rooms. What it means is that it’s important to bring the classroom into the professional development setting.”
A few initial steps have been taken to begin establishing a base of research information on OTPD, often by the organizations that offer materials online today. For example, the Education Development Center is doing a two-year study that will track the impact of professional development on teachers’ content knowledge and practices, as well as students’ content knowledge. Eduventures is planning to release a research report on professional development in general in fall 2007.
More broadly, the role of teachers in shaping online professional development needs to be a focus of research, according to Bruce Alberts. “One thing we badly need research on, which I don’t think has been directly addressed here, is exactly how to give teachers a voice, an appropriate voice, at school district levels, in what professional development they get. I would like to encourage a variety of different approaches in different school districts, associated with some evaluation of how those work…. If we can’t give teachers a voice in their professional development, I don’t think we are going to solve this problem.”
In the recent paper A Research Agenda for Online Teacher Professional Development (Dede et al., 2006), Dede and his colleagues present a clear vision for the kinds of research questions that need to be addressed. They suggest research strategies, plans, models, and designs that may offer guidelines to funding agencies about where the needs are strongest.
Research is not going to answer all of these questions, workshop participants acknowledged. On the contrary, it is likely to raise as many questions as it answers. But identifying the most pressing questions also should be seen as a major objective of the research community in this realm, particularly if those questions encourage foundations, governments, and other organizations to support and expand research on OTPD.