Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Middle-Secondary Education and Instructional Technology

First Advisor

Mary B. Shoffner, Ph.D. - Chair

Second Advisor

Wanjira Kinuthia, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Nancy J. Brown, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Dana L. Fox, Ph.D.


The purpose of this qualitative case study was to examine the beliefs of 5 experienced instructors about the ways adults learn in online professional development (OPD) courses, beliefs about creating online learning environments, and beliefs about instructional strategies for facilitating adult learning. The following questions guided this study: 1. What are the instructor’s beliefs about the ways that adults learn in online professional development courses? 2. What are the instructor’s beliefs about creating an online learning environment for adult learners? 3. What are the instructor’s beliefs about the use of instructional strategies to facilitate online learning with adults? The setting for the study was the professional development program of a large metropolitan school district in the southeastern United States. Data were collected through interviews, discussion board postings, and instructor journals and analyzed using a constant comparative method (Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Strauss & Corbin, 1998). The following themes emerged from the data: • Adult learning in OPD courses is an active process of making connections and applying knowledge and skills. • Learning for adults in OPD courses must be useful, meaningful, relevant, practical, adaptable, and applicable to the work setting. • Learning for adults in an OPD course requires more effort and commitment than learning in face-to-face professional development settings. • Adult learners in OPD courses need a comfort zone where they can feel “safe” communicating and interacting with learners and the instructor. • Adult learners need varying amounts of encouragement, support, guidance, and nurturing within a positive online learning environment(OLE)that supports and sustains them. • Instructors believe that collaboration is an effective strategy for facilitating learning with adults in OPD courses, yet existing barriers limit collaboration. • The OPD instructor is a flexible facilitator of learning who uses different types of feedback to confirm, correct, and inform learning with adults.


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