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This annotated bibliography provides a range of research publications and other resources on professional development. The first set of publications includes standards for professional learning from the Illinois State Board of Education and the professional learning association Learning Forward. The second set of publications includes a range of research articles on the characteristics of effective professional development. The next set of articles focuses on particular types of professional development, such as job-embedded professional development, professional learning communities, coaching, and action research. In addition, it explores teacher evaluation and teacher leadership as forms of professional learning. The last set of articles is centered on professional development for teachers of culturally and linguistically diverse students, particularly English language learners (ELLs). These articles explore aspects of preparing teachers for culturally responsive teaching and for providing instruction to the growing number of ELLs in the United States.

Standards for Professional Learning

Learning Forward (2011). Standards for professional learning. Retrieved from http://learningforward.org/standards-for-professional-learning

Standards for Professional Learning is the third iteration of standards outlining the characteristics of professional learning that lead to effective teaching practices, supportive leadership, and improved student results. Developed by Learning Forward, with the contribution of 40 professional associations and education organizations, the standards explicitly state that the purpose of professional learning is for educators to develop the knowledge, skills, practices, and dispositions they need to help students perform at higher levels. The standards are not a prescription for how education leaders and public officials should address all the challenges related to improving the performance of educators and their students. Instead, the standards focus on one critical issue: professional learning.

The decision by Learning Forward to call these Standards for Professional Learning rather than Standards for Professional Development is intended to signal the importance of educators taking an active role in their continuous development and to place emphasis on their learning. The professional learning that occurs when these standards are fully implemented enrolls educators as active partners in determining the content of their learning, how their learning occurs, and how they evaluate its effectiveness. Increased educator effectiveness makes possible a shift from the current reality to the preferred outcomes of enhanced student learning results.

Characteristics of Effective Professional Learning Programs

Biancarosa, G., Bryk, A. S., & Dexter, E. R. (2010). Assessing the value-added effects of Literacy Collaborative professional development on student learning. The Elementary School Journal111(1), 7–34.

The authors discuss the findings of a long-term study of Literacy Collaborative, a school reform model that focuses on the use of individualized teacher coaching as a way to improve student literacy. In this study with 17 schools, scores from common assessments were analyzed to determine the value added over a period of four years. The researchers determined that significant contributions were made to student learning and that the effect of the contributions lasted across the summers. In-depth statistical explanations are presented in the article.

Birman, B. F., Desimone, L., Garet, M. S., Porter, A. C., & Yoon, K.S. (2001). What makes professional development effective? Results from a national sample of teachers. American Educational Research Journal, 38(4), 915–945. Retrieved from http://www.air.org/files/aera_designing.pdf

This seminal study is based on a national sample of 1,027 mathematics and science teachers to provide a large-scale comparison of the effects of different characteristics of professional development on teachers' learning. The researchers analyzed data collected as part of a national evaluation of the Eisenhower Professional Development Program, a federal program that supports professional development for teachers, mainly in mathematics and science. The research team examined the relationships between features of professional development on teacher outcomes. The results concluded that these features of professional development activities have significant, positive effects on teachers' self-reported increases in knowledge and skills and changes in classroom practice: (1) focus on content knowledge, (2) opportunities for active learning, and (3) coherence with other learning activities. It was also found that some structural features affect teacher learning: (1) the form of the activity; (2) collective participation of teachers from the same school, grade, or subject; and (3) the duration of the activity.

Results indicated that sustained and intensive professional development is more likely to have an impact, as reported by teachers, than is shorter professional development.  Furthermore, professional development that focuses on academic subject matter, gives teachers opportunities for "hands-on" work, and is integrated into the daily life of the school is more likely to produce enhanced knowledge and skills. Activities that are linked to teachers' other experiences, aligned with other reform efforts, and encouraging of professional communication among teachers appear to support change in teaching practice, even after the effects of enhanced knowledge and skills are taken into account. 

Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement. (2006). Redefining professional development (Newsletter). Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from http://www.centerforcsri.org/files/Feb06newsletter.pdf

This newsletter examines the characteristics of high-quality professional development identified in research literature. Citing a number of studies on professional development, the publication states that high-quality teacher development includes the following characteristics:

  • Informed by research
  • Integrated with district goals, guided by a long-term plan, and driven by student outcome data
  • Responsive to teacher needs and utilizes collaborative problem solving
  • School based
  • Continuous and ongoing, based on principles of adult learning and provides follow-up support
  • Evaluated for its impact on teacher effectiveness and student learning.

Center authors concluded that teachers must have the skills, tools, and support needed to improve student achievement in the current era of reform. For professional development to be effective, it needs to be the focus for policymakers, districts, schools, and educators alike. The format of professional development should vary and be dictated by the desired outcome. In addition, teachers must be engaged in professional development through principles of adult learning that involves teachers directly in identifying areas of interest, is goal oriented, and is self-directed.

Darling-Hammond, L., Wei, R. C., 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. Retrieved from http://www.learningforward.org/docs/pdf/nsdcstudy2009.pdf

This report provides a research-based understanding of the types of professional development that support powerful professional learning, improve teacher instruction and, ultimately, promote excellent student learning. The authors found a number of common features characterizing professional development practices in high-achieving countries: opportunities for both formal and informal development, time built into teachers' work hours, activities that are embedded and ongoing, structures that support the involvement of teachers in decisions regarding curriculum and instructional practices, and teacher induction programs for new teachers.

In this study, the authors examine the availability of both formal professional development and other opportunities for professional learning—such as common planning time, shared opportunities to examine student work, or tools for self-reflection—that may occur outside the bounds of formal professional development events. The purpose is to determine whether available policies and practices are aligned with what research evidence indicates as effective professional development.

