Academic journal article College Student Journal

An Early Distance Learning Success Story: The Teacher Leader Program

Academic journal article College Student Journal

An Early Distance Learning Success Story: The Teacher Leader Program

Article excerpt

This study revisits an earlier investigation of a successful graduate education program called the Teacher Leader Program (Kisch, Harper, & Messner, 1993). It has implications for the planning, development and delivery of graduate education programs as it describes a program that is one of only six in the nation (Atlanta Journal and Constitution, 1998) and has successfully operated for 24 years.

The purposes of this study are threefold: (1) to tally demographic data of teachers enrolled in the current Teacher Leader Program; (2) to identify and discuss themes, patterns, and tendencies as to how the program has changed the teachers professionally; and finally (3) to offer student initiated suggestions for program improvement.

Introduction

This study revisits an earlier investigation of a successful graduate education program called the Teacher Leader Program (Kisch, Harper, & Messner, 1993).

It has implications for the planning, development and delivery of graduate education programs as it describes a program that is one of only six in the nation (Atlanta Journal and Constitution, 1998) and has successfully operated for 24 years. The purposes of this study are threefold: (1) to tally demographic data of teachers enrolled in the current Teacher Leader Program; (2) to identify and discuss themes, patterns, and tendencies as to how the program has changed the teachers professionally; and finally (3) to offer student initiated suggestions for program improvement.

The earlier study of Kisch, Harper & Messner (1993) described a graduate program that was implemented in 1976 and remains in effect today. Data collected provided a demographic profile of classroom teachers enrolled in the outreach program, described the components of a successful program responding to the needs of employed and distant teacher learners and lastly offered suggestions to higher education faculty implementing programs of this nature. The results of the current study confirm that the demographics of the students enrolled in today's program are essentially the same as those described in the early study. Data were collected from 103 graduate students enrolled in the Teacher Leader Program using a survey instrument developed and administered by department faculty. Generally, today's demographic findings resemble the ones of the early study. In addition, this study reports student perceived changes as a result of their participation. Historically, program administrators and faculty have observed that the demographics have changed very little throughout the life of the program. Essentially, the same number of cohorts exist (usually 20-25) with the same student body the majority of whom are females and spend 10 hours a week working at home with primary responsibility for family concerns (Kisch, Harper, & Messner, 1993).

Here are some trends observed by Kisch, Harper & Messner (1993) that are true today and have implications for the planning, development and delivery of graduate education programs:

* many teachers plan to teach for a substantial amount of time, not just a few years, (Kemper and Mangieri, 1987). Informal conversations with today's Teacher Leader students bears this out.

* there are mostly females entering the teaching field. Observation of the Teacher Leader cohorts bears this out. If these graduate students believe that their needs are being met they will experience enhanced learning (Krupp, 1982) and be able to use their professional talents more effectively in their own classrooms.

* most graduate students are veteran teachers and can appreciate a program that includes opportunities for group and team problem-solving experiences with real-life situations that teachers encounter in classrooms (Achilles and DuVall, 1991).

* graduate education faculty continually seek to improve the education training model to better serve the needs of their students Understanding the fully employed teacher's demographic profile is important to better plan and meet the unique needs of this group. …

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