Mathematics and Science Teachersâ€™ Transfer of Online Learning to Face-to-Face Classrooms
Hicks, Kimberly A
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Historically, science and mathematics teacher educators model best practices in face-to-face settings as a way to teach about learner-centered instruction. As this challenge has begun to be met in recent years by instructors of teachers in online settings, research into what is typically considered effective in face-to-face environments to an online model has moved to center stage. It is essential for teacher educators to push their thinking about how they can model best practices in different ways and to study how teachers make sense of and translate what they learn to the K-12 face-to-face setting. However, online educational opportunities for in-service teachers and the transfer of that learning to the face-to-face classroom have not been widely researched. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to examine middle grades mathematics and science teachers’ perceived learning in online environments regarding: a) what transferred to the face-to-face classroom, and b) what experiences in the online program facilitated that transfer. This study employed qualitative methodologies to ascertain instances of and the nature of this transfer as reported by four teachers who successfully graduated from the M.Ed. program, iSMART. Individual teacher course documents and two individual teacher interviews and transcriptions constituted the qualitative data collected over a 16-week period. Data analysis strategies included: a) and open-coding process, b) horizontalization, and c) the use of thematic analysis, which identified themes that describe the nature of what teachers transfer from the online learning experiences to the K-12 classroom.. Triangulation of data, along with member checks, ensured that the themes did not have a limited point of view, thus establishing trustworthiness (Polkinghorne, 1989, Creswell, 2007). The six themes that were extracted from the data analysis are: (a) the influence of the cohort model and collaboration on the face-to-face classroom, (b) the use of discourse in the classroom to facilitate learning, (c) the use of technology in the classroom, (d) the integration of mathematics and science in the face-to-face classroom setting, (e) the transfer of content knowledge from the iSMART coursework, colleagues, and instructors, (f) the transfer of pedagogical knowledge from the iSMART coursework, colleagues, and instructors. Findings of the study confirm research about the use of instructional strategies that facilitate transfer (Guskey, 2000), as well previous studies about learning transfer with in-service and pre-service teachers in face-to-face classroom settings. This study has implications for teacher educators, professional development providers, and school leaders. Research reveals that instructional practices of the instructor can facilitate transfer to a greater degree (Guskey, 2000), as was confirmed by the results of this study. Understanding how middle grades mathematics and science teachers acclimate themselves to the online environments, as well as transfer their learning to their face-to-face classroom, is a crucial piece to constructing high-quality professional development and higher education courses for both pre-service and in-service educators.