Notes from the “Designing Theory and Research-Based Professional Development Opportunities for Faculty”, presented by Sarah Dysart, Loyola University, and Carl Weckerle, Macomb Community College, at the 2015 SLATE Conference
Assisting faculty with the instructional integration of information technology is the #3 concern of IT Issues, according to a 2014 Educause survey of Top-Ten IT Issues. We know that faculty members’ pedagogical beliefs are created through a process of social construction and enculturation (Pajares, 1992). They are content experts, but lack knowledge & self-efficacy for technology use & pedagogy.
Institutions offer a variety of support centrally, through technical support & training, centers for teaching & learning, and discipline/department specific training. According to the Educational Technology and Faculty Development in Higher Education survey by ECAR, a surprisingly small number of institutions have faculty training or other resources to support.
Often, there is a tension between technical and pedagogical knowledge among support staff, as well, where those who know the technology are not as knowledgeable about teaching strategies. Centralized support also lacks the content knowledge that makes technological and pedagogical decisions applicable to specific content. (This means centralized support doesn’t fits into the overlap between Technological & Pedagogical knowledge, but never make it to the center of the TPACK model).
The most effective professional development is practice-based. That means that professional development must be authentic to the context that faculty operate within. Professional development tasks must be relevant to teaching practice, in a way that is operationalized for faculty (so that they leave with a design or plan to implement in their teaching). Professional development should be designed to integrate technological and pedagogical knowledge. Most importantly, professional development must be ongoing from teaching to practice and beyond.
So, ultimately, while TPACK is a useful framework, it has not been applied broadly in higher education.
Practicing TPACK in Higher Ed PD
Sarah & Carl have developed a 3-phase framework for building TPACK through practice-based professional development.
- During Training – Learning by Design
It is critical that faculty have authentic and meaningful experiences, that they learn by doing and practicing in a low-risk environment with facilitator guidance. (Learning by Design is most often applied in a K-12, but Koehler has implemented successfully in higher education.)
- During Teaching – Peer Coaching
Four steps: (1) Gain understanding; (2) Observe instruction; (3) Practice designing & implementing instruction that integrates technology and pedagogy; (4) Share the teaching experience with mentor
“Vicarious experiences are considered to be a powerful learning tool” – Dale Schunk; In other words, observing others helps to build self-efficacy of the mentee by allowing them to visualize themselves doing the same thing.
This is challenging for centralized support because we do not have easy access to faculty in the classroom.
- Beyond Training – Communities of Practice
Creating CoPs fosters a culture of knowledge sharing and under scores the long-term value of innovation. However, it is challenging to embed it within faculty and support workflows and to build the infrastructure to support them.
Overall, centralized support for Instructional Design & Technology are critical in the During Training and During Teaching phase, but peer mentoring becomes important During Teaching and faculty can transition to the Community of Practice following the training. For example, faculty may engage with training before teaching online, begin peer mentoring during their first semester teaching online, and then move into the CoP during their second semester. Faculty may become mentors in their own right after some time of practice (Sarah mentioned ~3 years later they invite them back as mentors)