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Changing Expectations for the K-12 Teacher Workforce: Policies, Preservice Education, Professional Development, and the Workplace (2020)

Chapter: 6 Opportunities for Learning Through Inservice Professional Development

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Suggested Citation:"6 Opportunities for Learning Through Inservice Professional Development." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Changing Expectations for the K-12 Teacher Workforce: Policies, Preservice Education, Professional Development, and the Workplace. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25603.
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6

Opportunities for Learning Through Inservice Professional Development

Well-designed preservice teacher preparation may supply new teachers with a significant foundation for the work of teaching in the 21st century, but cannot, in a short period of time, aspire to preparing teachers for all they must know and do. Meanwhile, an array of classroom studies provides evidence that many practicing teachers are not prepared to teach in ways that align with new expectations or that are responsive to a more diverse student population. Most teachers will require substantial changes to what they do on a daily basis if they are to respond productively to changing demographics and to new expectations for student learning (e.g., see Cobb et al., 2018; Osborne et al., 2019). Studies of professional development (PD) in key content domains (mathematics, science, literacy, social studies) demonstrate the challenges that teachers experience in shifting their stance from one of supplying explanations to one that engages students in collaborative inquiry (Kazemi and Franke, 2004; Osborne et al., 2019; Roth et al., 2011). Making substantial changes to teachers’ perspectives and practices will require significant and sustained opportunities for professional learning (Borko, 2004; National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2015).

This chapter concentrates on the contribution to teacher learning that may be made by formally structured PD programs, including both those located at school sites and a wide range of programs and experiences outside the school context. The committee notes that schools with a record of improvement tend to be those where teachers have access to high-quality PD and also experience a workplace culture marked by strong professional community (Bryk et al., 2010; McLaughlin and Talbert, 2001). Thus, this

Suggested Citation:"6 Opportunities for Learning Through Inservice Professional Development." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Changing Expectations for the K-12 Teacher Workforce: Policies, Preservice Education, Professional Development, and the Workplace. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25603.
×

chapter and the following chapter on workplace-embedded opportunities are intended to be complementary.

Following a brief introduction, this chapter begins by characterizing patterns of teacher participation in designated PD activity as reported in national surveys. It then takes up the question of how emerging forms and foci of PD represent responses to shifting student demographics and evolving expectations for what students should know and be able to do. The next section considers evidence for the effectiveness of PD with respect to desired teacher and student outcomes. The final section of the chapter turns attention to the role of the larger system and the policies and practices that bear on the availability and quality of PD for teachers.

As a preface to the discussion in this chapter and in the following chapter on teacher learning in the workplace, the committee notes that the category of “practicing teachers” and the corresponding category of “in-service education” may be too broad to help educators and policy makers think productively about implications derived from changing student demographics and expectations for student learning. Teachers vary with respect to the PD needs they experience and the interests they may express. In particular, teachers’ career stages may affect how they encounter current conditions and expectations, as well as what they find to be relevant and meaningful learning opportunities.

Newly prepared (or novice) teachers may enter teaching having been well grounded in new expectations for pursuing greater conceptual depth, enabling student inquiry and sense-making, integrating new forms of technology, and working effectively with a diverse group of students (as articulated in Chapter 3). For these teachers, inservice learning demands likely center on how to enact the ideas and practices they have encountered in their preparation while mastering classroom management and navigating the school workplace culture. This may also include balancing these demands against an increasing push to utilize differing forms of technology during teaching while also responding to the continued paperwork burden that is prevalent. Relevant supports include well-designed systems of induction and mentoring, as well as the preparation of principals and other school leaders to aid beginning teachers.

In contrast, more experienced teachers who are faced with new expectations for student learning and new images of teaching practice confront a problem of change. Relevant supports for these teachers may take the form of structured PD, coaching, access to relevant instructional resources, the opportunity to work with colleagues to shift ideas and practice, and the support of principals or other leaders in managing change.

Finally, teachers increasingly take on an array of leadership roles, some of which (e.g., instructional coach, writing curriculum pacing guides) may

Suggested Citation:"6 Opportunities for Learning Through Inservice Professional Development." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Changing Expectations for the K-12 Teacher Workforce: Policies, Preservice Education, Professional Development, and the Workplace. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25603.
×

be a direct response to the changing expectations for student learning outlined in Chapter 3. Such roles may reflect the broader response to the move toward more in-depth learning and innovative instruction or they may reflect the vestiges of narrowly defined test-based accountability systems. A growing body of research examines how these roles have been defined and enacted, but few studies explore how teachers are recruited into these roles and how they are prepared and supported to succeed in them.

THE GROWTH OF PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITIES

Educators, education scholars, school and system leaders, and policy makers treat teacher PD as a vehicle for advancing a more ambitious vision of teaching and learning for all students. Although estimates of the financial investment in PD vary widely depending on the model used to construct them, they add up to thousands of dollars per teacher per year (The New Teacher Project, 2015; Odden et al., 2002; Rice, 2001). In principle, such programs constitute a significant complement to learning opportunities embedded in teachers’ daily work in classrooms and schools.

A dramatic proliferation of PD providers dates back to the advent of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act in the mid-1960s; opportunities for PD escalated in the wake of the 1983 Nation at Risk report (Little, 1989). Districts emerged during that period as significant decision makers regarding the form and content of PD and as PD providers in their own right. By the mid-1980s, the National Education Association reported a 15-year decline in teachers’ participation in university course work and a corresponding increase in attendance at district-sponsored workshops and conferences (National Education Association, 1987). Reform movements multiplied in the 1980s and 1990s, culminating in the standards and accountability movement that has induced some states to require continuing education units from teachers; during this period of increased reform, a marketplace of PD providers emerged, many of them (including universities) packaging their services for district or school consumption. In the 21st century, the landscape has grown still more diversified as PD providers capitalize on technological advances to offer online PD options to individual teachers as well as to their employing organizations. Indeed, the landscape of inservice PD is just as sprawling as that of preservice preparation; observers have repeatedly noted its fragmented or nonsystemic character (e.g., Borko, 2004; Dede et al., 2009; Wilson and Berne, 1999), although recent research supplies examples of coherent approaches at the school and district level (Bryk et al., 2010; Cobb et al., 2018; Coburn and Russell, 2008).

Suggested Citation:"6 Opportunities for Learning Through Inservice Professional Development." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Changing Expectations for the K-12 Teacher Workforce: Policies, Preservice Education, Professional Development, and the Workplace. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25603.
×

PATTERNS OF TEACHER PARTICIPATION

As detailed below, nationally representative surveys supply a partial picture of teachers’ participation in formal PD. The Fast Response Survey System survey of 2000 and the Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) questionnaires for 2003–2004, 2007–2008, and 2011–2012 include items that focus on the amount and type of PD in which teachers participated in a 1-year period and on teachers’ perceptions of the usefulness of selected PD. Unfortunately, the National Teacher and Principal Survey (successor to SASS), conducted in 2015–2016, preserved questions about teachers’ preservice preparation but eliminated items related to teachers’ subsequent participation in PD. The 2018 National Survey of Science and Mathematics Education (NSSME+), conducted by Horizon Research, Inc., reports data on PD for teachers of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects, but there appears to be no comparable national survey of teachers in other subject areas.

