A New System for Evaluating Professional Development

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There is huge disparity between the large amount of time and money spent on professional development (PD) and the small results produced by it, whether measured by teacher satisfaction or impact on practice and student achievement. 

So how can we spend our time and money better on programs that actually work?

A recent article suggests that we throw out the current model of large and complex evaluations over the long term in favor of more small-scale and specific research at the early stages of development for PD programs.  

Looking at individual elements of what effects change in student achievement will provide teachers and teacher educators with helpful tools to implement the most successful methods for improving performance.

Even the authors of this article, Heather Hill, Mary Beisiegel and Robin Jacob, admit that they are not confident that this particular method will work flawlessly, yet acknowledge the need for a new approach. Their skepticism is rooted in the necessity of greater coordination and expense for the implementation and evaluation of these programs without any output data for at least three years. But the benefits of knowing what works best and what is efficient at all schools may outweigh these concerns.

Given the current mismatch between the demand for professional development that can help teachers grow and develop and their skills, and the research on what works, it sure seems like time to try something new.