Collaborative Online Professional Development for Teachers in Higher Education

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Published: 
May 2016

Source: Professional Development in Education, Vol. 42, No. 2, 258–275, 2016
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study explores the learning experiences of seven educators who participated in an authentic learning-based, fully online postgraduate certificate programme for teaching in higher education.

Methods
The author uses narrative analysis is used for examining the experience of the participants during the programme and the perceived impact on their professional growth.

This study conducted during Twenty-first Century Educators (21stCE), a fully online postgraduate certificate for teaching in higher education developed in Finland. This program was designed to support multicultural teaching faculty in deepening their understanding of teaching and learning, education technology and assessment in the context of a twenty-first-century knowledge society. The participants in this program worked in small teams of six to eight people and each team had its own team facilitator. The author examined the stories of seven participants for this study.

Discussion
The participants illustrate that individual learners always bring their unique motivations, learning strategies, and life situations into a learning context. The participants experience the learning situation in different ways, at the same time affecting the learning experience of their peers through their actions and choices.

Furthermore, participants who went out of their comfort zones, faced a challenge and got through it, described a clearer conceptual change in their narratives than those who had less distinctive plot points in their stories.
The findings also illustrate that the teachers overcame the difficulties with highly developed self-regulation skills, such as persistence, willingness to learn, self-reflection and controlling one’s motivation.
The results also reveal that most of the narrators described events that could have been avoided or made less stressful with adequate online facilitation.

Conclusions
The author concludes that the findings clearly underline the transformative value of stepping out of the comfort zone instead of accommodating for familiar and preferred ways of learning. The participants who endured through a difficult ‘climax’ in their learning journey described a powerful experience of professional growth. The author argues that the professional growth was caused by the advanced self-regulation skills that the participants demonstrated. The authors recommend on designing online learning environments that promote the development of self-regulation skills as well as strengthening the facilitation of collaborative learning.
The author also argues that hearing the stories of the participants reveals team dynamics and issues arising from different learning styles and different approaches to the same learning situation, and thus promotes the understanding of different learners.

Updated: Feb. 21, 2018
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