The authors found that much of the professional development available today focuses on educators' academic content knowledge and pays growing attention to mentoring support, particularly for new teachers. But, overall, the kind of high-intensity, job-embedded collaborative learning that is most effective is not a common feature of professional development across most states, districts, and schools in the United States.

Garet, M. S., Birman, B. F., Porter, A. C., & Herman, R. (1999). Designing effective professional development: Lessons from the Eisenhower program. Washington, DC: American Institutes for Research. Retrieved from http://www.eric.ed.gov/PDFS/ED442634.pdf

This second report on the National Evaluation of the Eisenhower Professional Development Program, Part B (State and Local Activities) describes the current status of the program, based primarily on data from: (1) national probability samples of districts, (2) state agency for higher education (SAHE) grantees (i.e., the institutions of higher education and nonprofit organizations supported through the SAHE component of the program), (3) teachers, and (4) ten in-depth case studies in five states. Overall, the results on effectiveness were mixed. When asked directly, many teachers in SAHE-grantee activities reported that participation in Eisenhower-assisted professional development led to enhanced knowledge and skills and changes in their classroom teaching practice.  Somewhat fewer teachers in districts reported that participation in Eisenhower-assisted activities led to these positive teacher outcomes. The authors detail the evaluation findings and describe five key implications for professional development generally and for future Eisenhower legislation and program operations specifically.

Garet, M. S., Cronen, S., Eaton, M., Kurki, A., Ludwig, M., Jones, et al. (2008). The impact of two professional development interventions on early reading instruction and achievement (NCEE 2008-4030). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pdf/20084030.pdf

These researchers investigated the effectiveness of two professional development interventions through the analyses of growth in teacher professional knowledge as well as change in instructional practices for students in high-poverty schools. The study focused on second-grade reading and the knowledge and use of scientifically based reading instruction with the intervention of the Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling program and Consortium for Reading Excellence coaching training.

Study participants were categorized in three groups:

  • Treatment group A included eight scientifically based reading knowledge and instruction seminar and institute days.
  • Treatment group B included the eight institute and seminar days (as with group A) plus a part-time coach to work with the teachers.
  • The control group did not receive the treatment.

The study results showed that teachers in both treatment groups attended more professional development than teachers in control schools (those not receiving the interventions). When the research team compared the groups of teachers, teacher knowledge was rated higher for the teachers involved in the treatment groups, and those teachers also used explicit instruction at a significantly higher rate. These findings did not translate into raised student test scores.

Garet, M. S., Wayne, A. J., Stancavage, F., Taylor, J., Eaton, M., Walters, K., et al. (2011). Middle school mathematics professional development impact study: Findings after the second year of implementation (NCEE 2011-4024). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from http://www.edpubs.gov/document/ed005235p.pdf?ck=4

This report focuses on the second year of the Middle School Mathematics Professional Development Impact Study, a research study designed to explore the impact of a professional development (PD) program across many districts, schools, settings, and teachers. The large-scale design included urban settings, with disadvantages student participants more likely to be situated in the Northeast. The researchers sought to answer the following questions:

  • What cumulative impact did providing two years of the specified PD program have on teacher knowledge of rational number topics?
  • What cumulative impact did providing two years of the specified PD program have on student achievement in rational number topics?

The study specifically investigated two types of teacher knowledge: common knowledge and specialized knowledge. Findings indicate that specialized knowledge may have risen for the teachers involved. Overall, the researchers concluded that the professional development program did not establish a significant impact on teacher knowledge. They maintain that evidence was collected that did demonstrate an association between student achievement and teacher knowledge; however, the professional development studied here did not demonstrate which type of professional knowledge was needed.

Harwell, S. (2003). Teacher professional development: It's not an event, it's a process. Waco, TX: CORD. Retrieved from http://www.cord.org/uploadedfiles/HarwellPaper.pdf

This paper focuses attention on the importance of professional development in changing teachers' classroom behaviors in ways that lead to improvement in student performance. Using a framework designed by the National Staff Development Council, the author summarizes key research in this area to describe the context, content, and process of high-quality teacher professional development. One of the paper's primary observations is that sustained, systematic professional development programs that unfold as processes over time are generally superior to individual workshops and seminars, which are one-time events. The paper concludes by showing that online professional development (combined with face-to-face training) provides two of the most essential elements of effective professional development: It gives participating teachers opportunities to practice what they learn over relatively extended periods of time, and it provides an ideal environment for interaction among participants.

Haslam, M. B., & Rouk, U., (with Laguarda, K. G.). (2006). Professional development with the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute model: Impact, lessons, and future prospects. Washington, DC: Policy Studies Associates. Retrieved from http://www.wallacefoundation.org/knowledge-center/teacher-recruitment/Documents/Professional-Development-Yale-New-Haven.pdf

The authors of this report studied a three-year effort to demonstrate the feasibility of implementing the Yale-New Haven Teacher Institute professional development model in four urban districts across the country. The institute's model is organized around four themes: collegiality and engagement, teacher leadership, institutional partnerships, and resources. The institute includes a professional partnership between university faculty and K–12 teachers who engage in a series of seminars around topics of professional interest. The outcome of the seminars is a curriculum unit that each teacher develops for use in his or her classroom and for sharing with others. The evaluators of the expansion of the institute model outside of New Haven found that when participants were asked to compare their experience in the institutes with other kinds of professional development, teachers agreed that the institutes were vastly superior. Participants also appreciated the intellectual stimulation, opportunities to develop curriculum units, and being respected as professionals.

