Wednesday, November 2, 2016

No impact of content-focused teacher professional development on student achievement

Three recent studies from the Institute of Education Sciences found that content-focused professional development (PD) in reading and math boosted teachers’ subject knowledge and some aspects of instructional quality, but did not have a positive impact on student achievement, according to a new brief released today (Nov. 2).

This brief, from the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, synthesizes findings from three large-scale random assignment studies of PD. Although the PD programs in each study were different, they all emphasized building teachers’ content knowledge or knowledge about content-specific pedagogy. The programs combined summer institutes with periodic teacher meetings and coaching during the school year. These programs were compared to the substantially less intensive PD that teachers typically received in study districts. The three studies included 270 second-grade reading teachers, 165 fourth-grade math teachers, and 195 seventh-grade math teachers. The studies found that:

•    The PD improved teachers’ knowledge and some aspects of their practice;

•    Improving teachers’ knowledge and practice did not lead to positive impacts on student achievement; and

•    Most of the measured aspects of teachers’ knowledge and practice were not correlated with student achievement.

The consistent pattern of findings suggests that future studies should seek to better understand on what aspects of teacher knowledge and practice PD should focus, and how PD can achieve a larger impact on knowledge and practice that also impacts student achievement.

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