Designing online learning environments for professional development

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Internet-based technologies have expanded the range of options for teacher professional development. This chapter focuses on the design of online learning environments for teacher professional development. The empirical foundations of the work are based on online courses that the author has designed and taught to science teachers. The course participants have been practicing teachers with at least 2 years of experience. The theoretical foundations of the course design are grounded in assumptions about adult learners. Malcolm Knowles (The modern practice of adult education, 1980) identified several key characteristics of adult learners. Among them are the following: (1) adult learners are autonomous, self-directed, and strongly goal oriented; (2) adult learners have accumulated a foundation of life experiences and knowledge and have a need to connect learning to this knowledge and experience base; and (3) adult learners are practical and have a strong preference for learning that is most useful to their work. In addition to that, it has been recognized that teachers are usually isolated and have a professional need to interact and learn from fellow practitioners The new technologies afford opportunities for creating communities of practice among geographically dispersed practitioners (Fishman and Davis, The Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences, 535-550, 2006). © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010.

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New Science of Learning: Cognition, Computers and Collaboration in Education