Teachers’ Participation in PD

Rotermund, DeRoche, and Ottem (2017) draw on the 2011–2012 SASS data to provide the most recent descriptive national profile of teachers’ participation in PD. Overall, 99 percent of teachers reported participating in some form of PD in 2011–2012. Subject-specific PD constituted the predominant focus (85% of teachers), followed by the instructional use of computers (67%). On the whole, elementary and secondary teachers reported that subject-specific PD and PD on computers was useful (see Table 6-1).

The 2011–2012 SASS data also provide indications of teachers’ participation in PD targeted at two specific student populations: English learners and students with disabilities. Relatively few teachers reported participating in PD focused on teaching students with disabilities (37%) or English learners (27%). On the whole, the majority of teachers reported that PD on teaching students with disabilities was useful (44%) or very useful (22%), while 30 percent indicated it was somewhat useful. Teachers’ perceptions

TABLE 6-1 Teachers’ Reported Perceptions of Professional Development (PD) in Percentage, by Usefulness

Not Useful Somewhat Useful Useful Very Useful
Subject-Specific PD 2 28 43 28
PD Focused on the Use of Computers 4 31 41 24

SOURCE: 2011–2012 SASS data.

Suggested Citation:"6 Opportunities for Learning Through Inservice Professional Development." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Changing Expectations for the K-12 Teacher Workforce: Policies, Preservice Education, Professional Development, and the Workplace. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25603.
×

of the usefulness of PD on teaching English learners indicated they found it slightly less useful than other PD; 18 percent very useful, 41 percent useful, and 34 percent only somewhat useful. Subject-matter PD tended to be longer in duration (nearly 80% more than 8 hours), while about two-thirds of PD related to teaching students with disabilities or English learners was less than 8 hours. A comparison of these patterns with those reported earlier by Parsad et al. (2001) based on a 2000 survey suggests that the investment in PD for a diverse student population has remained relatively low even though teachers in the earlier survey reported feeling inadequately prepared to teach students from diverse cultural backgrounds. This is important as some states (e.g., Florida) license renewal requirements include a specific number of hours for retooling in special education or English learning for license renewal.

Mathematics, Science, and Computer Science Teachers’ Participation in PD

According to the 2018 NSSME+ Report (Banilower et al., 2018), mathematics, science, and computer science teachers report that participating in discipline-specific PD programs or workshops is the most common form of PD in which they participate. On the whole, about 80 percent or more of science, mathematics, and computer science teachers have participated in content-specific PD in the past 3 years (Banilower et al., 2018, p. 47). However, elementary science teachers are an exception; less than about 60 percent reported participating in discipline-specific PD in the past 3 years (p. 47). Perhaps not surprisingly, high school teachers report having participated in more hours of discipline-specific PD than elementary teachers in both science and mathematics. The authors summarized trends in number of discipline-specific hours as follows:

[A]bout a quarter of middle school and about a third of high school science teachers have participated in 36 hours or more of science professional development in the last three years; very few elementary teachers have had this amount of professional development in science. A similar pattern exists in mathematics, with about 2 in 5 secondary teachers having participated in at least 36 hours of mathematics-focused professional development in the last three years compared to fewer than 1 in 6 elementary teachers. (p. 48)

Importantly, both science and mathematics teachers across elementary, middle, and secondary indicated that a focus on how to incorporate students’ cultural backgrounds into instruction was relatively rare, with only about a quarter of science teachers and 20 percent of math teachers indicating having received PD with this focus (p. 56).

Suggested Citation:"6 Opportunities for Learning Through Inservice Professional Development." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Changing Expectations for the K-12 Teacher Workforce: Policies, Preservice Education, Professional Development, and the Workplace. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25603.
×

In addition, the 2018 NSSME+ Report indicated “differences in the extent to which science and mathematics classes with different demographic characteristics have access to teachers who have had a substantial amount of professional development” (p. 49). Namely, in science, classes that serve a high proportion of historically underrepresented students in STEM and classes composed mostly of students who previously achieved at lower levels “are significantly less likely than classes serving high prior achievers [and students who have been historically well-represented in STEM] to be taught by teachers who have participated in more than 35 hours of professional development in the last three years” (p. 49). Further, students attending small schools, on average, have less “access to teachers who have participated in a substantial amount of professional development” (p. 49). However, “mathematics classes with the highest proportion of students from race/ethnicity groups historically underrepresented in STEM are more likely than their counterparts to be taught by teachers who have participated in more than 35 hours of professional development in the last three years” (p. 49).

Overall, most teachers report having had access to PD in recent years, and most report that the PD they have experienced has been at least somewhat useful. However, survey data also signal areas in which PD opportunities may be under developed or unevenly distributed (e.g., with respect to teaching science, teaching students with special needs, or supporting English learners).

EMERGING FORMS OF PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

The past two decades have witnessed not only a steadily growing marketplace of providers, but also new developments in the type of PD experience available to teachers and in their orientation to changing expectations for teachers and teaching. These developments include the emergence of online programs and platforms and learning from practice by way of video and other artifacts of teaching and learning.

Online Programs and Platforms

In the past two decades, one prominent development in inservice PD, as in preservice teacher education, has been the growing turn to online programs and platforms to support teacher learning and innovation. A review of the extant literature about online PD turns up multiple studies focused on programs and platforms targeted to particular populations of teachers: special education teachers (including teacher of both students identified as having “disabilities” and “gifted”), rural teachers, and teachers of particular subjects. Although a thorough review of these studies extends

Suggested Citation:"6 Opportunities for Learning Through Inservice Professional Development." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Changing Expectations for the K-12 Teacher Workforce: Policies, Preservice Education, Professional Development, and the Workplace. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25603.
×

beyond the scope of this report, the sheer number of them attests to the growth of online programs and platforms.

Online platforms, such as those offering teaching videos and other resources, are multiplying faster than the research; although not yet validated by research, this includes teachers sharing resources using a variety of platforms (e.g., Pinterest, Teachers Pay Teachers). A literature review published by Dede and colleagues (2009) predates a number of the currently available studies, but the authors noted at the time that the available research suffered from an overemphasis on short-term program evaluation and a reliance on self-reported experiences and outcomes. The authors recommended a more rigorous approach to research design, more of a focus on actual learner interactions, a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods suitable to the research questions, multiple outcome measures, and a longitudinal timeframe to capture trajectories of learning and subsequent practice.

In one empirical study that might be judged at least partially responsive to these recommendations, Fishman and colleagues (2013) employed a randomized experiment to compare teacher and student outcomes associated with teachers’ participation in a face-to-face PD or an online version of the same PD.1 They acknowledge the critiques put forward by Dede and colleagues (2009) but observe that since 2009, “Studies of teachers learning from online PD that employ experimental design with randomization and control groups have started to address the linkages between teachers’ learning, practice, and student learning outcomes” (p. 3). They nonetheless caution:

Online PD is not monolithic. It makes little sense to ask questions about whether “it” is more or less effective than any other PD modality. . . . Thus, when considering questions of comparative effectiveness, it is critical to clearly identify design features of PD opportunities in question. (p. 4)

Fishman and colleagues (2013) found no difference in outcomes between the group engaged in face-to-face PD and the group participating in an online program. “In online and face-to-face PD conditions, teachers reported increased confidence with new curriculum materials, enacted those materials consistently with curriculum designers’ intent, and their students learned from curriculum successfully and in equal amounts” (p. 2).2

Some models of PD have capitalized on advances in technology-aided simulation in other fields ranging from military and flight training to medicine. In an experimental design study in 10 sites in six states, Dieker and

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1 The program was designed to prepare high school teachers to implement a year-long environmental science curriculum.

