A multiple methods analysis of influential design factors for differentiated teacher professional development: Perceptions of a virtual learning environment to support technological pedagogical content knowledge construction
Newton, Ann B.
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Differentiated teacher professional development designed for learning how to effectively integrate technology into classroom practice requires an instructional design model focused on complex learning and transfer to practice. In the case of small rural, private, and independent schools, the number of educators in unique faculty and administrative positions may put significant strain on a school’s ability to provide high quality, ongoing, authentic professional learning opportunities that meet the needs of individual educators. This multiple methods case study investigated influential design factors for differentiated professional development using a virtual learning environment that could have advantages for small or rural schools. Of particular interest were educators’ perceptions of the existing knowledge network within the school and the relationship between teachers’ self-efficacy for technology integration and other personal factors. The pilot study was conducted at a PreK-12 independent school to investigate the feasibility of the methodological choices and to explore the implications for conducting future larger-scale studies in K-12 schools. The results of the study suggest that virtual learning environments could serve to facilitate complex professional learning focused on transfer to practice for educators in small and rural schools by expanding the possibilities for interaction for both teachers and administrators in the online and local face-to-face environments. At each local site, school administrators would serve as change agents, which would require an additional layer of development in the instructional design phase paired with programmed facilitation during the implementation process in each school. In addition, the results indicate that combining traditional analyses of teachers’ personal characteristics with social network analysis for visualization of a school’s knowledge network may be beneficial to instructional designers or professional development facilitators as a pre-assessment of teachers’ needs for differentiation.