AGAINST THE ODDS: BLENDED LEARNING FOR TEACHER PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
American University in Cairo (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN15 Proceedings
Publication year: 2015
Conference name: 7th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 6-8 July, 2015
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Abstract:Blended learning (BL) is increasingly being explored as a modality for offering in-service teacher professional development (TPD)(Owston, Wideman, Murphyy, & Lupshenyuk, 2008). The approach to instruction is said to capitalize on the strengths of both online and face-to-face instruction, in terms of enhancing learning outcomes, student engagement, flexibility, access, and cost-effectiveness. Very little research is found on the appropriateness BL for in-service TPD in contexts with limited ICT integration. This study addresses the latter gap.
The public school system in Egypt employs over 1.5 million teachers who are both underpaid and under-qualified. In response, a private university in Cairo established its Professional Educator Diploma program at a price affordable to the average public school teacher. The program’s success resulted in increasing requests to offer the courses in geographically distant regions of the country. The challenge was to insure quality while maintaining low tuition. Blended learning seemed to be the viable solution, despite much hesitation.
Data collection methods:
Action research was used to answer the following research questions were asked:
1. What are the factors that different stakeholders identified as integral to the success of the existing face-to-face TPD program?
2. What were stakeholders’ perceptions of BL as a modality for offering TPD in remote locations?
3. To what extent did the data-driven model piloted address the success factors identified by stakeholders?
An introductory course in leadership, conducted over a period of 8 weeks, was used to collect data. A needs analysis was conducted to identify the key success factors for existing face-to-face program – using a convenience sample of two program managers, 3 instructors, and 7 students. For triangulation purposes, three data collection methods were used to examine question 3:
1) classroom observations;
2) instructor interview; and course evaluations.
The needs analysis suggested the following as success factors for the existing program:
1) instructor knowledge and experience;
2) support and sense of community;
3) networking opportunities; as well as
4) organized content. Although managers and instructors saw the potential of BL as an alternative, students regarded is with skepticism focusing on Egyptian students’ aversion to online learning. Classroom observations suggested a growing sense of community among students and the instructor.
This was reflected in student evaluations of the course. All students found the course beneficial to their learning. Contrary to expectations, students liked the online component of the course. For example, 92% of the students liked the enhanced opportunities for interaction afforded by online activities. All (100) would recommend taking a TPD blended course. The instructor interview suggested that Students’ submitted work exceeded in quality that of face-to-face classes. Students were more supportive of each other’s learning than in face-to-face classes and assumed leadership.
The case study results imply the appropriateness of BL as a viable modality of TPD in the local Egyptian context, contrary to expectations. The results of this study might also imply that teachers’ perceptions of quality TBD might differ from those suggested by studies conducted in western settings (e.g., Cohen & Hill, 2001).
Keywords: Blended learning, teacher professional development, action research.