2 Teachers in the online condition first received a face-to-face orientation to the online platform.

Suggested Citation:"6 Opportunities for Learning Through Inservice Professional Development." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Changing Expectations for the K-12 Teacher Workforce: Policies, Preservice Education, Professional Development, and the Workplace. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25603.
×

colleagues (2014) investigated the contributions of avatar-based simulation and supplemental online PD to improvements in the performance of middle school mathematics teachers. Researchers randomly assigned teachers to one of four groups: (1) a treatment group that received lesson plans aligned with the Common Core for the teaching of linear equations, together with a 40-minute online PD focused on five strategies for formative assessment; (2) a treatment group that received the lesson plans and participated in the TeachLivE simulator, including an “after-action-review” segment; (3) a treatment group that received the lesson plans, the online PD experience, and the TeachLivE simulator experience without the after-action-review; and (4) control. All teachers were observed teaching the designated lesson and their students tested (using items derived from National Assessment of Educational Progress data) prior to the random assignment and again following completion of the treatment series. Analysis of teaching observations focused on teachers’ use of questioning to elicit student thinking, their use of wait time, and their feedback to students. Researchers found that treatment teachers in both groups that included a TeachLivE experience increased their use of higher order questions to elicit student thinking and their specific feedback to students across the four virtual events and in their real classrooms. The highest gains in classroom performance accrued to the TeachLivE-only condition that included an after-action-review segment.

The emergence of online programs and other technological tools give rise to the question of how these new resources and opportunities fit with the organizational environment that teachers inhabit in their schools and districts. In a book addressed to school and district leaders, Rodman (2019) observes that teachers have responded to the persistence of “sit-and-get” PD by turning to online opportunities to secure new instructional resources and to learn from and with other teachers:

Teachers . . . have begun to speak out against this unilateral system and form their own professional learning networks (PLNs) via Twitter and Voxer chats, edcamps, massive open online courses (MOOCs), blogs, and podcasts. Such networks not only connect teachers with like-role peers beyond their school but also provide on-demand professional learning in a variety of different formats. As PLNs continue to grow, so does an unprecedented wealth of text, video, and planning resources. However, while these experiences may help individual educators who have the drive and commitment to seek them out, they do little to foster a community of professional inquiry within a school or district. (pp. 1–2)

As Rodman notes, teachers have turned to a wide array of online venues for ideas, resources, and assistance. To the committee’s knowledge, these venues—some of which assert that they are research-based—have not yet been the focus of empirical investigations. However, research on the use

Suggested Citation:"6 Opportunities for Learning Through Inservice Professional Development." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Changing Expectations for the K-12 Teacher Workforce: Policies, Preservice Education, Professional Development, and the Workplace. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25603.
×

of online platforms in the context of structured PD programs suggests that this technological resource may help to expand teachers’ access to opportunities specifically designed to meet changing expectations.

Learning in and from Practice Through Artifacts of Teaching and Learning

For the past two decades, advances in PD practice and research have been prominently marked by the potential for teachers’ learning in and from practice. As noted in the previous chapter on preservice teacher education, Ball and Cohen (1999) supplied a compelling rationale for learning in and from practice as a means of joining a teacher’s subject matter knowledge to a specialized knowledge for teaching. Roth and colleagues (2011) add,

A key feature of analysis-of-practice approaches is teacher inquiry into their own practice as a vehicle for learning and PD. However, it is difficult in a real-time context for teachers to conduct inquiries into their teaching practices in a way that addresses all their complexity. One solution to this realistic problem is to use artifacts of practice, such as student work and assessment products, teacher lesson plans and notes, and lesson videos. (p. 118)

In the evolving landscape of PD, two approaches to learning in and through practice have gained particular prominence over the past two decades: Lesson Study and video clubs and other forms of video-based PD.

Lesson Study

The instructional improvement strategy termed “Lesson Study” gained popularity in the United States following the publication of the findings from the Third International Mathematics and Science Study. In their book The Teaching Gap, Stigler and Hiebert (1999) characterized this Japanese form of PD—a collaborative inquiry approach strongly embedded in the culture of teaching and schools—as a model worthy of emulation. More specifically, as practiced in Japan:

Lesson study consists of cycles of instructional improvement in which teachers work together to: formulate goals for student learning and long-term development; collaboratively plan a “research lesson” designed to bring to life these goals; conduct the lesson in a classroom, with one team member teaching and others gathering evidence on student learning and development; reflect on and discuss the evidence gathered during the lesson, using it to improve the lesson, the unit, and instruction more generally; and, if desired, teach, observe, and improve the lesson again in one or more additional classrooms. (Lewis, 2009, p. 95)

Suggested Citation:"6 Opportunities for Learning Through Inservice Professional Development." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Changing Expectations for the K-12 Teacher Workforce: Policies, Preservice Education, Professional Development, and the Workplace. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25603.
×

Early studies of Lesson Study illuminated both the potential benefits of and the challenges associated with introducing a model that in certain key respects runs against the grain of U.S. teachers’ accustomed interactions with one another (Fernandez, 2002, 2005). Although Lesson Study shares some features with previously implemented practices of learning from student work in the United States, it differs centrally in the place occupied by the collective observation of live classroom practice. In an essay that took stock of this evolving innovation, Lewis, Perry, and Murata (2006) noted that “the simple practice of observation in colleagues’ classrooms for the purpose of professional learning is rare in the United States” (p. 3).

Over time, research has come to focus on the adaptation of Lesson Study to a range of contexts. However, Lewis and Perry (2017) note that “lesson study has been researched mainly through small-scale, qualitative studies by investigators directly involved in lesson study implementation” (p. 265). In a significant exception, one recent randomized, controlled trial (RCT) study examines the role of Lesson Study as an intervention in the scale-up of efforts to improve the teaching and learning of fractions in grades 2–5 (Lewis and Perry, 2017).3 More than 200 educators (87% of them classroom teachers) from 27 school districts were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: (1) an experimental condition in which teams conducted lesson study focused on fractions, aided by a research-based mathematics (fractions) resource kit; (2) a “business as usual” condition in which teachers in teams chose their own approach to learning and their own focus, but were asked not to pursue lesson study on fractions; and (3) a lesson study condition in which teacher teams could choose their topic and were supplied with lesson study tools but not with the mathematics resource kit. The kit was designed to help teachers delve into the instructional affordances of different mathematical tasks, grapple with what students are likely to find difficult, and plan an approach to the cycle of planning, implementation, observation, and reflection.

Lewis and Perry (2017) assessed gains in educators’ own knowledge of fractions for teaching with a 33-item instrument derived from previously tested item banks and focused mainly on conceptual knowledge as required to navigate particular teaching contexts (e.g., “how to adjudicate a disagreement between two students about whether 1/2 of Andrew’s books was more than 1/5 of Steve’s books” (p. 274)). Student learning was measured by a grade-appropriate test including items drawn from national and state assessments, published curricula, and research publications. In addition,

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3 The design of this RCT study permits researchers to examine the processes (video recorded) and outcomes of a lesson study on a large scale, managed and led by local educators rather than experts; it also permits a test of the lesson study cycle integrated with curricular resources of the sort commonly available in Japan.