Hirsh, S. (n.d.). Building professional development to support new student assessment systems (white paper). Oxford, OH: Learning Forward. Retrieved from http://learningforward.org/docs/pdf/stephanie_hirsh-building_professional_development.pdf?sfvrsn=0\

Hirsh examines the shifts in professional development needed to support new assessment systems. The success of these new assessment systems will rely on the ability of the educators charged with using them to improve instruction and support student learning. Professional development will be critical to ensuring successful implementation.

The author provides eight recommendations to help rebuild the professional development infrastructure:

  • Adopt common standards for professional development.
  • Create a new school year schedule and daily school schedules that provide time for school-based professional development.
  • Create a master implementation plan that stages professional development, new standards, and assessments.
  • Establish teacher advisory committees.
  • Leverage state requirements for individual professional development plans, school improvement plans, or both.
  • Provide teachers appropriate resources.
  • Establish professional development academies.
  • Adopt new licensure and re-licensure requirements.

Kennedy, M. M. (1999). Form and substance in mathematics and science professional development. NISE [National Institute for Science Education] Brief, 3(2). Retrieved from http://archive.wceruw.org/nise/Publications/Briefs/Vol_3_No_2/Vol.3,No.2.pdf

This document reviews 93 studies of professional development (for classroom teachers) to examine benefits to students in science and mathematics education. A major finding from this review was that program content—what is being taught, such as classroom management strategies or attaining knowledge of how students learn specific school subject matter—is an important predictor of benefit to students. In the studies reviewed, professional development programs whose content focused mainly on teachers' behaviors demonstrated smaller influences on student learning than did programs whose content focused on how students learn particular subject matter.

The author concludes that the lack of clear benefit for many of the programs reviewed is likely related to the role of program content: A program whose content is not valuable will not be improved by increasing the number of contact hours, or distributing contact hours over time through in-class visits, or multiple sessions. The author concludes that the content of professional development should be attended to first, before form and structure.

Little, J. W. (1997). Excellence in professional development and professional community (Working paper, Benchmarks for Schools). Washington, DC: Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon Schools Program.

This article is one of the few that addresses school environments that support teacher learning. Little maintains that a school that is effective with students is also likely to play a powerful, deliberate, and consequential role in the support of teacher development. In addition, the author contends that professional development is moving away from models that emphasize acquisition of discrete skills and behaviors toward a vision of professional communities that support teacher learning through diverse experiences. In this paper, the author focuses on the environments (structures or practices, traditions, or culture) that are conducive to teacher learning. She begins with an overview of a broadened conception of professional development, then describes the aspects of school organization and culture that affect professional development, and concludes with a method for assessing the school's contribution to professional development.

Little, M. E., & Houston, D. (2003). Research into practice through professional development. Remedial and Special Education, 24(2), 75–87.

This article describes both the conceptual framework and the specific implementation activities that the state of Florida has used to ensure that quality of scientifically based instructional practices are implemented within classrooms and schools in Florida through a reconceptualized professional development model. The model was based on principles of educational change and adult learning theories. It was conceptualized to be delivered within a four-step, continuous-improvement model with specific content related to the needs of students with and without disabilities.

Initial results conclude that educational change can occur when the following factors are present: (1) change is directly related to issues to be solved within the classroom; (2) support is provided for quality implementation; (3) scientifically based instructional practices are introduced using principles of adult learning theory; and (4) change is directly related to student impact. Data collected from participants indicate that more than 90 percent of participants were "completely satisfied" with the content and process of the professional development institutes.

Loucks-Horsley, S., Stiles, K., & Hewson, P. (1996). Principles of effective professional development for mathematics and science education: A synthesis of standards. NISE [National Institute for Science Education] Brief, 1(1). Retrieved from http://archive.wceruw.org/NISE/Publications/Briefs/NISE_Brief_Vol_1_No_1.pdf

This issue brief, produced by NISE, outlines a common vision of effective professional development for math and science educators. The  authors reviewed documents produced by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, National Research Council, and National Staff Development Council on standards for teaching mathematics and science and standards for staff development. Based on their review of these standards documents and other related resources, the authors noted "a great deal of consensus." The following seven principles of professional development were identified:

  • Driven by a clear, well-defined image of effective classroom learning and teaching.
  • Provide teachers with opportunities to develop knowledge and skills and broaden their teaching approaches.
  • Use instructional methods that mirror the methods used with students.
  • Build or strengthen the learning communities of science and math teachers.
  • Prepare and support teachers to serve in leadership roles.
  • Provide links to other parts of the educational system.
  • Include continuous assessment.

Each of the seven principles is described, and policy recommendations are discussed.

Newmann, F. M., King, M. B., & Youngs, P. (2000). Professional development that addresses school capacity: Lessons from urban elementary schools. American Journal of Education, 108(4), 259–299.

A two-year study of seven urban elementary schools across the country is the basis for this article. The study provided information on how professional development is used to address key aspects of school effectiveness and which factors influence the extent to which schools use professional development to build capacity. The authors argue that in addition to professional development that focuses on individual teacher competence, professional development is more likely to advance achievement of all students in a school if it addresses the collective work of the school staff or their organizational capacity: teachers' knowledge, skills, and dispositions; professional community; program coherence; technical resources; and principal leadership. The experiences of these schools suggest that five main factors contribute to a school's use of professional development to address school capacity: initial level of capacity, school leadership, funding for professional development, strong technical assistance from external agencies, and strong policy support from the district and state. The findings of the study indicate that the use of professional development for school capacity was most strongly related to the school's initial level of capacity and principal leadership.

