Beyond Competency: Engaging Faculty through Authentic Training Experiences
Concurrent Session 1
Do your faculty know how their teaching styles, teaching perspectives and learning styles influence their performance in online classrooms? Learn how the UWI Open Campus initiated change in faculty attitudes and teaching competencies with an innovative training framework drawing on technology, pedagogy, coaching and recognition.
The Programme Delivery Department (PDD), as an online and distance learning (ODL) department within the Open Campus at The University of the West Indies (UWI), is responsible for recruiting professionals to teach online and to conduct related academic functions in accordance with UWI regulations pertaining to delivery of programmes and courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
To improve and strengthen PDD’s responsibilities as an ODL Department, the following purposes are identified within the construct of a professional development framework: (1) to provide training in online and distance learning pedagogy that meets international standards, (2) to meet the unique needs in the Caribbean requiring trained educators in the field of online and distance education, and (3) to provide a model for professional development that can be applied and utilized by clients internal and external to UWI.
The goals of this framework were to implement a sustainable professional development in-service model for UWI that provides initial mandatory training combined with coaching services for adjunct and full time staff that serves as the foundation on which to build advanced professional competencies and provide a route for professionals to earn continuous professional awards, academic degrees, and postgraduate awards in online and distance education. This model includes – Foundation Courses; Mastery Tracks (Role- and Skills-based), Continuing Professional Development, and collaboration with other departments on development of postgraduate degree awards in the field of ODL.
Implementation of a Sustainable Model
With consideration for capacity building within PDD that is sustainable the following model was developed:
- A technology assessment was presented to all participants in the form of a gamified learning tool, called the Technology Quest (TechQuest), in order to ensure facilitators exhibited the ability to integrate the use of the online technologies available to them in their delivery of courses (Koehler & Mishra, 2009). In the TechQuest, facilitators were required to demonstrate their level of knowledge and competency using the different features of the learning management system (Moodle) and other related technology tools (Turn It In, Blackboard Collaborate). This authentic assessment was based on review of screen shots of completed activities or submitted documentation.
- All new recruits were required to participate in a mandatory foundation training that addresses the basic requirements for someone teaching in an online environment. These courses were aimed at establishing the requirement/standard for online teaching and are accomplished through the completion of the Foundations for Successful Online Facilitation (FSOF) Certificate, a series of four courses dealing with introductory concepts of student-centred delivery, facilitation techniques, feedback and assessment, and creation of presence in the online classroom. Through this series candidates demonstrate competency in the use of Moodle technology, facilitation skills, assessment practices, formative feedback, and building the social context within their courses. In the first course participants complete a series of self-assessments using tools such as Teaching Perspectives Inventory (TPI), Grasha-Reichmann Teaching Styles Survey, and VARK Learning Styles Questionnaire to assess their attitudes and practices related to teaching online. All courses utilize the information gained from these assessments, using a reflective-reflexive approach to self-improvement but require participants to also meet an expected performance level to move forward based on graded activities.
- Existing facilitators selected to teach in new or revised courses were required to complete mandatory foundation training which reinforced and updated previous training (the original five week training course mandated by the department). This is accomplished through completion of the Building on Foundations of Successful Online Facilitation (BFSOF) Certificate, a series of three courses in which they demonstrate competency in the use of Moodle technology, facilitation skills, assessment practices, formative feedback, and building the social context within their courses. As with new facilitators, participants complete a series of self-assessments using tools such as Teaching Perspectives Inventory (TPI), Grasha-Reichmann Teaching Styles Survey, and VARK Learning Styles Questionnaire to assess their attitudes and practices related to teaching online in their first course. Reflective-reflexive practices for self-assessment are also embedded in the delivery of this series of courses.
- Coaching is an integral part of ensuring competency is achieved and maintained and embedded in the framework. Coaching is delivered to Course Coordinators prior to and during a semester to ensure adherence to curriculum, pedagogical, and academic practices and policies. This coaching includes:
- Review of the course outline and course material for a new/revised course/programme
- Guidance for the CC in their preparation of teaching plan for new/revised courses at the start of a semester
Group facilitators and eTutors assigned to designated courses received coaching prior to the start of the semester and throughout the semester following training. This coaching included:
- Recommendations on messages and activities during orientation with students
- Coaching sessions identifying practices to improve performance (e.g. Promoting Critical thinking in Forum Postings)
- Advisement for facilitators on their individual professional development (e.g. recommending Mastery track courses to be taken).
To ensure engagement of facilitators awaiting assignments or address deficiencies in performance, a Course Observer role was integrated into the coaching services, whereby such facilitators are guided through activities that support their development.
- Online resource rooms, such as the Moodle Resource Room, were constructed and available to all training participants. These resource rooms provided access to a myriad of instructional videos related to the Moodle learning platform, associated technologies used in the delivery of courses such as Blackboard Collaborate, Turn-It-In and the ePortfolio product Mahara. These resource rooms provided practice areas for the facilitators to use features of the technology before implementing them in their courses.
- Continuing Professional Development was provided beyond the initial mandatory training, through the delivery of Mastery Track courses for advanced training. This accommodates adjunct groups as well as full time staff. This does not only ensure maintenance of competencies, but growth in line with the attributes associated with professional staff as described in The UWI Strategic Plan.
- Facilitators were recognized for their achievements through the award of individual badges at the completion of each course. Recognition of successful completion of a series of courses was provided in the form of Certificates issued by the Open Campus.
Over the course of the academic year, in three cycles of training, 214 existing facilitators and 126 new facilitators participated in the foundations training. Of these an average of 70.8% successfully passed the series of courses.
In summary, the training framework offered a comprehensive professional development plan for PDD adjunct and full-time staff which ensures development and tracking of competencies associated with ODL professionals. This model, which incorporates coaching, is a superior model to that commonly used in teacher training in educational institutions, whereby trainees/participants are simply provided training for a set period of time with the expectation that trainees will be competent in applying skills (Brock & Abel, 2012). These courses generally are conducted without verification or assessment of the skills taught, or additional mentoring/coaching support to develop adjuncts as teachers when they are faced with the challenges experienced in the live online classroom. Teacher training in the Caribbean as well as internationally, in general, has made the assumption that one time training is adequate. Performance in such institutions, in general, suggests that that model has not served those institutions or the recipients of such training well in that it does not seek to maintain a level of competency or ensure that practitioners maintain a current knowledge of technology and pedagogy as the online environment evolves.
We anticipate that by sharing our approach to faculty training, that attendees will be introduced to a life-cycle approach to professional development that will engage and encourage adjunct faculty. We wish to inspire attendees to think about their professional development programmes and recognize that training must reach “beyond competency” in order to produce effective and engaged adjunct faculty.
Brock, S., and Abel, A.L. (2012). Creating a learning climate for the 21st century, Transformative Dialogues: Teaching and Learning Journal, 5(3), 1-6.
Kohler, M.J., and Mishar, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge? Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1), 60-70.