In the field of education, professional development (PD) is intended to improve both classroom teaching and children’s learning. A new study, published in Journal of Educational Psychology, looks at what effect PD has when used at scale with large numbers of educators.
In this large-scale randomised controlled trial, Shayne B
Piasta and colleagues examined the effectiveness of a language and literacy PD
programme on both teacher and child outcomes in early childhood education. More
than 500 teachers across one US state took part in the trial and were randomly
assigned to one of three groups: professional development with coaching,
professional development without coaching, or a comparison group. Teachers in
the PD groups received 30 hours of state-sponsored language and literacy
professional development, with those assigned to the coaching groups also
receiving ongoing individualised coaching throughout the academic year.
Teachers in the comparison group also received state-sponsored PD, but in other
The results of the trial suggest that PD affected only a few
aspects of classroom language and literacy teaching practices relative to the
comparison group, and did not affect children’s literacy learning. PD with coaching
showed a small positive impact on the quantity of phonological awareness, while
both PD with and without coaching had a small positive impact on the quality of
teaching in phonological awareness and writing.
state-sponsored language and literacy professional development: Impacts on early
childhood classroom practices and children’s outcomes (June 2019), Journal of Educational Psychology
Targeted Reading Intervention (TRI) is a programme that uses webcam technology to allow kindergarten and first grade (Year 1 and Year 2) teachers to help struggling readers while being observed by a coach who gives them real-time feedback as they work with a pupil. TRI trains teachers in their strategies during a three-day workshop in the summer, with webcam observations and feedback during the school year.
Researchers at the University of Delaware and the University of North Carolina evaluated the effect of TRI in a two-year randomised evaluation to examine its one-year effects on struggling readers, and to examine if having a teacher teach the programme for two years affected pupil achievement.
The study took place in kindergarten and first grade (Year 1 and Year 2) classrooms in ten schools in high-poverty south eastern rural counties in the US. Subjects were equivalent at baseline on standardised testing in the autumn, and randomisation occurred at the classroom level. During the two years of the study, a total of 50 kindergarten (Year 1) classrooms (26 treatment, 24 control) and 50 first grade (Year 2) classrooms (29 treatment, 21 control) at each school were randomised, and then three struggling readers from each classroom were selected to either the treatment or control condition in each year of the study. In total, 305 pupils were assigned to receive TRI training, and 251 pupils served in the untreated control group. Treatment pupils worked with teachers one-to-one, 15 minutes a day every day for six to eight weeks. Spring post-tests showed that struggling readers who received TRI showed greater gains than struggling readers in the control condition (effect size =+0.26). Longevity of teaching the programme did not show any significant effect on pupil achievement.
Researchers also report on the results for the subset of pupils experiencing the programme who had English as an additional language, which may be found here.
Source: Improving struggling readers’ early literacy skills through a tier 2 professional development program for rural classroom teachers: The Targeted Reading Intervention (June2018), The Elementary School Journal 2018 118:4, 525-548
Matthew A Kraft and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of the causal evidence on the effect of teacher coaching on teaching and learning. Their paper, published in the Review of Educational Research, reviewed 60 studies on teacher coaching programmes conducted after 2006 that measured the impact of teacher coaching on either teaching (measured using tools such as the Classroom Assessment Scoring System or the Early Language and Literacy Classroom Observation) or pupil academic performance (measured by standardised tests).
Their results found that sustained coaching improves both classroom teaching and pupil achievement, with pooled effect sizes of +0.49 standard deviations for teaching and +0.18 standard deviations for academic achievement.
However, the effectiveness of a teacher coaching programme seems to be determined by the number of participants. When studies were divided into programmes that had fewer than 100 participants and those that had more than 100 participants, the impact on teaching was nearly double for the smaller programmes than for programmes with more than 100 participants. For pupil achievement, the smaller programmes showed an impact of nearly three times that of the larger programmes.
Source: The effect of teacher coaching on instruction and achievement: A meta-analysis of the causal evidence (February 2018), Review of Educational Research, Vol 88, Issue 4
Franziska Egert and colleagues in Germany and Amsterdam have conducted a review of the effects of professional development (PD) for early childhood educators on programme quality and children’s educational outcomes.
Studies were only included if they addressed quality of child care or child development, included early childhood teachers (including preschool, kindergarten and centre-based care), were quantitative, were experimental or quasi-experimental, reported effect sizes or data and addressed children 0–7 years old. This yielded 36 studies of 42 programmes evaluating quality ratings, and nine studies of 10 programmes evaluating both quality ratings and pupil outcomes.
