How principal participation in an online community of practice impacts the professional development experience of middle school teachers
Cynthia Beatty Vavasseur, Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College, United States
Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College . Awarded
This study provided insights about incorporating an online community of practice into a professional development program designed to facilitate the instructional implementation of technology. Two middle schools in a southern state served as a comparative case study where this model of professional development was implemented. The primary goal of this research was to gain understanding of how principals interact with teachers and the roles principals assume during these interactions. A second goal was to determine how teachers perceived principal participation and how their levels of competence and efficacy were influenced by this experience. During four weeks of implementation principals participated with their teachers as members of the online community. Qualitative data were collected from the online threaded discussions, focus group interviews with teachers, individual principal interviews, and periodic teacher self-reports. Quantitative data from a Likert-scale survey and unit plans scored with a numeric rubric were collected. Results showed that principal contributions to the online community fell into two categories: emotional support and professional support. In addition, principals noted that the any time, any place aspect of the online community of practice was beneficial and allowed them to increase communication with their teachers. Through their participation principals gained insight about their teachers' beliefs about technology integration, their reactions to professional development, their varying levels of competence with technology, and their motivation to use technology. Challenges identified by principals included their limited technology proficiency, difficulties facilitating full participation by faculty, and time constraints. This experience also allowed teachers to gain insights about their principals' priorities and their values and beliefs about learning. Findings revealed differences in the support and pressure strategies utilized by these principals which reflected varying leadership styles. These differences impacted teachers' perceptions of the experience and the quality of the culminating activity. Techniques used to provide support, such as showing humor, encouraging competition, encouraging peer relationships and making suggestions had a positive impact on perceptions, whereas pressure had a positive impact on task performance. Implications of principal leadership style as exemplified through their participation in an online community of practice are discussed.
Vavasseur, C.B. How principal participation in an online community of practice impacts the professional development experience of middle school teachers. Ph.D. thesis, Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College.
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