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An examination of the impact of an online professional development program on language teachers’ cognition and teaching practices

Songül, Behice Ceyda
In recent decades, there has been a corrective move towards constructivist approaches to Online Professional Development (OPD) (Whitehouse, McCloskey & Ketelhut, 2010). Encapsulated in a professional learning community paradigm, recent OPD efforts aim to address the professional needs of the teachers by providing them with collaborative, reflective and situated learning opportunities (Lantz-Andersson, Lundin & Selwyn, 2018). Despite these developments, very few studies have addressed the cognitive and behavioral changes of teachers who attended such OPD programs. To address this gap, this study set out to contribute to this stream of research by examining the impact of an OPD program that included webinars and online or face-to-face lesson procedure on Turkish EFL teachers’ professional development. In this multiple case study, the research focus was on uncovering how the processes of participating in both webinars and face-to-face or online LS groups helped teachers’ professional growth during the OPD program. The effective features of the OPD program that led to the teachers’ professional development were also aimed to be revealed. The participants of the study consisted of 10 female Turkish EFL teachers teaching at secondary or high school level. To provide a qualitative description of teacher learning within the groups, two online and one face-to-face lesson study group were formed with the inclusion of 3 to 4 teachers in each group. For online lesson study procedure, Dudley’s (2014) version of Lesson Study (LS) was adapted to the online medium with the inclusion of some synchronous and asynchronous tools. In addition, as part of a Marie S. Curie Project, these teachers attended six webinars about English language teaching methodology and the integration of web 2.00 tools in language classes. To delve into the processes of teacher change, Clarke and Hollingsworth’s (2002) Interconnected Model of Teacher Professional Growth, which includes four domains representing teachers’ world was used to examine not only short term changes (change sequences) but also long-term changes (growth networks) in language teachers’ cognition and teaching behaviors To this end, a bulk of qualitative data collection tools were used including the video-recordings of prelesson and post-lesson discussion meetings, video-recordings of the taught lessons, interviews, lesson plans, teacher posts in online platforms, reflection reports and pre- and post-observation data. The findings of the study demonstrated that all of the teachers in online and f2f lesson study groups were subject to substantial change in cognition and behavior as a result of their participation in OPD program. These changes were shown to be caused primarily by the webinars and the lesson study discussions in the External Domain and the lesson planning and teaching practices in the Domain of Practice despite varying degrees and patterns of change among teachers. The scrutiny of growth networks indicated that reflections on classroom outcomes led to the formation of growth networks representing long-lasting changes in teachers’ cognition. It was also revealed that teachers’ long-lasting changes centered mostly on technology integration rather than more general pedagogical transformations. The study proposed a set of important considerations for the effective functioning of online and face-to-face lesson study procedure for future OPD efforts.