Professional development for online teaching: The value of a coaching framework for a casualized workforce

Year: 2021

Author: Weuffen, Sara, Meissner, Ellen, Hutchison, Alan, Simmalavong, Bill

Type of paper: Individual Paper

Professional development for online higher education practice has received exponential attention since the Covid-19 pandemic. To retain student enrolments, many institutions were forced to embark on a rapid transition from either wholly face-to-face, or blended, to wholly online delivery modes. A review of scholarship pre-and-post the pandemic highlights that, on average, tertiary teachers had limited knowledge of, and skills to deliver, effective learning for optimised student success in online spaces. This resulted in transposition of materials that were not fit-for-purpose, and rather reflected, a more synchronous version of distance education. This presentation discusses the provision of professional development for online teachers employed on a casual basis at an Australian higher education provider. Building upon previous scholarship by Gilmore (2019), we provide evidence-based discussions about how the RMIT Online academic coaching model supports ongoing enhancement of learning and teaching practices. The model includes onboarding, 1 on 1 coaching sessions, and group coaching sessions delivered through differentiated pathways based on knowledge and skill levels. It affords casual teachers an opportunity to engage in paid, continuous, and in-house professional development delivered by expert teacher-researchers. Many of the teachers undertaking casual employment with RMIT Online hold substantive roles in Australian education and/or industry; in which the benefits of professional development are being seen. Utilising triangulated data already available as part of organisational recording and monitoring - I.e.: student satisfaction survey results, individual teaching scores, and peer-review of teaching practice - there has been an observed increase in student satisfaction, teacher capacity, and teacher retention. We propose that this has led to a more sustainable and collaborative workforce. From our analysis of enhancements over time, in this presentation we provocate that through regular individual and group coaching, casualised teachers feel supported and empowered to enhance own pedagogical practices. Given that no mandatory formal professional development programs exist at a national level for tertiary teachers – although a number of individual institutions are making this a requirement of initial employment – implementation of a model reflective to the RMIT Online one, has the potential to raise the profile and experience of online tertiary teaching for the ultimate aim of enhancing student learning experiences