Measuring the effectiveness of online instruction in preparing culturally responsive early childhood educators

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Brief Abstract

This study examines the impact of coursework designed with the community of inquiry framework on the development of culturally responsive early childhood educators in their first year of an online bachelor’s degree completion program. Results suggest the program had positive effects on student attitudes, beliefs and perceived efficacy.

Extended Abstract

As increasing numbers of early childhood professionals are expected to earn bachelor’s degrees, they face additional barriers as nontraditional students who must balance family life, work, school, and the potential for long commutes (Fishman, 2015). Online and hybrid bachelor’s degree teacher preparation programs are one solution for early learning professionals earning college degrees. However, teacher educators must ensure that the design of online learning is effective in promoting early childhood teachers to be culturally responsive, supporting them to recognize the importance of diversity and how to break down inequitable systems of power (Hammond, 2015) while honoring the histories, cultures, communities, and ways of knowing and being of students and families (Gay, 2010). Positive beliefs, values, and perceived efficacy regarding culturally responsive pedagogy are crucial for the success of early childhood educators. The current study examines the impact of coursework designed with the community of inquiry framework (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000) on the development of culturally responsive early childhood educators in their first year of an online bachelor’s degree completion program. Coursework, including online asynchronous discussions, was designed to integrate cognitive presence, teaching presence, and social presence, with a special emphasis on the importance of social presence in mediating teacher development of culturally responsive pedagogy. This study is a one-group pretest-posttest that surveyed 31 students in the fall and spring of their first year in the online bachelor’s degree completion program to determine if the coursework helped prepare students to be culturally responsive educators. Results suggest that participation in the courses had positive effects. Of the four survey scales (Praxis, Community, Social Justice, and Perceived Efficacy) there were significant changes for Social Justice and Perceived Efficacy from pre to posttest. Analysis of a qualitative question suggests that students gained a deeper understanding of the concept of equity. Finally, an examination of coursework using the community of inquiry framework provided insights regarding why these changes may have occurred. Limitations and future research are discussed as well as implications for the design of effective online learning experiences related to culture, diversity, and culturally responsive practice which are intended to prepare teachers or other professionals who serve diverse populations.

 

References

Fishman, R. (2015). Community college online. Washington, DC: New America. https://na-production.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/community-college-online.pdf.

Garrison, D.R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2.87-105.

Gay, G. (2010). The power of culturally responsive caring. In Culturally responsive teaching: Theory, research, and practice, 2nd Ed. (pp. 47-75). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Hammond, Z., & Jackson, Yvette. (2015). Culturally responsive teaching and the brain : Promoting authentic engagement and rigor among culturally and linguistically diverse students. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin, a SAGE Company.