Suggested Citation:"6 Opportunities for Learning Through Inservice Professional Development." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Changing Expectations for the K-12 Teacher Workforce: Policies, Preservice Education, Professional Development, and the Workplace. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25603.
×

participating educators completed an end-of-project self-report survey on which they rated the quality of their experience.

Results show a statistically significant effect on educators’ fractions knowledge for the treatment condition (lesson study plus resource kit; effect size = 0.19). Students of teachers in the treatment condition also significantly outperformed students in the other conditions (effect size = 0.49). Analysis of a subset of PD meeting videos indicates which elements of the mathematics resource kit compelled most attention (e.g., videos of fractions lessons taught in Japanese classrooms), and otherwise suggests how the availability of the resource kit may have contributed to the measured outcomes. Students of teachers who adopted the Japanese lesson demonstrated higher learning gains than those whose teachers pursued an alternative approach. Written reflections provided examples of particular insights that emerged from the discussions in the experimental condition (Lewis and Perry, 2017):

In the past, I have worked hard to make fractions very hands-on and visual, but not once did I consider using a linear model.

A great deal of our discussions prior to beginning this lesson study was spent on how we . . . teach fractions . . . here at our school. Each of us used the typical pizza cut up or candy cut up to show . . . fractional parts. However . . . this . . . didn’t lead to full understanding. . . . Teaching fractions in a linear manner was a real aha moment for all of us on the team. (p. 287)

Although the most prominent outcomes of this RCT study were associated with the experimental condition, educators’ own reported perceptions of professional learning quality show nearly equivalent high ratings from educators in the two lesson study conditions, and substantially lower ratings from those in the “business as usual” condition. Overall, Lewis and Perry (2017, p. 289) report that “lesson study supported by a mathematical resource kit showed a significant impact on both educators’ fractions knowledge and students’ fractions knowledge after controlling for baseline fractions knowledge, hours of instruction, and other relevant variables.”

Video-Based Collaborative Professional Development

Since 2000, and especially in the past decade, video-based PD has occupied an increasingly prominent place in the published research on PD, especially in mathematics and science (Borko, Koellner, and Jacobs, 2011; Luna and Sherin, 2017; Roth et al., 2011; Santagata, 2009; Seago, 2004; Sherin and Han, 2004; van Es et al., 2014; van Es, Tekkumru-Kisa, and

Suggested Citation:"6 Opportunities for Learning Through Inservice Professional Development." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Changing Expectations for the K-12 Teacher Workforce: Policies, Preservice Education, Professional Development, and the Workplace. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25603.
×

Seago, in press). Roth and colleagues (2011) underscore the particular virtues of video as an artifact for teachers’ collective attention:

Using video and other artifacts also provides a common point of reference for teachers’ collaborative discussions and anchors teachers’ discourse, keeping it focused on content, teaching, and learning. . . . For example, shared analysis of the same lesson video challenges each member to provide evidence from the video to support claims and judgments which can then be evaluated by others in the group. (p. 118)

One of the earliest and most widely cited contributions detailed teachers’ gradual transition from a focus on teachers’ actions to a focus on students’ mathematical reasoning over the course of year-long participation in a “video club” facilitated by expert mathematics educators (Sherin and Han, 2004). In that video club project, facilitators invited teachers to establish a focus for their attention and discussion and noted the shift in focus over time. In other PD projects, facilitators have oriented teachers to specific aspects of teaching and learning, such as the nature of students’ science argumentation (Zembal-Saul, 2005).

Although several studies trace changes in teachers’ ability to notice and analyze selected aspects of classroom interaction, few have attempted to relate teachers’ participation in video-based PD to changes in classroom practice and student learning. In one exception, Borko and colleagues (2015) report the changes in mathematics instruction and student achievement associated with teachers’ participation in the Problem-Solving Cycle (PSC) PD, in which video analysis plays a central role. The PSC model engages teachers in a series of interconnected workshops built around a common “rich mathematical task,” as defined by several criteria (e.g., tasks that encompass important mathematical concepts and skills, have multiple entry points and solution paths, are accessible to learners with varying levels of mathematical knowledge). Teachers begin each cycle by working together to solve the selected mathematical task and to develop lesson plans for teaching the task in their own classrooms. Video recordings of the teachers’ implementation of the lessons form the basis of the second and third workshops in the cycle, in which teachers devote close attention to the nature of students’ mathematical reasoning and consider the role of the teacher in supporting student learning. Over the course of the three workshops, teachers learn how to elicit and respond to student thinking and consider a range of instructional strategies for cultivating rich mathematical discourse in the classroom.

Borko and colleagues (2015) draw on data collected over 5 years to assess changes in teacher knowledge and instructional practice and to examine impact on student achievement. Pre- and post-administration of the

Suggested Citation:"6 Opportunities for Learning Through Inservice Professional Development." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Changing Expectations for the K-12 Teacher Workforce: Policies, Preservice Education, Professional Development, and the Workplace. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25603.
×

Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching (MKT) assessment for middle school teachers showed significant positive gains on average for 62 participating teachers, although the absence of a control group necessarily limits claims regarding effectiveness of the PD in this respect.

To investigate changes in classroom practice, the researchers employed the Mathematical Quality of Instruction (MQI) instrument to analyze 51 videotaped lessons taught by 13 teachers; the analysis compared implementation of the collaboratively developed PSC lessons with “typical” lessons taught by the same teacher. Overall, teachers’ instruction over time was demonstrably stronger when they were teaching the collaboratively developed PSC lessons built around a “mathematically rich task” than when they were teaching their typical lessons. Teachers made the greatest improvement on the MQI dimension labeled “working with mathematics and students,” with gains evident in both the PSC and typical lessons. Borko and colleagues (2015) report that “over time, the teachers were better able to understand and build on their students’ mathematical ideas and help them work through their errors in a conceptual manner” (p. 54). Teachers showed a gain in the richness of the mathematics tasks in PSC lessons, but not in typical lessons, suggesting that availability of well-designed tasks and the collaborative setting of the PSC may be important factors in teachers’ ability to enact more ambitious instruction. Student participation ratings were high in both types of lessons and across time, but ratings dropped somewhat as the richness of tasks and conceptual focus increased. In judging the promise of the PSC model, the researchers note, “One especially encouraging finding is the fact that the teachers in our study improved their ability to listen to students’ ideas and make sound instructional decisions based on those ideas” (pp. 64–65).

Finally, Borko and colleagues (2015) examined student achievement on the Colorado Student Achievement mathematics assessment, comparing the students of PSC teachers, the students of middle school teachers in the same district who were not participating in the PSC, and middle school students across the state. In 4 of the 5 PSC years, students of the participating PSC teachers outperformed other students in the district. (Both groups in this district outperformed the state average in all years.) The achievement results are suggestive but not conclusive, given the absence of random assignment and changes in the composition of the PSC cohort from year to year.

