I have been studying teacher innovation for the last five years. My research examines the confluence of teacher entrepreneurial orientation, blended learning, and online teacher professional development. What I have found is that these areas are converging in the so-called “MOOC-osphere.” This means there are great opportunities for leveraging and scaling MOOCs as assets in teacher professional development programs. We know from research (Barnett, 2002; Borko, 2004; Darling-Hammond et al, 2009; and Killeen, Monk, & Plecki, 2002) that teachers often view professional development as ineffective. Most PDs do not provide ongoing support for implementing new strategies or tools. MOOCs offer a scalable way to train staff anytime, anywhere and in very large groups. This approach produces robust data sets that illustrate which learning activities are effective and which are not. This data can be analyzed to fine-tune the variety of trainings essential for rolling out comprehensive curricula implementations, blended learning initiatives, and 1:1 programs. The entrepreneurial orientation (EO) construct has been studied for 40 years and these studies have been published in 256 scholarly journals. Although primarily used in Management research, the construct has been successfully adapted and validated as a scale for measuring teachers and administrators along domains of innovativeness, proactiveness, and risk-taking. This work provides precise definitions for each domain as well as a baseline for comparing teachers who seek out PD opportunities online to those who do not. Dede et al (2005) reviewed 400 articles about online, face-to-face, and hybrid teacher PD programs and found 40 represented high-quality empirical research. They developed five areas for examining best practices (a) Design, (b) Effectiveness, (c) Technology, (d) Communication, and (e) Methods. These focus areas may provide a framework for evaluating MOOCs PD assets. As a final takeaway, I would like to clarify that I am NOT suggesting that we do away with all other forms of PD, however, Districts should be supplementing their professional development programs with MOOCs and using that data to drive their follow-up offerings. While for-profit corporations proliferate, marketing online education programs with dubious success rates, perhaps the smart play is to market MOOCs to people who want to be life-long learners, improve their technical skills, and increase their pedagogical moves. These people are already in your buildings. They are your teachers.
Dede, C., Breit, L., Jass-Ketelhut, D., McCloskey, E., and Whitehouse, P. (2005). An overview of current findings from empirical research on online teacher professional development. Harvard Graduate School of Education. Cambridge, MA. November, 2005. Accessed at http://www.gse.harvard.edu/~uk/otpd/final_research_overview.pdf
Petri, S. M. (2013). Where are the risk takers? Using the entrepreneurial orientation construct to identify innovative and proactive teachers (Doctoral dissertation, California State University, Northridge). http://scholarworks.csun.edu/handle/10211.2/4464