The effect of Professional Learning Teams on student achievement

A new study of Professional Learning Teams has shown that they may lead to improved student retention and grades. Professional Learning Teams are small groups of teachers who actively collaborate, share expertise, improve their skills, examine and use various forms of data, and learn from each other—all for the purpose of improved pupil learning. They were introduced systematically in five counties in North Carolina in 2003.

The study showed that schools that used Professional Learning Teams the most had greater decreases in pupil retention rates (the number of pupils held back each year) than those with lower implementation. The same was true for increasing test results, although this was not statistically significant.

Source: Wake County public school system (WCPSS) Professional Learning Teams (PLTs): 2010-11 to 2011-12 school-based policy study (2012), Wake County Public School System

An integrated approach to science and literacy

This research article from the Journal of Research in Science Teaching investigates the effectiveness of an integrated science and literacy approach at primary school level. Teachers in 94 fourth-grade (Year 5) classrooms in one US Southern state participated.

Half of the teachers in the study taught an integrated science and literacy unit on light and energy, which was designed using a curriculum model that engages pupils in reading text, writing notes and reports, conducting first-hand investigations, and frequently discussing key concepts and processes to acquire inquiry skills and knowledge about science concepts. The other half of the teachers taught a content-comparable science-only unit on light and energy and provided their regular literacy instruction.

Results of the study showed that pupils in the integrated science and literacy group made significantly greater improvement in science understanding, science vocabulary, and science writing. Pupils in both groups made comparable improvements in science reading.

Source: The impact of an integrated approach to science and literacy in elementary school classrooms (2012), Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 49(5)

The effectiveness of education technology for enhancing maths achievement

Findings of this review of research into the effects of technology use on mathematics achievement suggest that educational technology applications produce a positive but small effect. This review was completed in 2011, but a new educator’s summary has been posted that presents the findings in a more accessible form.

The review, from the Johns Hopkins School of Education’s Center for Research and Reform in Education, examines three major categories of education technology:

  • comprehensive models, which use computer-assisted teaching alongside non-computer activities;
  • supplemental computer-assisted teaching programmes, which provide individualised computer-assisted instruction to supplement traditional classroom teaching; and
  • a computer-managed learning programme, Accelerated Math.

All three were found to produce a positive effect on mathematics achievement, with supplemental computer-assisted teaching programmes having the largest effect. The review concludes that educational technology is making some difference in mathematics learning, but new and better tools are needed to harness the power of technology to further enhance mathematics achievement for all students.

Source: The effectiveness of educational technology applications for enhancing mathematics achievement: A meta-analysis (2012), Best Evidence Encyclopedia

Impact of a CPD course for science teachers

Making Sense of SCIENCE is a continuing professional development (CPD) course focused on force and motion. It incorporates physical science content, analysis of student work and thinking, and classroom teaching to develop teacher expertise about force and motion and science teaching. In this study from the US Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, researchers examine the impact of the CPD on 8th grade (Year 9) pupil achievement in science. More than 100 Year 9 teachers were included in the sample.

Results indicated that the teachers who received the CPD had greater content knowledge about force and motion and confidence in teaching force and motion than teachers who did not receive the CPD. However, there was no impact of the programme on pupils’ physical science test scores.

Source: Effects of making sense of SCIENCE professional development on the achievement of middle school students including english language learners (2012), Institute of Education Sciences

Professional development and high-stakes testing

This study, published in the International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, examines the relationship between primary teacher participation in a multi-year professional development (CPD) effort and “high stakes” science test scores. 

A total of 1,269 US primary school teachers participated in the CPD programme, which utilised regional summer workshops and distance education to help the teachers learn science concepts, inquiry teaching strategies, and how to adapt science inquiry lessons to teach and reinforce skills in English lessons. Findings of the study showed that there was a significant positive relationship between the CPD hours experienced by the teachers and pupil gains.

Source: How much professional development is needed to effect positive gains in K-6 student achievement on high stakes science tests? (2012), International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 10(1)