Making Spaces for the Development of Autonomy in a Blended Learning Environment
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The process of designing a blended learning experience is complex, particularly if one of the purposes of the experience is to enhance learners’ autonomy. Designing professional learning to emulate and model a commitment to autonomy is often overlooked in favor of a focus on student learning outcomes. In this qualitative research study, I used a post-intentional phenomenological approach to break open the experience of three technology design coaches who collaboratively designed and implemented a 2-year blended professional learning experience for roughly 150 PK-12 central Texas urban public school teachers. I used the equity-centered design thinking process as a flexible partner to focus the study on the interplay specifically between blended learning and autonomy as defined in self-determination theory. I used interviews, observations, and a focus group to generate insights into the experience of designing and implementing professional learning of this nature. Additionally, I used a self-reflexion journal as suggested by Vagle (2014).
A new conceptual framework for purposefully opening space for autonomy in a blended learning environment emerged as meaning was constructed through the technology design coaches’ reflections before, during, and after the implementation of the learning experience. The practice of noticing and reflecting took on a new level of importance in both design and implementation, proving to be essential skills to nurture and explore. Moments in which noticing and reflecting instigated change were connected to the professional learning designers’ perceptions of participant navigation of discomfort and congruence. This experience influenced subsequent designs by imagining moments in which one of three tools would be most helpful to maneuver a blended learning process. Further research considerations include the exploration of developing supportive environments or support structures for professional learning practitioners to refine and develop their own craft before designing and implementing professional learning with teachers or other audiences.