In the domain of science, Roth and colleagues (2011) employed videocases in a year-long PD program for elementary teachers (Science Teachers Learning from Lesson Analysis, or STeLLA) to investigate changes in teachers’ science content knowledge, ability to analyze science teaching, classroom instruction, and student learning. The study’s quasi-experimental design entailed a comparison of two groups of teachers, both of which had completed the same 3-week summer institute focused on science content, and one of which elected to participate in additional summer and

Suggested Citation:"6 Opportunities for Learning Through Inservice Professional Development." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Changing Expectations for the K-12 Teacher Workforce: Policies, Preservice Education, Professional Development, and the Workplace. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25603.
×

school-year analysis-of-practice activity. Although the teachers were not randomly assigned, they did not differ with respect to their education, science background, or teaching experience. Teachers in the experimental group showed significantly greater gains in content and pedagogical content knowledge and in their ability to analyze video-based lessons (although they showed some decline in that ability during the school year). Both groups completed a science content test and a video-based lesson analysis task, but only the experimental group was observed in the classroom. In pre-post observations, experimental teachers showed increased use of the recommended science teaching strategies associated with both a “science content storyline” lens and a “student thinking” lens emphasized in the PD, and their students outperformed the students in the comparison content-only group.

Especially given its increasing prominence, further research is needed to understand crucial aspects of designing and implementing video-based collaborative PD that supports teachers to meet changing expectations and to serve an increasingly diverse student population. Van Es and colleagues (in press) offer a comprehensive framework to guide the design, implementation, and study of video-based collaborative PD. Their framework includes what they refer to as six dimensions, or “critical features of video-based activity systems for teachers” (p. 5): audience, goals/purpose, video selection, task design, planning/facilitation, and assessing learning. As they cogently argue, most studies of video-based PD foreground a specific dimension (e.g., the role of the facilitator), resulting in a limited understanding of the broader activity system in which the use of video is embedded, and thus a limited understanding of how and why a particular video-based PD program results, or does not, in the intended learning outcomes. An additional advantage of the application of a comprehensive framework for the study of video-based PD is that it can support the field to engage in comparative analysis across studies, and thus accumulate knowledge across studies.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT THAT SUPPORTS TEACHERS TO MEET CHANGES IN EXPECTATIONS AND IN STUDENT POPULATIONS

As indicated above, nationally representative samples indicate that on the whole, practicing teachers participate in formally structured programs of PD. However, little is known about the quality of PD that the average teacher receives, especially in relation to heightened expectations for teaching and student learning, and changes in the student populations that the average teacher serves. While the evidence remains mixed regarding the extent to which PD results in desired changes to teachers’ knowledge and practice, and in student learning, there has been some progress in the field in the past two decades in discerning features and theories of action of PD that appear to impact teachers’ practice and student learning.

Suggested Citation:"6 Opportunities for Learning Through Inservice Professional Development." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Changing Expectations for the K-12 Teacher Workforce: Policies, Preservice Education, Professional Development, and the Workplace. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25603.
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Research published in the 1990s and early 2000s resulted in a purported “emerging consensus” on selected design features of effective PD. Desimone (2009) summarized the basis for this consensus and argued that research would be strengthened by attending more systematically to five distinguishing features of effective PD: the depth of focus on subject matter content and how students learn it; sufficient provision for teachers to engage in “active learning;” a coherent connection to teachers’ own work and to prevailing local and state policy; “collective participation” by teachers of the same school, department, or grade level; and adequate duration for teachers to develop new understandings and instantiate them in their teaching. She posited a conceptual model in which these five design features constitute foundational conditions that in turn enhance teacher knowledge, skill, and dispositions; stimulate and enable related changes in instructional practice; and ultimately generate positive student learning outcomes.

At the time it was first touted a decade ago, this “emerging consensus” rested on somewhat tenuous ground, especially when tested against expectations for gains in student learning. Desimone (2009, p. 183) acknowledged that only a “handful of studies” had included measurement of student outcomes. In addition, some experimental-design research framed by the recommended “PD design features” yielded mixed results, leading reviewers to cast doubt on the power of PD programs to advance teacher knowledge and practice or to enhance student learning. Mixed or null results from some studies—studies that employed randomized experimental designs and that measured both teacher and student outcomes—posed a particular threat to the reported consensus. Two widely cited experimental design studies, one focused on second-grade reading (Garet et al., 2008) and the second on middle school mathematics (Garet et al., 2010), found only minimal positive results for teachers and no significant positive results for students despite implementing PD interventions closely aligned with the features in the “consensus” model.

Such studies suggest the complexity of pursuing significant change in teachers’ knowledge, beliefs, dispositions, and practices through programs of organized PD; however, they may also point to the limitations of the conceptual model and some aspects of the research design. With respect to the latter, for example, Garet and colleagues (2010) note that, “The observation protocol measured the degree to which each provider’s plan was implemented but it did not measure the quality of the delivery or the accuracy of the mathematics presented” (p. 24). That is, design features alone may not serve well as proxies for the quality of teachers’ PD experience, and the resulting research may not have uncovered aspects of implementation that could account for weak results.

More recent empirical studies, literature reviews, and meta-analyses have found consistent evidence of positive outcomes while also suggesting

Suggested Citation:"6 Opportunities for Learning Through Inservice Professional Development." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Changing Expectations for the K-12 Teacher Workforce: Policies, Preservice Education, Professional Development, and the Workplace. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25603.
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the limitations of a conceptual model oriented principally to generic features of PD design (e.g., opportunities for “active learning”). Kennedy (2016), in a review of 28 experimental design studies of PD in core academic subjects conducted between 1975 and 2014, rejected the focus on design features and defined programs instead in terms of “underlying theories of action” that addressed a “central problem of practice” in teaching. Similarly, in a study of elementary grades science PD, Grigg and colleagues (2013) focused not on PD design fidelity but on the degree to which learners (teachers in the PD; students in the classroom) demonstrably engaged in five features of scientific inquiry: defining scientifically oriented questions, giving priority to evidence in responding to questions, formulating explanations from evidence, connecting explanations to scientific knowledge, and communicating and justifying explanations. By specifying these features of scientific inquiry as their focal point, Grigg and colleagues theorized the mechanism by which they predicted students’ learning gains would be realized. Their analysis suggests that conceptual, empirical, and practical gains from PD research likely require that the meaning of key design features (e.g., “active learning” or “collective participation”) be more fully theorized and specified, and that they be probed in-depth at the level of both PD and classroom practice.

The discussion that follows centers on two bodies of research that bear particularly on the capacity of the teacher workforce to respond to heightened expectations for student learning and changing student demographics: content-focused PD and PD targeted at teachers’ capacity for working with a diverse student population.

Impact of Content-Focused Professional Development

Over the past two decades, and despite mixed results in some studies, the field has accumulated a body of increasingly rigorous research on organized programs of PD, especially in math, science, and literacy. Studies employing experimental and quasi-experimental research designs and studies incorporating measures of student learning outcomes have multiplied. Rotermund, DeRoche, and Ottem (2017), in their preface to a National Center for Education Statistics summary of the 2011–2012 SASS survey results on teachers’ participation in PD, write:

Although past literature on professional development has found little causal evidence of its impact on student achievement, recent research on the effects of individual programs of professional development has found some positive effects on student outcomes (DeMonte, 2013; Heller et al., 2012; Polly et al., 2015; Yoon et al., 2007). In addition, two meta-analyses of research on professional development found statistically significant effects (Blank and de las Alas, 2009; Gersten et al., 2014, p. 1).

