Information Age Education Blog
Staff Development to Improve Education
Today I spent some time looking for research literature on the effectiveness of using computerized white boards (CWB) in education. I did this because I had just read an article about many teachers and their students liking the $5,000 CWB and believing it improved education. My probe into the research on actual effectiveness of CWB use indicated that substantial staff development in its use may be a major factor in whether student learning is improved in a CWB environment. It may be, for example, that extensive staff development on how to facilitate interactive teaching is a key issue in effective use of CWB. In any event, this thought led me to looking at some of the literature on staff development. That, in turn, led me to a report from the National Staff Development Council.
Here is a quote that I consider to be the good news from this report:
Rigorous research suggests that sustained and intensive professional learning for teachers is related to student-achievement gains. An analysis of well designed experimental studies found that a set of programs which offered substantial contact hours of professional development (ranging from 30 to 100 hours in total) spread over six to 12 months showed a positive and significant effect on student achievement gains. According to the research, these intensive professional development efforts that offered an average of 49 hours in a year boosted student achievement by approximately 21 percentile points. Other efforts that involved a limited amount of professional development (ranging from 5 to 14 hours in total) showed no statistically significant effect on student learning (Darling-Hammond, et al., 2009).
In the United States, the vast majority of teachers participate in some staff development each year. However, relatively few participate in staff development of a length and quality that makes an appreciable difference in the quality of education their students are receiving. In addition, the claim for success of well-done and lengthy staff development is based on relatively few high-quality research studies.
The report also indicated that many countries do far better that the United States in the staff development they provide their teachers. One observation I found particularly interesting is that in the United States, the average teacher spends far more hours per day in actual teaching than teachers in countries that out perform us on tests designed for international comparison. Time available for staff development and personal growth is more limited for United States teachers than for teachers in many other countries.
Teaching is a very complex and demanding profession. There are many ongoing changes that teachers face. Examples include changes in demographics of their students, changes in the number of English Language Learners (ELL) students, changes in technological aids to teaching and learning, changes due to research in brain science, and so on. Our current staff development system is not adequate to prepare teachers for the sheer quantity of ongoing change.
This problem can be addressed in both top-down and bottom-up manners. In a top-down manner various government agencies can attempt to place staff development requirements on teachers. For example, continued licensure might require a specified number of hours of staff development every three years.
A bottom-up approach can be undertaken by any individual teacher. If you are a teacher reading this IAE Blog entry, you can examine your own personal approach to what you do to continually improve the effectiveness of your teaching and to cope with major change agents such as those listed above.
Do you spend two or more hours a week on your own professional development? In a 36-week school year, that would total 72 or more hours. In a full year, that would total over 100 hours. According to the research cited earlier in this document, that is sufficient staff development to lead to an improvement in your student outcomes. My personal opinion is that you (as a teacher) owe it to yourself and to your students to be doing this.
This individual professional development time needs to be spent in careful study of the theory and practice of changes that others have found to be successful. It is not time spent casually browsing or in reinventing the wheel. Rather, it is work that you do to familiar with research-based successful practices and work you do to translate this research-based theory and practice into your own teaching repertoire.
The report cited here and other publications suggest the value of professional learning communities at the school or school district. This is a middle-out approach. It suggests the value of teachers studying together, learning from each other, and routinely carrying on discussions about the professional problems they are encountering and dealing with. Lesson study provides one example of this approach (Lesson Study, n.d.).
What You Can Do
Think about what your daily teaching experiences add to your level of expertise as a teacher. Merely reflecting on this experience at the end of a day is a very useful type of self-assessment inservice education.
Next, think about someplace in your day's work that you felt a brief "twinge" of doubt or uneasiness because of lack of current knowledge about the content you were teaching or the pedagogy for effectively teaching this topic. Spend a few minutes browsing the Web for current information about this content and/or pedagogy.
Maintaining and building your own level of competence needs to be a routine part of your everyday life as a teacher.
Suggested Readings from IAE and Other Publications
You can use Google to search all of the IAE publications. Click here to begin. Then click in the IAE Search box that is provided, insert your search terms, and click on the Search button.
Click here to search the entire collection of IAE Blog entries.
Here are some examples of publications that might interest you.
Advance Organizers and Good Lesson Plans. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/advance-organizers-and-good-lesson-plans.html.
Each of Us Can Help Improve Education. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/each-of-us-can-help-improve-education.html.
IAE-pedia. Staff development via distance education. Retrieved 1/24/2012 from http://iae-pedia.org/Staff_Development_via_Distance_Education.
Moursund, D. (1989). Effective inservice for integrating computer-as-tool into the curriculum. Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Retrieved 1/24/2012 from http://i-a-e.org/downloads/doc_download/25-effective-inservice-for-integrating-computer-as-tool-into-the-curriculum.html.
Personal Professional Development for Educators. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/personal-professional-development-for-educators.html.
Personalizing Educational Content and Delivery. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/personalizing-educational-content-and-delivery.html.
Darling-Hammond, L., Wei, R.C., Andree, A., Richardson, N., & Orphanos, S. (2009). Professional learning in the learning profession: A status report on teacher development in the United States and abroad. National Staff Development Council. This 36-page report was retrieved 1/24/2012 from http://www.srnleads.org/resources/publications/pdf/nsdc_profdev_short_report.pdf.
Lesson Study (n.d.). What is lesson study? Lesson Study Research Group. Retrieved 9/12/2012 from http://www.tc.edu/lessonstudy/lessonstudy.html.
Written by David Moursund, January 24, 2012.
This quote summarizes some of the weaknesses in the current approach to staff development used in many places throughout the United States.
Other fields, from medicine and management to the military, do a far better job of providing ongoing learning opportunities and support for their professionals. But as this report shows, in education, professional learning in its current state is poorly conceived and deeply flawed. Teachers lack time and opportunities to view each other’s classrooms, learn from mentors, and work collaboratively. The support and training they receive is episodic, myopic, and often meaningless.
Here is a question for each reader of this IAE Blog entry. What are you, personally, doing to change this situation?