Results showed that professional development improved the external quality ratings (as evaluated using the Classroom Assessment Scoring System, Early Language and Literacy Classroom Observation, Environmental Rating Scales and Individualized Classroom Assessment Scoring System) of early childhood education (effect size=+0.68), with programmes providing 45–60 PD hours having the greatest impact on classroom practice as compared to programmes offering fewer or more hours. This was true regardless of whether teachers held a university degree or not. Further, programmes that solely used coaching were almost three times as effective as other programmes. A second meta-analysis of a subset of studies (n=486 teachers, 4,504 children) showed that improvement in the quality of early childhood education programmes was correlated with improvements in child development (effect size=+0.14) as determined by language and literacy scores, maths scores, social-behavioural ratings, and assessment of cognition, knowledge and school readiness.
Source: Impact of in-service professional development programs for early childhood teachers on quality ratings and child outcomes: a meta-analysis (January 2018), Review of Educational Research, Vol 88, Issue 3
An evaluation of the Challenge the Gap (CtG) programme for the Education Endowment Foundation found no evidence that the programme increased average achievement for either primary or secondary pupils overall.
Challenge the Gap is a two-year school improvement programme that aims to help schools improve the achievement of their disadvantaged pupils through a professional development programme for staff. The evaluation conducted by The University of Manchester, involved 21,041 pupils from 104 schools (64 primary schools and 39 secondary schools). Around 24% of pupils in the primary schools and 16% in the secondary schools were eligible for free school meals. The evaluation assessed the impact on all participating schools using 2015 Key Stage 2 or Key Stage 4 results. CtG schools were compared to schools with a similar socio-demographic profile.
No evidence was found that CtG increased the average achievement for either primary or secondary school pupils, overall. For children eligible for free school meals (FSM), those in CtG primary schools made two months’ additional progress (average effect size = +0.10) compared to similar children in non-CtG schools. In CtG secondary schools, FSM-eligible pupils made two months’ less progress compared to similar pupils in non-CtG secondary schools (average effect size = -0.10). The smaller number of FSM-eligible pupils in the trial means that these results are less secure than the overall findings.
Source: Challenge the Gap: Evaluation report and executive summary (July 2017), Education Endowment Foundation
Joseph Taylor of Abt Associates and colleagues conducted a rigorous study of the Science Teachers Learning Through Lesson Analysis (STeLLA) professional development (PD) programme.
STeLLA is designed to increase elementary (primary) teachers’ science knowledge. Instead of the standard practice of teaching pupils to memorise science concepts and then perform activities that prove these concepts, STeLLA teachers lead pupils to discover science concepts through experience and experimentation. One of STeLLA’s main tenets is to have pupils think through science problems aloud so that teachers can respond to pupils’ ideas and guide them to scientific conclusions and specific learning goals. Its other distinguishing feature is that during the course of a year, groups of 5–10 teachers led by a PD coach watch and critique videos of experienced science teachers’ lessons, later moving on to their own and their colleagues’ lessons, to analyse them regarding science content, teaching and learning. In addition, STeLLA teachers are taught by university-level science teachers the summer prior to implementation to provide them with greater science content knowledge, a process called “content deepening”.
In the current study, researchers used a cluster-randomised design to compare STeLLA to The Content Deepening Program, a PD programme that deepens teachers’ science knowledge through university faculty-led science teaching, like STeLLA does, but without STeLLA’s analysis-of-practice component. Seventy-seven schools, with 144 teachers and 2,823 fourth and fifth grade pupils (Years 5 and 6) in Colorado, were randomly assigned either to STeLLA (n=42 schools) or to The Content Deepening Program (n=35 schools) in two cohorts, the first in 2011–12 and the second in 2012–13. Teachers in both conditions experienced 88 hours of PD and had the same learning goals for their pupils. Pupils were pre- and post-tested on a science measure based on established assessments. Although the control group demonstrated a slight achievement advantage at baseline, results showed that pupils in STeLLA classes scored higher (effect size = +0.55) at post-test than pupils in classes whose teachers had been through The Content Deepening Program.
Source: The effect of an analysis-of-practice, videocase-based, teacher professional development program on elementary students’ science achievement (2017), Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, Volume 10: Issue 2