Penuel, W. R., Fishman, B. J., Yamaguchi, R., & Gallagher, L. P. (2007). What makes professional development effective? Strategies that foster curriculum implementation. American Educational Research Journal44(4), 921–958.

Policymakers, school and district leaders, and researchers are all increasingly concerned with the effectiveness of teacher professional development. Although high-quality curriculum materials aligned with standards are a key lever for improvement in student achievement, those materials alone are not sufficient to support student learning. This article reports on evidence of effective professional development conditions and practices from a study of 454 teachers taking part in professional development preparing them to implement materials from a science education program. The study examined the effects of different characteristics of professional development on teachers' knowledge and their ability to implement the program. Conclusions from this study point to the significance of teachers' perceptions about how coherent their professional development experiences were for teacher learning and program implementation. The authors also found that the incorporation of time for teachers to plan for implementation and provision of technical support were significant for promoting implementation of the program. These findings should be carefully considered as states and districts move toward implementing the Common Core State Standards. 

Saunders, W. M., Goldenberg, C. N., & Gallimore, R. (2009). Increasing achievement by focusing grade-level teams on improving classroom learning: A prospective, quasi-experimental study of Title I schools. American Educational Research Journal46(4), 1006–1033.

The authors inspected the use of grade-level teams as a vehicle for the improvement of student learning. Specifically, they closely investigated the results of teachers meeting with the focus on student academic issues at least three times per month. Nine treatment schools were compared with six similar schools over a two-year period. Findings disclose pertinent information to practitioners. The researchers discovered that the implementation of this type of professional discussion could lead to practical and statistical significance.  For this to happen, focused professional development and external assistance need to be included. Limitations of the study are provided and discussed. 

Smylie, M. A., Allensworth, E., Greenberg, R. C., Harris, R., & Luppescu, S. (2001). Teacher professional development in Chicago: Supporting effective practice. Chicago: Consortium on Chicago School Research.

This report is one of a series of special topic reports developed by the Chicago Annenberg Research Project to examine initiatives put in place as a result of a six-year grant from the Annenberg Foundation intended to improve student learning by supporting intensive efforts to reconnect schools to their communities, restructure schools, and improve classroom teaching across Chicago Public Schools. The report focuses on defining effective professional development and how teachers in Chicago experience effective professional development and organizational supports that promote effective professional development. The authors present a model that defines professional development by three elements: frequency of participation, exposure to appropriate content, and quality of pedagogy. Researchers analyzed data from 1997–1999 citywide teacher surveys. They found not only an increase in professional development but also that increased numbers of teachers experienced high-quality professional development. Results indicated that professional development was positively related to classroom instruction and to school-level orientation toward innovation, particularly in low-performing schools. At the same time, results indicated that professional development in Chicago was uneven. Professional development experienced by substantial proportions of teachers lacked key pedagogical characteristics to make it effective, and some teachers who needed the strongest support from professional development got less of it.

Findings revealed that when teachers draw on a combination of sources—including teacher networks, external professional groups, and school-based activities—their professional development is overall of higher quality than when they draw primarily on one source. Finally, the authors conclude that professional development done well can help improve education for students, but effective professional development requires substantial support at both the school and systems level.

Snow-Renner, R., & Lauer, P. A. (2005). Professional development analysis. Denver, CO: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning. Retrieved from http://www.mcrel.org/~/media/Files/McREL/Homepage/Products/01_99/prod68_PD_analysis.ashx

Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) published a synthesis of research about the influence of three variables in teaching and student learning: standards-based curriculum, standards-based instructional guidelines, and standards-based accountability assessments. The synthesis concluded that teachers would need opportunities for deeper professional learning in order to teach in the ways envisioned by standards reformers. An analysis of more than 70 articles was conducted to explore the influence of standards-based professional development on teacher instruction and student achievement. The findings concluded that professional development can have a positive effect on classroom practice and student achievement when it is of high quality. Based on the synthesis of the research, the authors conclude that the professional development  most likely to positively affect teacher instruction is: (1) of considerable duration, (2) focused on specific content and/or instructional strategies, (3) characterized by collective participation of educator teams, (4) coherent, and (5) infused with active learning.

Sparks, G. , Nowakowski, M., Hall, B., Alec, R., & Imrick, J. (1985). School improvement through staff development. Educational Leadership, 42(6), 59–61.

In a case study of two Michigan schools that had positive experiences during the three years they participated in the Staff Development for School Improvement project, the authors of this article document how schools become more effective. The staff development program was based on the premise that classroom teachers can best address their needs by identifying their own priorities and planning collaboratively to meet those needs. The six-step process implemented by Wayne State University includes: (1) development of readiness, awareness, and commitment; (2) needs assessment; (3) planning; (4) implementation; (5) evaluation; and (6) reassessment and continuation.

One school served a diverse student population in which 95 percent receive the federal free and reduced-price lunch program. After its staff participating in monthly sessions focused on effective teaching techniques and self-selected professional growth activities, the proportion of the school's students performing above average rose from 72 percent to 100 percent after two years. Other positive outcomes included improved communication among staff members, higher staff morale, and greater interest in trying new teaching techniques. The other school, located in a Detroit suburb, faced major communication problems between and among the school leadership and staff. As a result of participating in the program, the staff adopted a new reading series, revised the kindergarten program, and created a booklet of effective instructional practices for improving student achievement. The proportion of students achieving the reading objectives on the state test increased from 77.6 percent to 97.5 percent over two years.  

