January & February Research Round Up

Illustration of the learning process
What’s new in the world of K-12 research on online, blended, and innovative learning? This month, we take a look at learning to teach mathematics online, coaching instructional coaches, the value of project-based learning and high-level knowledge activities, and a framework for affective, behavioral, and cognitive engagement in online courses.

Learning to Teach Mathematics Online

When we discuss K-12 online learning, we often take the perspective of the learner and under what conditions they are most successful. 

However, teachers, too, face similar initial learning challenges in the online context and must learn how to teach effectively online. 

While online learning presents students with new opportunities, it also presents new pedagogical challenges for instructors. 

Specifically, little is known about the effectiveness of online mathematics teaching to strengthen preservice teachers’ subject-matter knowledge and pedagogical skills. 

A recent chapter in the Handbook of Research on Online Pedagogical Models for Mathematics Teacher Education titled “ Learning to Teach Mathematics Online: An Action Research Study” investigates how online instructors can teach mathematics in a way that leads to mathematical understanding. 

Coaching Instructional Coaches

An article, “Coaching Our Coaches: How Online Learning Can Address the Gap in Preparing K-12 Instructional Coaches,” published in Teaching and Teacher Education looked at why educators in an online coaching program sought professional development and how learning experiences fostered professional growth. 

Researchers used a qualitative case study of four participants and found that educators prioritized the need to define and organize their work as coaches. 

They also found that the online platform supported professional growth through job-embedded assignments and that activities were most impactful when responsive to authentic problems of practice. 

Ultimately, researchers concluded that the experience of learning and interacting online enabled participants to flexibly map learning to their specific school context(s). 

The Value of Project-Based Learning & High-Level Knowledge Activities

Many research articles published on K-12 online learning investigate its overall effectiveness compared to face-to-face learning. 

A study, “The Impact of Learner-, Instructor-, and Course-Level Factors on Online Learning,” recently published in Computers & Education instead looked at the relationships between the elements of K-12 online courses and their students’ learning outcomes. 

Researchers used student-, instructor-, and course-level data from over 900 high school level English language and literature enrollments and found that project-based assignments and high-level knowledge activities were beneficial to learning outcomes. 

Interestingly, these beneficial learning outcomes were not seen among students who took the course for credit recovery purposes. 

A Framework for Affective, Behavioral, & Cognitive Engagement in Online Courses

An article, “Academic Communities of Engagement: An Expansive Lens for Examining Support Structures in Blended and Online Learning,” published in Educational Technology Research and Development shares the Academic Communities of Engagement (ACE) framework, which describes a student’s ability to engage affectively, behaviorally, and cognitively in an online or blended course independently and with support. 

The framework examines how a student’s ability to engage in online or blended courses increases with support from two types of communities: course communities and personal communities.

According to researchers, individuals within each community have varying skills and abilities to support student engagement, and a student is most likely to reach the necessary engagement for academic success with active support from both. 

Research Roundup Blog Series

In this series, our team of researchers provide monthly updates on the latest K-12 online, blended, and innovative learning research, reports, standards, and other noteworthy resources published nationally and internationally. Our hope with this series is to inform the educational community of the latest digital learning research in order to better serve students. Stay up to date on future blogs in this series by signing up for email notifications

About the Authors

Kristen DeBruler

Dr. Kristen DeBruler received her doctorate in Educational Psychology and Educational Technology from Michigan State University. She taught in the Master of Arts in Educational Technology program at Michigan State University for three years. Her work focuses on K-12 online learning policy in Michigan and nation wide as well as understanding online learning best practices.

Christopher Harrington

Dr. Christopher Harrington has served public education as a teacher, an administrator, a researcher, and a consultant for more than 25 years and has experience assisting dozens of school districts across the nation in the design and implementation of blended, online, and personalized learning programs. He has worked on local, regional, and national committees with iNACOL and various other education-based organizations aimed at transforming education through the use of technology.

Picture of Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute

Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute

The Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute (MVLRI) is a non-biased organization that exists to expand Michigan’s ability to support new learning models, engage in active research to inform new policies in online and blended learning, and strengthen the state’s infrastructures for sharing best practices. MVLRI works with all online learning environments to develop the best practices for the industry as a whole.

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