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Initiating Local Change Through Global Online Professional Development

Thu, April 18, 10:00 to 11:30am, Hyatt Regency, Floor: Street (Level 0), Regency A


With a view of providing flexible learning opportunities to busy teachers, online teacher training is becoming a widespread form of professional development in diverse educational settings. In the global development world, virtual coursework is frequently seen as an ideal tool for increasing accessibility to professional development to teachers living in remote areas and low resource contexts. This has given rise to global, cohort based professional development courses. Professional development in virtual learning spaces has brought many benefits, such as providing teachers with cost-effective “anytime, anyplace” access to sustained and ongoing professional learning, as well as many challenges, including how to maintain commitment to the implementation of experiential learning and reflection, and to creating a context for constructivist learning in a new mode of delivery. Drawing on World Learning’s suite of online professional development courses delivered globally, this presentation explores the key questions and challenges related to this mode of delivery: how to create and support a global community of practice which will help its members to effectively implement changes in a variety of local teaching contexts.

The session begins with a brief critical overview of the impact of virtual professional development courses offered globally. After identifying the core components of effective professional development courses, the most important being experiential learning, the presenter explains how they informed and guided the design of global online courses developed for the American English E-teacher project. Next, she describes how course modules were conceptualized to ensure that learning communities are established from the outset, and that collaboration, sharing of experience and reflection occur in a safe environment, of 'unconditional positive regard' throughout the course. Special attention will be devoted to the ‘cascading tasks’ systematically embedded throughout the course, which were designed to equip teachers with knowledge and skills that will help them share or ‘cascade’ new ideas or skills in their local community and in this manner increase the impact of the course. Drawing on the findings obtained from the analysis of course participants’ contributions, as well as results of pre- and post-course surveys, the presenter identifies emerging changes in participants’ classroom practice, their reflective competence, attitudes and awareness. In the final part of the talk, the presenter shares guidelines for incorporating the experiential learning cycle into online course design and engages the audience in idea sharing and discussion.