitative data with qualitative information. Hopefully the findings from this study will contribute to deeper understanding when it comes to the use of online resources in professional learning and school development both in Norway and other countries.
Bates, M. S., Phalen, L., & Moran, C. (2016). Online professional development: A primer. Phi Delta Kappan, 97(5), 70-73. doi:10.1177/0031721716629662 Elstad, E., & Helstad, K. (2014). Profesjonsutvikling i skolen. Oslo: Universitetsforl. Fishman, B., Konstantopoulos, S., Kubitskey, B. W., Vath, R., Park, G., Johnson, H., & Edelson, D. C. (2013). Comparing the Impact of Online and Face-to-Face Professional Development in the Context of Curriculum Implementation. Journal of Teacher Education, 64(5), 426-438. doi:10.1177/0022487113494413 Kunnskapsdepartementet, (2015-2016). Fag-fordypning-forståelse-En fornyelse av Kunnskapsløftet (Meld.St. 28 (2015-2016)) Downloaded from https://www.regjeringen.no/ Parsons, S. A., Hutchison, A. C., Hall, L. A., Parsons, A. W., Ives, S. T., & Leggett, A. B. (2019). U.S. teachers’ perceptions of online professional development. Teaching and Teacher Education, 82, 33-42. doi:10.1016/j.tate.2019.03.006 Postholm, M. B. (2018). Forsknings- og utviklingsarbeid i skolen : metodebok for lærere, studenter og forskere (2. utg. ed.). Oslo: Universitetsforl. Stoll, L. (2007). Professional learning communities : divergence, depth and dilemmas Professional learning, K. S. Louis (Ed.) Vescio, V., Ross, D., & Adams, A. (2008). A review of research on the impact of professional learning communities on teaching practice and student learning. Teaching and Teacher Education, 24(1), 80-91. doi:10.1016/j.tate.2007.01.004
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