Yoon, K. S., Duncan, T., Lee, S. W. Y., Scarloss, B., & Shapley, K. L. (2007). Reviewing the evidence on how teacher professional development affects student achievement (Issues & Answers Report, REL 2007-No. 033). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/regions/southwest/pdf/rel_2007033.pdf

This report reviewed more than 1,300 studies to identify those that potentially addressed the impact of teacher professional development on student achievement. Only nine of the studies met What Works Clearinghouse evidence standards. The authors found that in those nine studies, teachers who receive substantial professional development can boost their students' achievement by about 21 percentile points. Professional development affects student achievement through three steps: (1) professional development enhances teacher knowledge and skills; (2) better knowledge and skills improve classroom teaching; and (3) improved teaching raises student achievement.

Types of Professional Learning Practices

Job-Embedded Professional Development

Croft, A., Coggshall, J. G., Dolan, M., Powers, E., & Killion, J. (2010). Job-embedded professional development: What it is, who is responsible, and how to get it done well. (Issue Brief). Washington, DC: National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality. Retrieved from http://www.gtlcenter.org/sites/default/files/docs/JEPD Issue ​Brief.pdf

The implementation of job-embedded professional development, as a lever for school improvement and turnaround, has been part of recent national policy and initiatives as a means of developing and supporting teacher effectiveness. This Issue Brief—written in collaboration with the Mid-Atlantic Comprehensive Center and the National Staff Development Council—aims to do the following:

  • Define job-embedded professional development.
  • Provide descriptions of types of job-embedded professional development.
  • Examine how job-embedded professional development improves teaching and learning.
  • Investigate how states and districts can implement it well.

Citing related research findings, this brief provides a common understanding of the term job-embedded professional development as it relates to teachers. One table provides a description of professional learning opportunities that are considered, and not considered, to be job embedded across a continuum of opportunities that occur alone, with a coach, and in teams. Another table provides a brief description of a range of formats for professional learning opportunities—including action research, coaching, data teams, lesson study, and professional learning communities—each supported by related research.

The brief includes a discussion of necessary conditions for providing high-quality job-embedded professional development, including providing teachers with multiple opportunities to learn, guiding opportunities for collaborative problem-solving among teachers, and assigning highly effective facilitators to lead those opportunities. Finally, the brief offers specific recommendations for state, district, and school leaders for implementing job-embedded professional development well.

Professional Learning Communities  

Mindich, D., & Lieberman, A. (2012). Building a learning community: A tale of two schools. Stanford, CA: Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education. Retrieved from http://edpolicy.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/publications/building-learning-community-tale-two-schools.pdf

This paper is the fourth in a series of studies on the state of professional learning conducted for Learning Forward. Collectively, this series provides a comprehensive, current view of the field of professional learning for improving both the quality and results of professional learning. The study combined survey data of 33 public schools in New Jersey involved in a state-sponsored professional learning community (PLC) training program with case studies of two of those schools that trace the factors associated with the implementation of PLCs.

The purpose of this research was to examine more closely the situations, policies, and practices of schools that have implemented PLC models of professional development. The primary focus of data collection involved a series of interviews with the principals, other administrators, and teachers of the site schools. Beyond interviews, the researchers observed PLC meetings between two and five times for a total of 23 observations. The findings of this study highlight several important elements that appear to be necessary for a PLC to be successful: positive staff relationships, state and school training, time for collaboration, norms and goal-setting, interdependent work and use of data, and principal leadership and support.

Patterson, J. A. (2006). Learning Communities in 6-8 middle schools: Natural complements or another bandwagon in the parade? Middle School Journal, 37(5), 21–30.

This article contrasts two middle schools in a Midwestern urban school district that serves large numbers of low-income and minority students. The achievement of middle grades students had remained stagnant for several years. To address this situation, district administrators encouraged all middle schools to implement a professional learning community model. Researchers sought to discover how administrators and teachers in two culturally diverse middle schools were implementing a learning community. The purposes of the study were to (1) explore how administrators and teachers defined learning communities, (2) determine how the two schools' definitions compared with the middle school concept, and (3) identify strategies for their learning communities. Researchers concluded that a gap in communication and perception existed between teachers and administrators at both schools. Both schools took differing approaches to organizing and implementing learning communities, and a common understanding of the learning community was not in evidence at either school.

Researchers concluded that professional learning communities are oriented toward teamwork and collaboration and, therefore, compatible with middle school interdisciplinary teams. The authors suggest the following conditions for implementing learning communities:

  • Communication is necessary for the process of sharing to improve professional practice.
  • Adequate time is needed to involve staff in the process of developing shared meaning about teaching and learning.
  • Both a change in organizational structure and cultural change are required.
  • To prepare for implementation, teachers need to learn about the various models of learning communities.

Thompson, S. C., Gregg, L., & Niska, J. M. (2004). Professional learning communities, leadership, and student learning. Research in Middle Level Education Online, 28(1). Retrieved from http://www.amle.org/portals/0/pdf/publications/RMLE/rmle_vol28_no1_article2.pdf

This study explored whether or not teachers and the principals in six middle-level schools believed their school was a learning organization, and whether or not student learning was occurring in their school. The researchers went into the study seeking to learn if leadership played a significant role in the ability of a school to become a professional learning community that enhanced student learning.

Using a mixed-methodology design, researchers collected and analyzed data through a survey, with quantitative results. Qualitative methods were used to collect information from the principals and teacher focus groups. The researchers concluded that all of the schools considered themselves learning organizations. Findings from data analysis concluded that strong leadership, along with data-informed decisions, relationships, and risk taking, are necessary to create and sustain a learning organization. 

