teachers at all levels in the professional continuum what helps if you are a first-year teacher, what helps if you are an accomplished science teacher, what helps if you are a master teacher, and what are the different ways that people can use these resources to enhance their teaching and student learning,” said Smith.
Research is also needed on specifically what teachers learn through online professional development. Do they learn mainly content knowledge, values, new perspectives on teaching, or gaining a better understanding of how their students are learning and where they are in the learning continuum? An especially valuable way to address this question (and many others) is to ensure that teachers are full partners in ongoing research programs. “If there was some way … to include teachers online as part of scholarly work, it would be a … way to keep us experienced teachers feeling like we can still make a difference,” said Sandie Gilliam.
One reason why relatively little research has focused on professional development is that such research is “time-consuming and labor intensive,” according to Borko. She described a study in which she and her colleagues reviewed videos of teachers who were watching videos of themselves teaching a lesson. The researchers sought to answer several questions: How could teachers become comfortable sharing video? What was the nature of the discussions? How did this discourse change over time? What role did the facilitators play? As reported in an article scheduled to appear in Teaching and Teacher Education,1 it was only after extensive study that the researchers concluded that the teachers were able to engage in highly reflective conversations about the videos and that these conversations became richer and more extensive over time. They also found that the direction provided by a facilitator had an important influence on the conversation. “When a facilitator provides handouts with questions to both guide the watching of a video and also guide the discussions, it was very helpful,” Borko said.
However, most studies have not probed deeply into what teachers learn from professional development, whether online or face to face. As Andee Rubin pointed out, “I don’t think we have much of the research that we need. Most of the research I have seen is about process, retention, facilitators’ roles, schedules, and support from different stakeholders. One difficulty is that standardized tests based on multiple choice and other short-answer problems typically are not sensitive enough to measure changes in content knowledge among either teachers or their students. “It is challenging,” noted Marcia Linn, “because the standardized measures
The manuscript for this paper is currently available at http://www.colorado.edu/education/staar/.