The use of an online community of practice as support for the professional growth of early childhood administrators
Early childhood program administrators play a vital role in the quality of care provided to children in an early childhood program (Talan et al., 2014; Whalley & Allen, 2011). Therefore, administrators who can implement components of quality care are needed. The purpose of this research study was to examine the professional behaviors involved in learning in an OCoP through the lenses of Kolb’s (2014) theory of experiential learning and Wenger et al.’s (2009) theory of online community of practice. The study also explored how the OCoP fostered professional growth using the content knowledge of NAEYC’s (2009) Standards of Early Childhood Professional Preparation and Bloom’s (2000) competencies for early childhood administrators. A mini-ethnographic case study approach was used to examine the collaborations that took place in the OCoP for early childhood program administrators to give insight into how an OCoP could support professional growth. Data collection methods included an initial questionnaire, archival data, observational data, participant interviews, and reflexive documentation. The study addressed aspects of trustworthiness and rigor based on the Lincoln and Guba (1986) concepts of credibility, confirmability, dependability, and transferability and included the use of a constant comparative analysis approach along with triangulation of both the data sources and data analysis, a formatted document trail, member checking, and three expert reviews of the analysis. Findings included the development of a model which shows a pathway to professional growth for early childhood administrators in an OCoP. This research emphasizes the necessity of building a social support system for early childhood administrators to assist in their professional growth needs. Recommendations for future research are suggested including how to foster the teaching presence of community members and the development of evidence-based practices for facilitating OCoPs. Additionally, recommendations for practice are made including the development of a system to count time spent in an OCoP as annual clock hours.