Coaching

Borman, J., & Feger, S. (with Kawakami, N.). (2006). Instructional coaching: Key themes from the literature. Providence, RI: The Education Alliance at Brown University. Retrieved from http://www.alliance.brown.edu/pubs/pd/tl_coaching_lit_review.pdf

This literature review presents a synthesis of key themes across 40 studies dealing with some aspects of instructional coaching. The researchers organized the synthesis of literature around the following questions:

  • How do differing theories shape the work of coaches?
  • What do instructional coaches do?
  • How is coaches' work structured?
  • What kids of knowledge, skills, and dispositions do coaches need to do their job?
  • What kinds of professional development and collaborative opportunities are available to coaches?

The role of an instructional coach is often framed by differing theories. There are differences in degree and kind of instructional coaching. Instructional coaches engage in a wide variety of activities and assume a number of roles, from lesson demonstrations to observations to curriculum consultation. Coaches also need content expertise, interpersonal skills, and communication skills. Professional development for instructional coaches can address the complexities of the coaching role identified throughout the literature.

Brown, C. J., Stroh, H. R., Fouts, J. T., & Baker, D. B. (2005). Learning to change: School coaching for systemic reform. Seattle, WA: Fouts.

This paper presents an examination of coaching aimed at systemic educational reform focusing primarily on district and school leadership. In addition to a review of the literature on coaching, researchers explored information on a wide variety of coaching organizations from around the country, made direct visits to coaching organizations, observed actual coaching activities or training, conducted phone interviews with organizational leaders and/or coaches, conducted site visits to schools, and interviewed teachers and principals from more than 50 schools and 20 districts around the country who are recipients of coaching services.

The report concluded that the term coaching is widely used and applied to a variety of professional development functions in schools and districts—and that coaching roles, expectations, and activities vary considerably. The authors also found that it is critical that school and district coaches have certain personality qualities and experiences in order to be successful coaches. In addition, the large majority of coaching programs in education have no theoretical basis; however, most use strategies that reflect constructivist or collaborative approaches.

Marsh, J. A., McCombs, J. S., & Martorell, F. (2012). Reading coach quality: Findings from Florida middle schools. Literacy Research and Instruction51(1), 1–26.

The authors use the results of a Florida middle school reading coach study to help point the direction on specific traits needed for successful instructional coaching. This article seeks to specifically define the characteristics in the Florida coaches, the district policy that supports them, and any relation to student outcomes. The current credentialing of coaches is discussed, including teaching experience and years of coaching experience. Findings are presented and discussed in thorough detail.

Matsumura, L. C., Garnier, H. E., Correnti, R., Junker, B., & Bickel, D. D. (2010). Investigating the effectiveness of a comprehensive literacy coaching program in schools with high teacher mobility. The Elementary School Journal111(1), 35–62.

The authors of this article studied how Content-Focused Coaching (CFC), a professional development program, affected the quality of instruction and how this translated to English language learner (ELL) reading skills. In addition, the researchers attempted to isolate the effect of entire school participation and perceptions on the efficacy of coaching in general. For this program, coaches investigated and trained on specific reading-comprehension-related strategies; principals and other leaders also trained alongside the coaches each month. The study involved 29 schools (14 of which were comparison schools, with coaches not participating in CFC) and included coaches with previous coaching experience and more than a decade of classroom teaching experience, on average.

Study results are identified by school-level factors as well as individual coaching and teacher activities. Schools participating in the CFC program reported significantly higher levels of teacher participating in coaching activities. In addition, schoolwide findings indicate that CFC teachers emphasized reading content from coaching during classroom instruction more often. ELL students in CFC schools scored very close to their non-ELL peers.

Neufield, B., & Roper, D. (2003). Coaching: A strategy for developing instructional capacity: promises and practicalities. Washington, DC: The Aspen Institute, Program on Education. Retrieved from http://www.edmatters.org/webreports/CoachingPaperfinal.pdf

The authors analyze and synthesize longitudinal, qualitative studies of whole-school improvement with special attention to coaching and other learning opportunities for principals and teachers. They found that the following conditions must be in place in order for coaching to be effective:

  • Clear, explicit, and continuing support for the coaching program
  • An understanding of the reforms in which schools are engaged
  • Well-specified roles and responsibilities for coaches
  • A school culture in which coaching is routine and safe
  • A rigorous and fair selection process for coaches

Schools and school districts can expect significant improvements if they choose to implement coaching as part of their instructional-improvement efforts. The authors conclude that although coaching alone does not have the capacity to lead to improved instruction, it has the potential to produce the following outcomes that are likely to improve instruction: targeted school-based professional development, teacher learning that carries over into classroom practice, a willingness among teachers to share practice and seek learning opportunities, high-quality principal leadership of instructional improvement, and school cultures in which instruction is the focus of teacher and principal discussions.

Action Research

Zeichner, K.M. (2003). Teacher research as professional development for P–12 educators in the USA. Educational Action Research, 11(2), 301–326.

This article reviews selected research related to the professional development impact of school-based teacher research programs for P–12 educators in the United States to identify what has been learned about the nature and impact of teacher research conducted under different conditions. The researchers summarized data from studies of teacher research in the School District Classroom Action Research Program in Madison, Wisconsin; the Inquiry seminars in the Learning/Teaching Collaborative in Brookline and Boston, Massachusetts; the Lawrence School Child Study and Children's Literature teacher study groups in Brookline, Massachusetts; and schoolwide action research projects carried out in Georgia and in Ames, Iowa.

Based on an analysis of these studies, the authors concluded that under certain conditions, teacher research seems to promote particular kinds of teacher and student learning. The results find evidence that the experience of engaging in self-study research helps teachers to become more confident about their ability to promote student learning, to become more proactive in dealing with difficult situations that arise in their teaching, and to acquire habits and skills of inquiry that they use beyond research experience to analyze their teaching in an in-depth manner. 

