Monday, May 18, 2015

Preparing Teaching Candidates for Blended and Online Environments

This post was originally written by Jayme Linton for Fractus Learning. Read the original post here.
There is a growing need for today’s pre-service teachers to be equipped with skills and competencies for blended, online, and technology-rich teaching and learning environments. As teaching candidates progress through teacher education programs, they should be exploring,evaluating, and applying methods and tools for effective instruction in the dynamic learning environments that exist in today’s K-12 schools.
At Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, North Carolina, faculty in the School of Education have developed pathways to help teaching candidates gain experience exploring, evaluating, and applying methods for online and blended instruction. Elementary, middle grades, and secondary teaching candidates at Lenoir-Rhyne University have the option of pursuing a track in blended or online learning as part of their teacher preparation program. We believe that graduates from these programs are better equipped to meet the needs of today’s learners and adapt to changing teaching and learning environments.
There are multiple opportunities to assist pre-service teachers in developing competencies for blended and online instruction, including modeling, coursework, and field experiences. In this post, I share the pathways we have developed at Lenoir-Rhyne University to prepare our teaching candidates for the field in the hopes that these structures and methods can be adapted by other teacher education programs.

Purposeful Modeling

Secondary education majors in Lenoir-Rhyne’s Master of Arts in Teaching program are presented with the opportunity to obtain a graduate certificate in online teaching and instructional design through a combination of coursework and field experiences. Students pursuing the online teaching track complete coursework in online methodsinstructional design, technologies for online learning environments, and foundations in distance education. Undergraduate elementary and middle grades education majors have the opportunity to begin graduate coursework in blended learning during their senior year. These courses include blended methods and technologies for blended learning environments.
Courses in blended and online learning, instructional design, and technologies for blended and online learning are taught by full-time faculty who model effective blended and online methods in their courses. This purposeful modeling is designed to help teaching candidates bridge theory and practice. Teaching candidates graduating from a blended or online teaching track will have experienced effective blended and online methods from both a student and teacher perspective.

Experience and Mentoring

In addition to coursework in blended and online methods, Lenoir-Rhyne University teaching candidates also have the opportunity to complete a blended or virtual student teaching experience, allowing them to apply methods from their coursework in authentic K-12 settings. This opportunity is made available due to collaborative partnerships with local school districts and the North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS). These partnerships allow Lenoir-Rhyne University School of Education faculty to match teaching candidates with mentor teacherswho are currently teaching in blended and online settings.
Elementary and middle grades teaching candidates pursuing the blended learning pathway complete a blended practicum in a local school district, designing and facilitating face-to-face and online instruction under the supervision of a mentor teacher and university supervisor. The blended practicum allows teaching candidates to develop flexibility and fluency with methods for diverse teaching and learning environments.

In The Field

Teaching candidates pursuing the online teaching track at the secondary level complete a year-long traditional, brick-and-mortar residency in a local classroom as well as a semester-long virtual practicum with an online course through NCVPS. In the virtual practicum, teaching candidates complete an online student teaching experience similar to traditional student teaching, whereby candidates take on teaching responsibilities for a specific period of time. The virtual practicum allows future secondary teachers to gain real experience designing and facilitating online learning experiences for diverse students from across the state. These blended and online field experiences are essential for today’s future educators.
Research on preparation for blended and online instruction advocates for coursework and practica focused on effective methods for designing and facilitating instruction in such environments (Journell et al., 2013; Kennedy & Archambault, 2012a). However, most teacher education programs have yet to provide these learning experiences for teaching candidates, thereby failing to adequately prepare them for their futures in the profession (Barbour et al., 2013). At Lenoir-Rhyne University, we have designed and implemented learning pathways to prepare teaching candidates for effective blended and online instruction. It is my hope that bysharing our approach to teacher preparation for blended and online instruction, other teacher educators will envision possibilities for incorporating components of blended and online learning into their courses and programs to better prepare teaching candidates for their futures.
To learn more about the blended and online teaching pathways at Lenoir-Rhyne University, contact Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator Dr. Jayme Linton at


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