The organization of the online or blended K-12 professional development course, instructional strategies, and feedback methods will be less successful in motivating students as they work through the course if they do not have support. Support can come in a few different ways, but essentially support is provided by people. It can come from the participant’s family, friends, coworkers, classmates, or instructor. This support is important as the lack of it can demotivate students.
Meeting Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, learners require that their physiological, safety, and belonging needs are met before they can be open to learning. Instructors of professional learning courses cannot provide for the physiological needs as they are usually not in the same location as their participants. The only instance that a physiological need could be met by an instructor would be during a physical meeting of a blended learning course the instructor could provide snacks, drinks, and regular bathroom breaks. Safety is also a need that instructors can only control in a face to face meeting of a blended learning class.
The need for belonging can be provided for by both the instructor and the participant’s classmates. This can be done by implementing strategies of online and blended learning that promote interaction between the student and the instructor and among the students themselves. Setting synchronous and asynchronous chats through web and phone applications can help create a learning community that is able to provide some of the necessary support needed to be motivated to learn the pedagogies, tools, and skills that are addressed in the online and blended K-12 professional development course.
Providing Support Through Coaching and Mentoring
Since the focus of online and blended K-12 professional development courses is to create positive change in the K-12 classroom learning environment, coaching and mentoring can help provide support to individuals who are participating in the professional development course. Coaching and mentoring practices provide one-on-one guidance and support to teachers (Onchwari & Keengwe, 2008). If the course is being presented through a blended learning model that is taking place at the same site the participant currently teaches, a coaching or mentoring model can be someone from their own school.
For instance, a school could implement a blended learning model that is instructed by one of the instructional coaches in the building. This instructional coach could provide both instructor support and coaching support to the participants of the program. The benefit to a framework such as this is that the coach knows the course materials, teachings, and strategies that the participant is being exposed to. This allows the coach to create a one-on-one coaching experience that can help guide participants through struggle points they may face when they implement their learning into their classroom.
The coach can be there to support through planning, co teaching, and reflections that can help the participant to grow into independence in using their learning in the classroom. This model allows the coach to provide support to participants who may be nervous about implementing new pedagogies, tools or strategies in the classroom environment on their own. An additional positive to this model for blended learning is that when it comes to the online course materials and assignments, the coach, as the instructor, can better tailor the resources and activities to what the participants need to learn allowing for personalization of the course to become a natural part of the program.
Since online courses and many blended courses do not offer an option for a school based coach to serve as the instructor of the online or blended K-12 professional development course, other options should be explored to try to provide coaching or mentoring. One option is to use the online instructor as a virtual coach. This option requires more of a time commitment from the online or blended course instructor and an ability to record and participate in virtual synchronous meetings.
If virtual coaching is not an option, participants can seek out coaches that are either fellow participants in the course or are an administrator, master teacher, or other expert that can guide and support the participant through the implementation of the pedagogies, tools, or skills learned through the online or blended professional development course. The coaching or mentoring should be individualized through one-on-one sessions. This provides the participant with the opportunity to work through problem points, skill development needs, and support needs the teacher may have. The coaching or mentoring should be intensive and sustained where participants interact with their coach on a regular basis and teachers can receive coaching over an extended period of time. The coaching or mentoring should be context-specific and focused so coaching can relate to the context of the classroom environment in which the participant works and allows for engagement in the practice of a specific skill.
While coaching and mentoring are not necessarily elements that are usually found in an online or blended learning course it is an important element that can and should be readily available for teachers who participate in an online or blended K-12 professional development course. Whether the coach or mentor is the instructor himself or herself or the participant can recruit someone from his or her own school, the element of support that can be provided by this individual allows the participant of the course to feel like they the support they need to take risks in the classroom. For teachers who are too nervous to implement some of the pedagogies, tools, or skills to a classroom full of students the first time, the coach or mentor can provide co teaching support to allow for confidence that the participant is not alone if the implementation goes awry.
Parent, Educator, Technology Lover