Teacher Evaluation

Coggshall, J. G., Rasmussen, C., Colton, A., Milton, J., & Jacques, C. (2012). Generating teaching effectiveness: The role of job-embedded professional learning in teacher evaluation (Research & Policy Brief). Washington, DC: National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality. Retrieved from http://www.gtlcenter.org/sites/default/files/docs/GeneratingTeachingEffectiveness.pdf

This brief, a review of research, addresses the link between teacher evaluation and professional learning. State and district leaders across the country are working intensely to respond to legislation calling for revised teacher evaluation systems that incorporate multiple measures of student learning and teacher practice. Whether through strengthened accountability or more formative support, the primary goal of this work is the continuous improvement of teaching and learning. To meet this goal, teacher evaluation systems need to be designed and implemented with teacher learning and development at their core, rather than appended later as an afterthought. Professional development is regularly associated with the "results" of evaluation, instead of recognized as an integral part of the evaluation process itself. Thus, the power of evaluation to generate greater teaching effectiveness is severely diminished.

The purpose of this Research & Policy Brief is to support the thinking and efforts of state and district leaders who are designing and implementing evaluation systems that not only measure teaching effectiveness but also generate it. The brief begins by describing the federal policy changes that animate this work. It then highlights the research on how teachers learn best, specifically how teachers learn from evaluation to generate increased teaching effectiveness. It also provides guidance on how to assess teachers' engagement in learning and collaboration to incentivize teachers' participation in job-embedded professional learning as well as to recognize and account for teachers' commitment to continuous improvement. The brief concludes with a description of the essential conditions for this important work.

Duke, D., & Stiggins, R. (1990). Beyond minimum competence: Evaluation for professional development. In J. Millman & L. Darling-Hammond (Eds.), The new handbook of teacher evaluation (2nd ed., pp. 116–132). Newbery Park, CA: Sage. Available with subscription from http://srmo.sagepub.com/view/the-new-handbook-of-teacher-evaluation/n7.xml

This chapter examines the extent to which teacher evaluation can promote professional growth beyond minimum competence. The authors open with a brief overview of professional development and why it is important. Next, they provide a review of the small body of research on teacher evaluation for professional development. This review identifies evaluation conditions associated with teacher growth and groups these conditions into three general categories: characteristics of individuals, characteristics of evaluation systems, and characteristics of the environment in which evaluation takes place. The chapter concludes with a discussion of policy issues and research needs related to evaluation for professional development.

Minnici, A., & Leo, S. (2013). Perspectives: Toward teacher evaluation that promotes professional learning and growth. Retrieved from http://www.advanc-ed.org/issues-in-education/perspectives/toward-teacher-evaluation-promotes-professional-learning-and-growth

This article, posted by AdvancED, raises key issues to consider in fostering teacher professional growth. The authors point out that in order for teachers to improve, evaluation systems need to do more than assess teachers; they need to provide them with professional development opportunities targeted to their growth. The article discusses a series of behaviors—including reinvestment of mental resources, progressive problem solving, and motivation—identified by researchers as playing a role in the development of expertise.

The authors contend that a shift is needed from "professional development" to "professional learning," a job-embedded, student-focused, continuous-improvement approach to teacher development. Such an approach demands a shift in the structure of professional learning toward one that is:

  • Aligned to the behaviors, skills, and knowledge that define effective teaching.
  • Individualized to the learner(s) and takes different forms depending on the experience, skills, and needs of the specific teacher(s).
  • Embedded in the context of teaching: ongoing and collaborative.

Implications for districts and schools in creating evaluation systems that foster professional growth are discussed.

Teacher Leadership

Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement. (2005). What does the research tell us about teacher leadership? Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from http://www.centerforcsri.org/files/Center_RB_sept05.pdf

This research brief reviews a study that investigated the concept and practice of teacher leadership in the research literature from the past two decades. The purpose of the research presented in the study is (1) to summarize findings through a comprehensive review of the teacher leadership literature and (2) to develop a conceptual framework based on that summary that can guide both current practice and future inquiry about teacher leadership. The authors define teacher leadership as "the process by which teachers, individually or collectively, influence their colleagues, principals, and other members of the school communities to improve teaching and learning practices with the aim of increased student learning and achievement." The authors go on to say that teacher leadership work involves individual development, collaboration or team development, and organizational development.

Across their review of the literature, the authors found three key areas that can foster the growth of teacher leaders: school culture and context, roles and relationships, and structures. The authors of the study offer a conceptual framework for improving or expanding a teacher leadership program in schools. This framework includes six major components that provide a pathway to high student achievement. The brief summarizes the conditions necessary for teacher leaders to emerge and the kinds of work in which teacher leaders engage. Based on the study, teacher leadership produces outcomes that improve teaching and learning such as creating positive relationship between teachers and students and among students; establishing classroom routines and expectations; engaging students in the learning process; and improving curricular, instructional, and assessment practices.

Professional Learning in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Schools

King, K. A., Artiles, A. J., & Kozleski, E. B. (2009). Professional learning for culturally responsive teaching (Equity in Action brief)Tempe, AZ: The Equity Alliance at Arizona State University. 