Suggested Citation:"6 Opportunities for Learning Through Inservice Professional Development." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Changing Expectations for the K-12 Teacher Workforce: Policies, Preservice Education, Professional Development, and the Workplace. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25603.
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More recently, a meta-analysis of 95 experimental or quasi-experimental studies of the impacts of preK–12 STEM-related curriculum and/or PD programs on student learning indicate that, on the whole, PD with the following characteristics yields benefits for teachers and students (Lynch et al., 2019): “the use of professional development along with new curriculum materials; a focus on improving teachers’ content and pedagogical content knowledge, or understanding of how students learn; and specific formats, including meetings to troubleshoot and discuss classroom implementation of the program, the provision of summer workshops to begin the professional development learning process, and same-school collaboration” (p. 294). The authors highlight advances in research design over the past two decades, writing that “following calls in the early 2000s for stronger research into the impact of educational interventions . . . federal research portfolios began to prioritize research methods that allow causal inference and to use student outcomes as the major indicator of program success” (p. 260).

In some respects, the meta-analysis findings paralleled those identified in previous reviews as elements of the “emerging consensus” regarding PD design (Desimone, 2009; Wei et al., 2009). For example, programs achieved stronger outcomes when teachers participated in PD programs with colleagues from their school. This finding is consistent with the broader research base, and likely reflects the benefit of a shared commitment to trying out what was learned in a PD program, and of having colleagues with whom to determine how to employ or adapt what was learned in a specific teaching context. In addition, Lynch and colleagues (2019) found that outcomes were stronger when the PD programs included what they refer to as “implementation meetings,” or opportunities to “convene briefly with other activity participants to troubleshoot and discuss obstacles and aids to putting the program into practice” (p. 276).

More generally, Lynch and colleagues note that the “programs studied recently contain more varied delivery methods and features (e.g., coaching, online learning components) than those of a decade ago” (p. 264). On average, they found that programs that included an online component had positive effects on student outcomes but that such programs “yielded significantly smaller effects” on student outcomes, as compared to programs that did not include an online component (p. 276).

In another echo of prior research, Lynch and colleagues (2019) found that average effect sizes were larger when the PD “focused on improving teachers’ content and pedagogical content knowledge and/or how students learned the content” (p. 275). Their findings underscore the importance that PD be content-specific; PD focused on “content-generic instructional strategies was not a significant predictor of effect size magnitude” (p. 275). On the whole, the authors also found that effect sizes were largest where programs combined PD with new curriculum materials (as compared to PD only, absent

Suggested Citation:"6 Opportunities for Learning Through Inservice Professional Development." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Changing Expectations for the K-12 Teacher Workforce: Policies, Preservice Education, Professional Development, and the Workplace. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25603.
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curriculum materials). This finding is consistent with qualitative studies of PD as well, which have suggested that it is important that PD be “close to practice” and that it support teachers to make sense of the actual materials they teach with (e.g., Ball and Cohen, 1999; Kazemi and Franke, 2004).

However, Lynch and colleagues (2019) found that not all PD involving new curriculum materials yielded desired effects. For example, they cite a comprehensive review by Slavin and colleagues (2014), who report “programs that used science kits did not show positive outcomes on science achievement measures (weighted ES=0.02 in 7 studies), but inquiry-based programs that emphasized professional development but not kits did show positive outcomes (weighted ES=0.36 in 10 studies)” (p. 870). Science kits supply teachers with materials for hands-on science activities and guidelines for their use, but the accompanying PD (if any) may or may not include a focus on underlying science concepts and processes or guidance with respect to inquiry-oriented instructional practices. Slavin and colleagues (2014) report,

A surprising finding from the largest and best-designed of the studies synthesized in the present review is the limited achievement impact of elementary science programs that provide teachers with kits to help them make regular use of hands-on, inquiry-oriented activities. These include evaluations of the well-regarded FOSS, STC, Insights, Project Clarion, and Teaching SMART programs, none of which showed positive achievement impacts. (p. 894)

The lack of effects associated with kit-based science PD suggests that future research would benefit from closer attention to the relationship between PD emphases and the local curriculum-in-use, as well as the measures used to assess learning outcomes.

Finally, Lynch and colleagues (2019) found “no evidence of a positive association between the duration of professional development,” which included both number of hours and timespan, and “program impacts” (p. 285). Although this finding is contrary to what some prior reviews have suggested (Desimone, 2009; Scher and O’Reilly, 2009; Yoon et al., 2007), it is consistent with Kennedy’s (2016) review of PD for teachers of core academic subjects (language arts, mathematics, the sciences, and the social sciences). As Lynch and colleagues (2019) write, “Our findings echo those of Kennedy (1999, 2016), who did not find a clear benefit of contact hours or program duration, and concluded that the core condition for program effectiveness was valuable content; more hours of a given intervention will not help if the intervention content is not useful” (p. 285).

Although Lynch and colleagues (2019) meta-analysis focused exclusively on studies in the STEM fields, RCT studies in the domain of literacy have also shown significant positive results for teacher and student learning. For example, an IES-funded RCT study of the National Writing Project’s College-Ready Writers Program (Gallagher, Arshan, and Woodworth, 2017)

Suggested Citation:"6 Opportunities for Learning Through Inservice Professional Development." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Changing Expectations for the K-12 Teacher Workforce: Policies, Preservice Education, Professional Development, and the Workplace. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25603.
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examined the implementation and outcomes of a 2-year initiative to enhance students’ argument writing in 44 districts served by 12 National Writing Project (NWP) sites in 10 states (see also Olson et al., 2012). The researchers found a positive, statistically significant impact on students’ argument writing in the 22 treatment districts (effect size 0.20).

In another example, Vernon-Feagans and colleagues (2015) conducted an IES-funded RCT study of the Targeted Reading Intervention (TRI) in high-poverty rural schools. The intervention tested face-to-face vs. webcam-based instructional coaching of kindergarten and first grade teachers as they worked one-on-one with struggling readers. Researchers found that the struggling readers receiving TRI treatment outperformed those struggling readers in the control group on all measured outcomes (letter-word identification, word attack, comprehension), with effect sizes ranging from 0.15 to 0.26. Although both treatment conditions produced positive results, gains were stronger in the webcam version of coaching, in which webcam footage formed the basis of feedback that teachers received for 20–30 minutes every other week. Researchers in a follow-up study of the treatment teachers found that those who had participated in 2 years of implementation produced stronger gains than those with only 1 year of participation.

Most of the research in the domain of social studies consists of small-scale studies (Crocco and Livingston, 2017), and the available research supplies little evidence of the relationship between PD participation and teacher learning and student outcomes. De La Paz and colleagues (2011) acknowledge that the social studies field has been slow to develop research that could credibly examine the relationships among teachers’ participation in PD, their subsequent classroom practice, and student learning (p. 497). In one effort to advance the research in this area, De La Paz and colleagues conducted a study of 5th-, 8th-, and 11th-grade teachers who had all participated in a summer workshop designed to enhance students’ experience of historical inquiry and argumentation; following the summer workshop, teachers were randomly assigned to a follow-up school-year “networking group” (with grade-level cohorts) or to a group that would teach based on the workshop experience alone. The networking group was invited to participate in seven additional PD events during the school year and also received other supports: paid time for lesson planning, opportunities to observe other teachers, and the assistance of district librarians in locating print and online resources. In their analysis, the researchers further distinguished between teachers who logged 30 or more hours in networking and other follow-up activities and those who logged fewer than 30 hours. The researchers found that teachers characterized as “high networking” more often employed classroom practices consistent with the PD, and that their students out-performed students of low-networking or no-networking teachers on Document-Based Questioning essays. The differences in student performance were especially pronounced at the 11th-grade level.

