Professional Development and Its Impact on Students and Professionals
According to the US Institute of Education Sciences (Yoon, et.al 2007) as of 2007 there were only 9 studies out of 1300 that met the rigorous standards set forth by the What Works Clearinghouse. It has only been in the recent past that the number of high-quality research studies have been completed.
Since 2006, the number of randomized controlled trials in education has increased dramatically (Connolly, Keenan, and Urbanska, 2018). The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and its US equivalent, the National Center for Educational Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE), registered 145 between them (Lortie-Forgues and Inglis, 2019). The 2007 review by Yoon et al. found only nine rigorous studies of professional development’s impact on student achievement in compulsory education; however, more recently, Kennedy (2016) identified 28, and Kraft, Blazar, and Hogan (2018) 22. In England, the EEF has published evaluations of 23 randomized controlled trials in professional development since 2014. Therefore, while many conclusions about professional development made only a few years ago were, of necessity, tentative or speculative, it is now possible to review a far wider group of rigorous studies and reach more confident conclusions. (Fletcher-Wood and Zuccollo, 2020)
With this wider array of scientifically based research, we are now able to identify several very clear aspects of professional development. The following list is patterns that have been found in the most current research:
- High-quality professional development requires time and intensity to really bring about teacher change and student gains. Most people underestimate the amount of time it takes to bring about real change in how teachers teach. The best professional development offers interactive sessions with real-life examples and then in-classroom coaching over time. “One-offs” are not effective ways to actually bring about change for teachers or students. The lack of structure and understanding of purpose makes one-time training ineffective. By providing high-quality, well-planned, and goal-oriented training teachers are more likely to make real changes in their instruction.
- The most effective professional development focuses on actual classroom practices, not just curriculum-specific knowledge and pedagogy. When implementing new programs, teachers need practice in their classrooms with specific opportunities for feedback and discussion. Using new material with the same old teaching is not going to bring about meaningful change to student learning. Ongoing coaching support and training are vital to creating and maintaining change in the classroom.
- Programs that focus on the relationship between teachers and students and between students rather than just cognitive gain are more effective. When teachers forge meaningful relationships with their students and work to build connections among students, the students are more successful all around.
- When designing professional development activities they should be aligned with the goals of the program and be meaningful to the participants. There must be cohesion between sessions and activities.
- Leadership must prioritize professional development. If school leadership prioritizes professional development as forward-thinking rather than reactive, training is more beneficial to teachers and students.
While research in high-quality meaningful professional development is still needed to further our understanding, the current research provides a clear direction for us to follow.
Academic Window and Professional Development
High-quality, engaging, and meaningful professional development is essential to the effective implementation of Academic Window’s programs with students.
Teachers, administrators, guidance counselors and other professionals participate in 10 weekly one-two hour sessions that address the psychological theories that make up the basis for Academic Window. Every week professionals are provided with direct instruction on the topic of the week. They are then provided with specific activities related to the week's topic to do with the students in their own classes. It is also aimed to internalize positive psychological approaches by teachers and counselors. Participants are encouraged to share during weekly sessions with other members of the group how the activities went and any insights they might have gained by doing the activity.
Explicit connections are drawn from week to week from one topic to another and to actual classroom practice. The goal of our professional development is to give staff the knowledge necessary to improve their personal connection and build trust with students as well as provide the content knowledge necessary to teach students how to succeed academically and in life.
- Fletcher-Wood, H., Zuccollo, J.(2020) The effects of high-quality professional development on teachers and students A Rapid Review and Meta-Analysis, Education Policy Institute
- Loveless, B. (2022). What Does Research Tell us About Professional Development in Education? Education Corner, updated April 12, 2022. What Does Research Tell us About Professional Development in Education? (educationcorner.com)
- Slavin, R. (2019). The Fabulous 20%: Programs Proven Effective in Rigorous Research. Robert Slavin’s blog, 18th April, https://robertslavinsblog.wordpress.com/2019/04/18/the-fabulous-20-programs-proven-effective-inrigorous-research/ [accessed, 22nd May, 2019]
- Yoon, K.S, Duncan, T., Wen-Yu Lee, S., Scarloss, B., Shapley, K., Reviewing the Evidence on how teacher professional development affects student achievement. October 2007. REL 2007-No. 033.