A research-backed understanding of effective PD

Athena is built around research--both formal and informal. On the one hand, formal, large scale, high cost, variable-controlled studies from Academia have dominated public understanding of what works. This research is valuable but generally not applicable in the classroom without substantial customization. Learning about this work is nonetheless one important kind of PD.

On the other hand, practitioner experience--which includes iterative experimentation in the classroom--has created a body of professional knowledge that is known by teachers to drive student success. This practitioner research is passed on from teacher to teacher and is increasingly accepted as serious research.

Both of these inform how Athena works. Athena is built both to support customizing practices that academic research has identified as effective, and also to enable educators to gather and refine professional knowledge.

Academic research

What makes effective professional development is no longer a mystery. Repeated, large scale studies and meta-studies have now identified elements of effective professional development that improve student outcomes. Effective PD for teachers is:

  • Ongoing
  • Collaborative
  • Linked to curriculum
  • Focused on student learning
  • Designed to include reflection
  • Designed to include feedback

And these characteristics can describe a range of activities:

  • Collaborative lesson planning
  • Analysis of student data
  • Individualized coaching
  • Peer observation
  • And more...

What has complicated the growth of effective professional development is inertia. Designing PD experiences around these outcomes requires creating time (~50 hours per year) for this work to happen at schools. This takes organizational will and training.

Are you an administrator and want to learn more about how you can facilitate this work at your school? If so, please contact us by clicking here.

Are you a teacher interested in using existing structures at your school to connect with other teachers and improve your practice? If so, click here.

Practitioner research

Teachers have been teaching for centuries, and a growing base of knowledge is emerging. This knowledge has been passed along from teacher to teacher or reinvented and rediscovered by successive generations of teachers. This professional knowledge has come from a clear two-step feedback loop for teachers:

  • Develop lessons with expected student outcomes.
  • Measure actual outcomes against expected outcomes.

Repeatedly iterating this loop, either by the same teacher many times over a career or by many teachers at once within or across schools, has generated a professional knowledge base. Making plans, observing student responses, and revising plans, over and over again, has led to understandings of what works on a day-to-day basis: what questions drive thoughtful responses? What activities lead to student engagement? What projects or assignments best demonstrate student mastery?

Athena is designed to help teachers gather, refine, and share professional knowledge. Are you a teacher and want to learn more about how you can collaborate with other teachers, finding, sharing, and improving your work? If so, click here.

Key studies and texts that inform this work

Atkins, D., Bennett, J., Brown, J., Chopra, A., Dede, C., Fishman, B., Gomez, L., Williams, B., (20 1 0). Transforming American Education: Learning powered by technology (National Educational Technology Plan 2010). U.S. Department of Education: Office of Educational Technology. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (2014). Teachers Know Best: Teachers' views on professional development. Retrieved October 1, 2015, from: http://collegeready.gatesfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Gates-PDMarketResearch-Dec5.pdf

Bryk, A. S., Gomez, L. M., Grunow, A., & LeMahieu, P. G., (2015). Learning to Improve: How America's schools can get better at getting better. Harvard Education Press.

Hiebert, J., & Morris, Anne K., (2012). Teaching, rather than teachers, as a path toward improving Classroom Instruction. Journal of Teacher Education, 63(2) 92-102.

Hiebert, J., Gallimore, R., & Stigler, J. W. (2002). A knowledge base for the teaching profession: What would it look like and how can we get one? Educational Researcher, 31(5), 3-15.

Kaplan, C., Chan, R,. Farbman, D. A., & Novoryta, A., (2014). Time for Teachers: Leveraging expanded time to strengthen instruction and empower teachersRetrieved September 19, 2015, from: http://www.joycefdn.org/assets/1/7/Time_for_Teachers_(FINAL).pdf

Morris, A. K., & Hiebert, J. (2011). Creating shared instructional products: An alternative approach to improving teaching. Educational Researcher, 40, 5-14.

National Center for Literacy Education. (2013). Remodeling literacy learning: Making room for what works.  Urbana, IL: National Center for Literacy Education & National Council of Teachers of English.  

Smith, T., Ingersoll, R. (2004). "What are the Effects of Induction and Mentoring on Beginning Teacher Turnover?" American Educational Research Journal, 41 (2).

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology (2015). Ed Tech Developer's Guide. Retrieved August 5, 2015, from: http://tech.ed.gov/files/2015/04/Developer-Toolkit.pdf

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology (2014). Exploratory Research on Designing Online Communities of Practice for Educators to Create Value. Retrieved August 5, 2015, from: https://tech.ed.gov/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Exploratory-Research-on-Designing-Online-Communities-FINAL.pdf

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology (2014). The Future Ready District: Professional learning through online communities of practice and social networks to drive continuous improvement. Retrieved August 5, 2015, from: https://tech.ed.gov/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Section7-FutureReadyDistrictBrief-Final.pdf

Wei, R. C., Darling-Hammond, L., 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. Dallas, TX. National Staff Development Council. 

Wei, R. C., Darling-Hammond, L., and Adamson, F. (2010). Professional development in the United States: Trends and challenges.  Dallas, TX. National Staff Development Council.

Yoon, K. S., Duncan, T. Lee, S. W.-Y., Scarloss, B., & Shapley, K. (2007). Reviewing the evidence on how teacher professional development affects student achievement (Issues & Answers Report, REL 2007-No. 033). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Southwest.  Retrieved from http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs