Webinar Spotlights Teacher Preparation for Online Instruction
On November 20, an interactive webinar sponsored by the Midwest Regional Educational Laboratory at American Institutes for Research addressed the preparation of preservice teachers to educate PK-12 students in online, hybrid, and blended environments. Mary Herring, associate dean of the College of Education at the University of Iowa and chair of AACTE’s Committee on Innovation and Technology, and Bryan Zugelder, executive director for undergraduate affairs and partnerships at the University of Central Florida’s College of Education and Human Performance, discussed the preservice teaching landscape as it relates to online learning; the implications of virtual education on preservice teacher preparation programs; and the skills that current research and theory suggest preservice teachers should have to be successful in online and blended learning programs.
With a growing demand for PK-12 online learning opportunities and state-level policy driving innovations in teacher preparation, preservice teachers will need to develop new, expanded roles and competencies to educate students effectively in a virtual context. More than 500,000 full-time students were enrolled in statewide virtual schools in 2011, and the number of online students is expected to increase in the coming years as more PK-12 schools explore the possible advantages of online learning.
Recent policy trends affecting PK-12 online learning include state policies in Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, and New Mexico that require students to take an online course before graduating high school. In addition, Florida mandates that all school districts offer online learning to PK-12 students, and Idaho has adopted online teaching standards.
Last week’s webinar highlighted the corresponding need for teacher preparation programs to provide preservice teachers with strategies for online pedagogy, instructional design within web-based learning environments, and curriculum centered on education technology. Prospective teachers need to understand the complex and dynamic interactions among technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge (and their intersecting dimension known as TPACK). In addition, preparation programs need to offer teacher candidates real-world online teaching experiences alongside a cooperating instructor.
Some AACTE member institutions, such as the University of Wisconsin Stout, the University of Central Florida, and Iowa State University, have connected with virtual schools to develop virtual field experiences that prepare teachers for online settings. Other member institutions such as Boise State University (ID) and Valdosta State University (GA) offer state-approved university endorsement or graduate certifications for online teaching.
Another change-driving force discussed during the webinar is the Common Core State Standards, which require teachers to utilize instructional technology across content standards to deepen student learning and prepare students for a technological society. Professional organizations have created standards for evaluating and preparing teachers for online learning, such as the National Standards for Quality Online Teaching, and standards for meaningful technology integration, such as the International Society for Technology in Education’s National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers (ISTE NETS-T). These standards outline the knowledge, skills, and dispositions preservice teachers should have for effective online teaching.