Virtual School Meanderings

March 6, 2012

SITE 2012 – Comparing K-12 Teachers in Virtual and Brick-and-Mortar Settings Using Curriculum Orientations

The seventh session from the Virtual Schooling SIG at the annual Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education (SITE) International Conference was:

Comparing K-12 Teachers in Virtual and Brick-and-Mortar Settings Using Curriculum Orientations

Nicole Horn, University of Kansas, USA

This study explored the curriculum orientation preferences of 58 K-12 virtual teachers in Kansas. An examination of curriculum orientations was conducted using three instruments and an interview, the Modified Curriculum Orientation Instrument, Forced-Choice online survey, and curriculum orientation descriptors followed by semi-structured interviews. The interviews provided a broader and deeper understanding of teachers’ curriculum preferences as it relates to instructional decisions in a virtual environment. Many teachers are not aware of how to implement curriculum in a virtual environment because they lack any experience with virtual teaching and learning and do not understand the importance of curriculum. There is a lack of research in understanding how virtual teachers conceptualize and implement curriculum in virtual settings. The results indicated that the virtual teachers chose the same curriculum orientation as brick-and-mortar teachers but view curriculum differently.

Nicole began with a discussion of curriculum orientation – or the beliefs that teachers possess in terms of their curriculum design and curriculum delivery. Her study was to examine the curriculum orientation of virtual school teachers, which included mixed method of data collection (e.g., surveys and interviews). More specifically, Nicole used a modified version of the curriculum orientation survey (which could yield more than a single curriculum orientation) and then created a forced choice, 36-item survey (which was designed to yield a single curriculum orientation) with 47 virtual teachers, and then interviews with 10 of those virtual school teachers. Both methods of data collection were conducted online.

The results indicated that the highest type of curriculum orientation was humanist – both for the ideal curriculum orientation and the forced choice measure and the behavioral was the lowest. The K-8 teachers also scored very high on the cognitive orientation. The only significant difference when comparing the brick-and-mortar teachers and the virtual school teachers was in the social reconstructionist curriculum orientation.

Nicole indicated that there were limitations – including the lack of potential reliability of the forced choice instrument, the small sample size, the limitation of the virtual school sample to teachers in Kansas – all of which affect the generalizability of the results.

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