Learning from Mixed Results: What’s Next for Teacher Professional Development?

Research from three studies has found that intensive, content-focused professional development (PD) improved teachers’ knowledge and some aspects of their practice, but did not improve student achievement. The studies are summarized by AIR in its brief, Does Content-Focused Teacher Professional Development Work?

The PD examined in the three studies emphasized building teachers’ content knowledge and their knowledge about content-specific pedagogy. The PD, which was based mostly on commercially available programs, combined summer institutes with periodic teacher meetings and coaching during the school year. All three studies examined the impact of the PD programs on teachers’ content knowledge and instructional practice, as well as their students’ achievement.

Key findings from the three studies include the following:

  • Intensive, content-focused PD improved teachers’ knowledge and some aspects of their practice. The studies provide evidence that PD programs focused on improving teachers’ content knowledge and their knowledge about content-specific pedagogy can produce significant gains in teachers’ knowledge by the end of the year in which the PD program is implemented. The studies also provide evidence that a one-year PD program can improve some aspects of instructional practice.
  • Improving teachers’ knowledge or practice did not translate into improvements in student achievement. None of the three studies showed a positive effect on student achievement at the end of the year that the PD was implemented, as measured by accountability tests or tests constructed specifically for the studies. The studies found that most of the measured aspects of teachers’ knowledge and practice were not associated with student achievement. The few that were had, at best, modest associations.

For the brief, see http://www.air.org/resource/does-content-focused-teacher-professional-development-work

For a podcast discussing these findings, see http://www.air.org/resource/learning-mixed-results-whats-next-teacher-professional-development