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Improving Online Teacher Education


reviewed by Omar J. Almamoori & Kun Huang - July 06, 2020

coverTitle: Improving Online Teacher Education
Author(s): Rachel Karchmer-Klein
Publisher: Teachers College Press, New York
ISBN: 0807763691, Pages: 144, Year: 2020
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Today’s educators are faced with the challenge of teaching successfully in online learning environments, and the challenge is often confounded by the plethora of new technologies that seem to emerge every day. Yet, whether they are new to online teaching or seeking to improve online teaching practices, educators often encounter a shortage of resources that offer systematic, practice-oriented, yet evidence-based help. Klein’s Improving Online Teacher Prep provides such help, especially at this time when education at all levels is transitioning online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Geared towards teacher educators, the book has three characteristics that make it stand out among other resources. First, being aware of the fact that some educators are told to go online, Klein starts from teachers’ familiar territory in their teaching practices, processes, and functions, rather than tools, to put readers at ease. Second, the book tackles interactive and collaborative online learning, which online educators often find particularly daunting compared with other instructional events. Third, the book introduces just enough information to offer readers a theoretical perspective to keep them informed while not being overwhelmed.


In the introduction, Klein makes clear her intention to address interactive and collaborative online learning in this book. Five assumptions are elaborated. Among other assumptions, Klein emphasizes the importance of instructional design in online teaching. Learning goals and objectives, for instance, should be prioritized over technology instead of the other way around. Readers are encouraged to review and see if the assumptions align with those of their own, which can offer them a perspective in following the rest of the book.  


In Part One, “Framing of Online Instruction,” Klein provides the underpinnings of online instruction in two chapters. In Chapter One, Klein addresses arguably the most prevalent yet overlooked element in any online course: digital texts. Here, readers will not only read about the five attributes of digital texts— multimodal, malleable, nonlinear, interactive, and collaborative—but also experience them through a series of activities proposed by Klein. Readers are encouraged to complete the activities to gain first-hand awareness of the attributes, which can later help them make more effective use of digital texts in online instruction. In Chapter Two, Klein walks readers through some key processes and considerations in designing online instruction. For instance, how a given learning objective can be dissected into the different knowledge processes it entails (e.g., experiencing, conceptualizing, analyzing, applying), and how learning activities can then be devised to achieve the objective by considering and aligning the knowledge processes, attributes of digital text, and possible digital tools.


After laying an appropriate foundation, Part Two, Developing Evidence-Based Instruction, focuses on four specific strategies: think alouds, case-based instruction, peer feedback, and virtual field experience. In Chapter Three, Klein demonstrates how digital think alouds can help learners and teachers reflect on their academic and professional behaviors during instruction. Readers are encouraged to experiment with the recommended learning activities along with the suggested screen capture tools. Chapter Four elaborates on case-based instruction. With rich examples and activities, it addresses such important topics as how to select and design cases for effective situated learning experiences, and how to use digital tools to carry out the cases successfully. Chapter Five discusses incorporating peer feedback into online instruction and gives valuable recommendations on how to develop students’ peer feedback skills. Lastly, Chapter Six presents virtual experiences as a strategy to create a meaningful learning experience. While the examples and activities in the chapters are very helpful, readers would particularly benefit from a separate section within each chapter that discusses potential issues in implementing each strategy and possible approaches to handling these issues.


Part Three, “Putting It Together,” returns to the big picture to help readers connect the dots and grasp the main points of the book. In Chapter Seven, Klein uses a detailed example to illustrate the steps she takes in designing an online course. Readers are able to see how the content in the previous chapters weaves together in the course design process. Concluding the chapter and the book, Klein highlights five key points that can serve as takeaways for readers: (a) do not approach online instruction as a mere transfer of location from the classroom environment—instead, design instruction that matches online learning; (b) assign value to important course activities; (c) provide individualized instruction; (d) respect diversity in the online classroom; and (e) continue professional development. Among the key points, we particularly appreciate the discussion of grading and the suggestion of a balanced approach, i.e., motivating online students to complete all learning tasks vs. managing the grading workload as an online teacher.


Overall, the book is highly organized, practical, and well-informed by the literature. Each chapter is designed in such a way that readers have a chance to apply what they read immediately. Klein uses her online teaching expertise, valuable resources and tools, rich examples, and rubrics to provide detailed explanations of ways to enhance online instruction. Although the book is intended for teacher educators, it can also benefit online educators from other disciplines as well as those who are responsible for teacher professional development. A caveat for those outside of the education field is the use of education jargon in the book, such as situated learning, reflexive pedagogy, and cognitive processes. Beyond the jargon, these readers may still find the book a highly valuable resource for online course design and teaching.






Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: July 06, 2020
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23363, Date Accessed: 8/8/2020 7:55:11 PM

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About the Author
  • Omar Almamoori
    University of Kentucky
    E-mail Author
    OMAR J. ALMAMOORI is a doctoral student in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at University of Kentucky. He is pursuing an Ed.D. degree with an emphasis on instructional system design. He is a certified English teacher in the state of Kentucky and currently works as a graduate teaching assistant.
  • Kun Huang
    University of Kentucky
    E-mail Author
    KUN HUANG, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Instructional Systems Design at the University of Kentucky. She has taught online for seven years, and has six years of experience as an instructional designer in higher education. Her research aims to uncover learners’ behavioral, cognitive, and motivational patterns across a variety of settings such as problem-based learning, game- and simulation-based learning, STEM education, and online learning.
 
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