Teacher Professional Development in the Amazon Region: Strategies to Create Successful Learning Communities
The Faculty of Education, University of Brasilia, implemented an online undergraduate degree program for classroom teachers (student-teacher) who have not yet completed their studies. There are 1800 classroom teachers in the Brazilian state of Acre, bordering Peru and Bolivia, who have completed only high school. However, a new directive from the Ministry of Education makes it mandatory to have a degree in education to be a classroom teacher. A mixed program combining online work with face-to-face meetings was implemented to address this need. The first group with a total of 860 teachers began the program in 2007 and graduated in April 2010. The dropout rate was very low, at 5.5%. A collaborative learning strategy was used to create learning communities and to bridge the various schools, regions and ethnic groups allowing participants to feel integrated despite distance, cultural diversity, language, and religion. To conduct this research we collected data from observations in teacher meetings, online discussions and participants´ Reflective Diary, a diary written by each teacher throughout the program. Here we discuss the challenges found in implementation of the project and the strategies used to successfully create learning communities.