Online professional development works best if there is a sense of community, a desire by people to share practices, and good tools for communication and learning. You can create this kind of community by designing a learning environment that is focused on sharing and participation. So what do you need to do?

  • Build personal connections, reward people who share, and create safety for sharing. Participants are more active when they believe that sharing will help their standing in the community in a positive way, they feel a strong connection to the community and have a sense of trust and belonging (Ardichvili, 2008).
  • Connect people to the shared vision of the school, and help them use the tools of sharing. Participants do not share when they don’t understand or believe in the reasons and effectiveness of sharing, they don’t know how to share or don’t understand the tools for sharing (Ardichvili, 2008).
  • Integrate personal reflection with both individual and group goals. For teachers, participation is a way to reflect on their own beliefs in teaching (Barnett, 2006) and is more effective when centered around a clear goal (Bellum & Lathem, 2007).
  • Build confidence with blended learning experiences. Use both face-to-face and online tools, practices and learning opportunities, because blended learning experiences increase teacher confidence and lead to increased participation (Owston et al., 2008).

We’d like your input on one of the following questions – or you can raise new questions for us and others who pass this way!
Professional Practice: When you create a sense of community in your classroom or school, how do you balance the needs of safety (which allows people to be truthful and open) with the needs of learning and growth (which is often challenging and risky)?
Research: What is the best way to understand more about this key issue? How could we capture this phenomenon in practice? Are there finer points to consider or connect with this concept – that have an implications for research?
Technology Development: What features or tools could foster using, learning about or researching these issues?