What makes professional development effective? Results from a national sample of teachers.

Part of a national evaluation of the federal Eisenhower mathematics and science professional development program, this survey used a national probability sample and drew from the body of literature on effective professional development. Researchers asked teachers to describe each activity (e.g., mentoring, coaching), its type (e.g., workshop, teacher study group) and duration, and the level of collective participation (e.g., entire faculty, single department). Teachers also indicated degree of emphasis on deepening content knowledge, whether the activity promoted active learning (e.g., being observed, reviewing student work), and the extent of alignment with state or district standards and assessments. Finally, teachers indicated the degree to which they felt their knowledge and skills were advanced. Findings provide empirical confirmation that "best practices" — i.e., professional development that is sustained and intensive, involves colleagues collectively, is aligned with other reform efforts, and encourages professional communication — increase teachers' knowledge and skills and, thus, have a substantial positive influence on change in teacher practice. But it was clear that many professional development activities lack such features, due to lack of planning time and/or money. The authors estimate an average cost of $512 per teacher for a high quality experience — more than double the amount districts typically spend. Since impact on teaching and learning requires high quality professional development, the authors conclude that school districts must either invest more resources or focus resources on fewer teachers. Effective PD can contribute to greater differentiation and inclusion for students in the classroom.

Garet, M. S., Porter, A. C., Desimone, L., Birman, B. F., & Yoon, K. S.
American Educational Research Journal, 38(4), 915-945.
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