Suggested Citation:"6 Opportunities for Learning Through Inservice Professional Development." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Changing Expectations for the K-12 Teacher Workforce: Policies, Preservice Education, Professional Development, and the Workplace. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25603.
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On a still larger scale, Barr and colleagues (2016) conducted an RCT of more than 100 teachers and their 9th- and 10th-grade students in 60 high schools in eight metropolitan areas of the United States to examine the impact of the program Facing History and Ourselves. Facing History provides PD to support teachers’ use of historical case studies and related instructional activities focused on engaging students in “informed civic reflection” and, more specifically, “in an examination of racism, prejudice, and antisemitism in order to promote the development of a more humane and informed citizenry” (Barr et al., 2016, p. 4, citing Facing History and Ourselves, 2012). They found that teachers receiving PD in Facing History and Ourselves reported significantly greater self-efficacy than control teachers with respect to four discipline-specific aims: promoting historical understanding, promoting tolerance and psychosocial development, promoting deliberation, and promoting student civic literacy. Further, students of the intervention teachers demonstrated stronger skills in historical thinking and greater self-reported civic efficacy and tolerance for different perspectives than students of the control teachers.

Still other research has found that PD has the potential to positively influence history teachers’ practices. Saye and colleagues have demonstrated the potential of scaffolded lesson study in increasing teachers’ content knowledge and instructional strategies in Problem-based Historical Inquiry (Saye et al., 2017), and Howell and Saye (2016) found that participation in lesson study cycles can help 4th-grade teachers develop a shared professional teaching knowledge culture.

Impact of Professional Development Targeted at Increasing Teachers’ Capacity to Work with a Diverse Student Population

The section above details what is known in the field about characteristics of subject-specific PD that is associated with positive impacts on students’ learning. In light of the committee’s task, it is also critical to ask what the field knows about the impact of PD that aims squarely to support teachers to better serve an increasingly diverse student population. Parkhouse, Lu, and Massaro’s (2019) recent literature review on “multicultural education professional development” is especially helpful in understanding the landscape of research in this area, including its impact on teachers and students. Parkhouse et al. defined “multicultural education” as “an overarching term for the various historical and contemporary reform efforts to create more inclusive and equitable schooling for all children” (p. 420), which includes culturally relevant pedagogy (Ladson-Billings, 1995), culturally responsive teaching (Gay, 2002), and culturally sustaining pedagogy (Paris and Alim, 2017). There is debate in the education research community regarding the language to use to describe initiatives that are focused on furthering educational equity and justice. Scholars have identified limitations in the use

Suggested Citation:"6 Opportunities for Learning Through Inservice Professional Development." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Changing Expectations for the K-12 Teacher Workforce: Policies, Preservice Education, Professional Development, and the Workplace. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25603.
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of the term “multicultural education,” suggesting that over the course of several decades, in practice, “multicultural education” has come to “mean adapting how one teaches, but not necessarily what one teaches or for what purposes” (Sleeter, 2018, p. 11). In what follows, we draw on the important findings offered by Parkhouse et al.’s comprehensive review; however, we refer to PD supporting teachers to work with diverse groups of students (rather than multicultural education PD) when identifying implications for the field.

In their review, Parkhouse, Lu, and Massaro hoped “to better understand the forms and features of [PD] programs that contribute to teachers’ self-efficacy and success in working with culturally diverse students” (p. 416). They identified 40 (of 1,602) studies, inclusive of 33 unique PD programs from the United States, as well as other countries, that met the following criteria:

(a) the study examined a PD program on one or more topics related to cultural diversity, such as intercultural competence, culturally relevant and responsive pedagogies, or [multicultural education]; (b) the study used original qualitative and/or quantitative data; (c) the PD in the study was designed for in-service teachers or other school professionals in PK12 settings; and finally, (d) the study reported the outcomes of the PD, such as its impact on participants and/or student academic performance. (p. 421)

However, upon review of these studies, Parkhouse, Lu, and Massaro found that the designs of the PD and of the research were both so variable that it was impossible to discern particular forms and features of PD programs that contribute to effectiveness. Even so, their review offers important insights.

Parkhouse, Lu, and Massaro found that culturally responsive teaching or culturally relevant pedagogy was identified as the leading framework for most of the PD. However, they also identified what they termed as “significant inconsistencies” across programs in terms of how these frameworks were operationalized. Namely, in many cases, Parkhouse, Lu, and Massaro found that what was described lacked a “critical stance;” for example, there was often no mention of engaging teachers in making sense of broader structural inequities or processes of racialization in relation to culturally and linguistically non-dominant students’ schooling opportunities. Moreover, there was not necessarily evidence that such PD focused on identifying and building on students’ cultural resources in substantive ways. In fact, Parkhouse, Lu, and Massaro found several instances in which what was billed as culturally responsive or relevant teaching appeared to reflect generally effective teaching strategies, like “scaffolding, using a variety of formative assessments, pointing out misconceptions, and building lessons on prior learning” (p. 426).

Suggested Citation:"6 Opportunities for Learning Through Inservice Professional Development." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Changing Expectations for the K-12 Teacher Workforce: Policies, Preservice Education, Professional Development, and the Workplace. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25603.
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Another set of findings regarded whether PD programs concentrated on specific groups of students; they found that about half did, “whereas the other half discussed cultural responsiveness in more general terms” (p. 425). Particular groups of students included, for example, speakers of non-dominant languages, American Indian students, and students with disabilities. In reviewing findings across the studies, Parkhouse, Lu, and Massaro found that teachers generally reported greater benefit from those programs that specified particular groups of students. However, Parkhouse, Lu, and Massaro also found that it appeared that at times specific groups of students and their cultural histories were being stereotyped through the PD. They identify this tension as critical to wrestle with in the design and enactment of PD that aims to advance educational equity and justice.

Parkhouse, Lu, and Massaro also found that by and large, PD that focused on working with a diverse student population was separate from subject-matter PD. This finding fits with what teachers tended to report in nationally representative surveys, as described above. In the few cases in which the PD was tied to specific subject matter (e.g., science, math, social studies), the PD appeared to lack attention to developing a critical perspective on equity and schooling.

In terms of impacts on teachers, Parkhouse, Lu, and Massaro found that, on the whole, studies reported benefits to teachers’ perspectives and/or knowledge about how to support a diverse student body, mostly on the basis of self-report data derived from teacher surveys, questionnaires, or interviews. For example, teachers reported being more aware of their students’ cultural backgrounds, as well as of their own biases and their potential impact on instruction. However, Parkhouse, Lu, and Massaro also found that while some studies reported changes in teachers’ awareness of their students’ backgrounds, there was minimal attention to whether, and if so, how, teachers changed their practice. In fact, based on the challenges identified across the studies in changing practice, Parkhouse, Lu, and Massaro wrote: “These studies caution against assuming that raising awareness of diversity and inequities will naturally lead to transformed teaching practices or that teachers will develop culturally responsive lessons without specific guidance on how to connect cultural assets to their curriculum (e.g., Brown and Crippen, 2016; Lee et al., 2007)” (p. 451; on this point, see also Sleeter, 1997).

