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How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School
10. Review professional development programs for alignment with the principles of learning and for relative effectiveness in changing teaching practice. The issue of teacher preparedness is rapidly becoming one of intense focus in policy arenas. Professional development programs are an important policy tool available to concerned lawmakers. But there are vastly different models of professional development, and relatively little is known about the amount and type that is required to significantly change teacher performance and student achievement. Existing research efforts along these lines need to be extended and built on.
It is recommended that alternative models of professional development be reviewed for their alignment with the principles of learning. Features that promote or conflict with the principles should be highlighted. The research should also examine the effects of alternative types, and amounts, of professional development training on teacher performance and student achievement. As envisioned, the research would:
Define a small set of common models of professional development. These should include individual workshops, more lengthy in-service programs, and university courses. They should include training that is tied to a specific curriculum, as well as training in teaching techniques.
Review the features of those programs that do and do not support learning, including the opportunities they provide for exploring teachers’ preconceptions, for assessing what teachers are learning as they go along, and for teachers to provide feedback and receive ongoing support as they attempt to use what they have learned in the classroom environment.
Define measures of teacher knowledge and performance that would be expected to change as a result of the learning opportunity.
Define measures of student achievement that would be expected to change as a result of the change in teaching.
Estimate the effect of quantity and type of training on teacher performance and student achievement.
The envisioned research would require a major data collection effort. Success is likely to require that researchers work closely with school districts over a multiyear period. In states or school districts that are about to undergo an expansion in professional development spending, conditions may be particularly ripe for such a partnership.
The results of this research should be written up separately for the three communities who are likely to find them useful: (a) for those who provide professional development programs, the results should provide feedback that allows for improvement in program design; (b) for administrators and policy makers, the results should provide guidance in evaluating profes-