Lee and colleagues’ (2007) study of a 2-year elementary science PD program is one of the few studies that integrated a focus on content and supporting culturally and linguistically diverse students to track changes in both teachers’ beliefs and practices. The intervention consisted of four 1-day workshops provided throughout the school year, and the provision of curriculum materials for two units that explicitly focused on attention to students’ home language and culture. The overwhelming majority of the 43 participating teachers were female; however, they were racially and

Suggested Citation:"6 Opportunities for Learning Through Inservice Professional Development." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Changing Expectations for the K-12 Teacher Workforce: Policies, Preservice Education, Professional Development, and the Workplace. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25603.
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ethnically diverse. Eighteen of the teachers reported speaking English as their home language, while 13 reported Spanish, 6 reported English and Spanish, 1 reported Haitian Creole, and 5 teachers did not respond.

Lee and colleagues’ analysis of changes in beliefs and practices over the 2 years is sobering. At the start of the intervention, many teachers expressed the view that students’ home language is an important resource for instruction, and there was modest improvement in the presence of this belief at the end of year two. However, on the whole, based on quantitative coding of two video-recorded classroom observations each year of teachers’ teaching the specially designed units, researchers found that most teachers did “not use students’ home language in instruction, and [did] not allow or invite students to use their home language” (p. 1,283); there was no significant change in this over the course of the 2 years. In addition, there was no significant change in teachers’ beliefs or practices related to attending to students’ home cultures in instruction. Lee and colleagues write, “[A]lthough [teachers] emphasized the importance of incorporating students’ culture into science instruction . . ., [t]hey generally did not incorporate diverse cultural experiences or materials into their teaching” (p. 1,284). Lee and colleagues offer thoughtful reflection on the implications of their findings, including suggesting the value in connecting the 1-day workshops with ongoing support in teachers’ classrooms to modify their instruction. They suggest, more broadly, the importance of attending to how PD interfaces with other aspects of teaching and the workplace (e.g., accountability systems, expectations about treating students’ linguistic and cultural backgrounds as resources for instruction).

In their review, Parkhouse, Lu, and Massaro (2019) explicitly call for more coordinated research on PD programs that target teachers’ capacity to work with diverse groups of students. They write: “The studies reviewed here lack sufficient consistency across theoretical approaches, PD designs, and data collection methods to draw definitive conclusions about the characteristics of effective [multicultural education] PD” (p. 451). While recognizing the value in studying a diverse set of PD programs, Parkhouse, Lu, and Massaro also caution that absent some consistency, whether it be to a specific underlying theory of action of the PD, theory of teacher learning, PD design, or research methodology, it is difficult to discern critical features of designing and implementing effective PD in this crucial area.

In addition, on the basis of their review, the authors identify several important research questions to explore. One entails investigating how PD can “both challenge teachers to reflect on inequities within education while also recognizing that some teachers may meet such discussions with defensiveness, reluctance to change, or skepticism” (p. 451). A second question concerns investigating ways to attend to the tension discussed above “between providing specific knowledge about students’ cultures—for instance,

Suggested Citation:"6 Opportunities for Learning Through Inservice Professional Development." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Changing Expectations for the K-12 Teacher Workforce: Policies, Preservice Education, Professional Development, and the Workplace. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25603.
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through partnering with community members—and guarding against promoting stereotypes or broad generalizations” (p. 451). Parkhouse, Lu, and Massaro also argue for the value in investigating how to design and implement PD targeting teachers’ work with culturally diverse students that explicitly takes into account variation in teachers’ knowledge, skills, beliefs, and experience.

SUMMARY

Teachers in the 21st century encounter an increasingly diverse population of students and escalating expectations for what those students should know and be able to do as they progress through school. The world that those teachers, students, and their families inhabit—with its rapid technological advances, environmental dilemmas, social and political disruptions, and global interconnectedness—presents both compelling new opportunities and daunting challenges. This chapter responds to those requirements by highlighting the ideas, materials, and guidance offered through structured PD.

Nationally representative surveys indicate that most teachers have access to PD related to their teaching assignment; however, teachers report having minimal opportunities to learn how to support a broader student population, including students with disabilities and students identified as English learners. PD that targets teachers’ capacity to support a diverse student population tends to remain separate from content-focused PD, even though research indicates it is important that they be integrated.

Formally structured PD, like that of preservice teacher education, presents a “sprawling landscape” of programs and an equally sprawling array of research. New forms of PD have emerged in recent years, prominently including online programs and platforms, as well as approaches such as Lesson Study that invite teachers to learn in and from their own practice. Research has yielded mixed evidence regarding the outcomes of PD with respect to gains in teacher knowledge, classroom practice, and student outcomes. However, a growing number of studies demonstrate that well-designed, content-focused PD can achieve positive outcomes, especially when the PD helps teachers integrate new ideas or strategies with curriculum and when teachers engage with others in the same grade level, department, or school. Less is known about the outcomes of PD targeted at teachers’ capacity for working with a diverse student population. Moreover, evidence of effective PD tends to come from research on small-scale interventions designed and led by experts (or in some instances, PD designed by experts and led by local facilitators trained by experts). Little is known about the quality of the PD that most teachers receive or the degree to which programs of PD prove responsive to the needs and interests arising from teachers’ main

Suggested Citation:"6 Opportunities for Learning Through Inservice Professional Development." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Changing Expectations for the K-12 Teacher Workforce: Policies, Preservice Education, Professional Development, and the Workplace. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25603.
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teaching assignments and from the changing expectations they encounter. In the chapter that follows, the committee considers the learning opportunities rooted in teachers’ daily experience in the classroom and school.

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Suggested Citation:"6 Opportunities for Learning Through Inservice Professional Development." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Changing Expectations for the K-12 Teacher Workforce: Policies, Preservice Education, Professional Development, and the Workplace. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25603.
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Suggested Citation:"6 Opportunities for Learning Through Inservice Professional Development." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Changing Expectations for the K-12 Teacher Workforce: Policies, Preservice Education, Professional Development, and the Workplace. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25603.
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Suggested Citation:"6 Opportunities for Learning Through Inservice Professional Development." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Changing Expectations for the K-12 Teacher Workforce: Policies, Preservice Education, Professional Development, and the Workplace. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25603.
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Teachers play a critical role in the success of their students, both academically and in regard to long term outcomes such as higher education participation and economic attainment. Expectations for teachers are increasing due to changing learning standards and a rapidly diversifying student population. At the same time, there are perceptions that the teaching workforce may be shifting toward a younger and less experienced demographic. These actual and perceived changes raise important questions about the ways teacher education may need to evolve in order to ensure that educators are able to meet the needs of students and provide them with classroom experiences that will put them on the path to future success.

Changing Expectations for the K-12 Teacher Workforce: Policies, Preservice Education, Professional Development, and the Workplace explores the impact of the changing landscape of K-12 education and the potential for expansion of effective models, programs, and practices for teacher education. This report explores factors that contribute to understanding the current teacher workforce, changing expectations for teaching and learning, trends and developments in the teacher labor market, preservice teacher education, and opportunities for learning in the workplace and in-service professional development.

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