This practitioner brief explores professional learning that addresses culturally responsive teaching. The authors present six research-based principles to guide professional learning experiences that foster culturally responsive teaching and four key arenas that have been at the forefront of teacher learning research. Although teacher inquiry, professional learning communities, professional learning schools, and content knowledge research have increasingly become part of teacher practice, they are not consistently used as vehicles to drive culturally responsive practice. This brief, however, reviews some examples of professional learning opportunities that are grounded in research on culturally responsive teacher and student learning. In summary, the authors assert that  professional learning should be ongoing, job-embedded, and informed by larger reform initiatives, as well as collaborative, constructivist, and inquiry based. In order to support culturally responsive pedagogy and instruction, professional learning must also explicitly provide guided opportunities for teachers to examine their own culture, experiences, beliefs, and biases as related to their teaching of culturally and linguistically diverse students while engaging in doing and talking about subject matter.

Voltz, D. L., & Brazil, N. (2003). Professional development for culturally responsive instruction: A promising practice for addressing the disproportionate representation of students of color in special education. Teacher Education and Special Education: The Journal of the Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children, 26(1), 63–73. 

This journal article describes the implementation and outcomes of Project CRISP, a teacher-directed professional development program designed to increase teachers' awareness of culturally influenced learning and behavior differences in the classroom. Thirty-three teachers from a large, metropolitan school district participated in a three-day interactive seminar and then planned and implemented professional development activities for their school sites. The professional development was focused on five major dimensions of multicultural education: content integration, the knowledge construction process, prejudice reduction, empowering school culture, and equity pedagogy.

Based on an analysis of preassessment and postassessment questionnaires, interviews, and lesson plan analysis, researchers found teachers reported that the professional learning opportunities had enhanced their knowledge and skills related to teaching with a multicultural perspective. Researchers also noted integration of multicultural content into lessons and the use of multiple intelligences in instruction. Findings of this study suggest that professional development opportunities can influence how teachers think about the issue of addressing cultural differences in the classroom. Underpreparedness of teachers in addressing the educational needs of culturally diverse populations increases the risk of these groups experiencing academic difficulty and subsequent referral to special education.

Professional Development for Teachers of English Language Learners

Ballantyne, K. G., Sanderman, A. R., & Levy, J. (2008). Educating English language learners: Building teacher capacity (Roundtable report). Washington, DC: National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition and Language Instruction (NCELA).

America's schools have experienced a sharp increase in the number of students who are not proficient enough in English to fully access academic content in all of their classes. This report discusses teacher education and professional development for mainstream teachers of English language learners (ELLs). The authors conducted a review of a variety of large- and small-scale studies to summarize current research on the education teachers have received in working with ELLs. The report was produced by a panel of experts convened by NCELA for its "Roundtable on Teacher Education and Professional Development of ELL Content Teachers." The publication is presented in three volumes:

  1. Teacher Education and Professional Development for Mainstream Teachers of ELLs
  2. Annotated Bibliography
  3. State Requirements for Pre-service Teachers of ELLs

In the first volume, the findings from various reports indicate that staff development opportunities for practicing teachers are underrepresented, and that teachers have indicated that they need more information to work effectively with ELLs and want more preparation for working with this population. The authors discuss the structure of teacher education and professional development programs, including program design, assessment, evaluation, and modes of delivery. Included in the first volume are recommendations for professional development for practicing teachers that are aligned with the National Staff Development Council standards and relevant to ELL education.

The second volume provides an annotated bibliography aimed at policymakers, professional development designers, and teachers in study groups and university graduate programs. The bibliography includes sources on topics such as demographics, attitudes and beliefs of teachers, teacher preparation programs, state and district-level professional development, and resources for mainstream teachers of ELLs.

The third volume summarizes state policies and legislation that require newly qualified teachers to have experience with or education in the teaching of ELLs. The report reveals that 4 states have specific coursework or certification requirements for all teachers of ELLs, 17 states contain reference to the special needs of ELLs in their teacher certification standards, 7 states are "in transition" with regard to their teacher certification standards, 8 states have teacher certification standards that make reference to "language" as an example of diversity, and 15 states do not have any requirement that all teachers have experience or training in working with ELLs.

Casteel, C., & Ballantyne, K. (Eds.). (2010). Professional development in action: Improving teaching for English learners. Washington, DC: National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition. Retrieved from http://www.ncela.gwu.edu/files/uploads/3/PD_in_Action.pdf

This publication contains a collection of papers that showcase professional development projects across the United States that train teachers to work with English language learners (ELLs). The majority of the papers included in this volume emerged from projects funded under the National Professional Development grant program, authorized under Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which offers professional development exclusively to educators who serve ELL students; other projects were funded by state and local sources. The papers describe practices that address coaching and mentoring, classroom teaching and methodology, bilingual special education, collaboration with institutions of higher education, and evaluation of professional development programs. The authors aimed to provide practitioners with real-life examples of successful and innovative practices for increasing teacher capacity in this crucial area.

Clair, N., & Adger, C. T. (1999). Professional development for teachers in culturally diverse schools (EDO-FL-99-08). Washington, DC: ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics.

This brief summarizes research literature on the following components and characteristics of effective professional development for teachers in culturally diverse schools: incorporates principles of adult learning, embedded in the reality of schools and teachers' work, designed with teacher input, fosters critical reflection and meaningful collaboration, internally coherent and rigorous, and sustained over the long term. In addition to these elements and structures, the author provides critical areas of focus for professional development in culturally diverse schools. Teachers in culturally diverse schools must receive professional development that addresses specific knowledge and attitudes that are relevant to teaching English language learners (ELLs). These professional learning opportunities must be designed to so that teachers understand basic constructs of bilingualism and second language development, the nature of language proficiency, the role of the first language and culture in learning, and the demands that mainstream education places on culturally diverse students.  

The authors provide three examples of professional development that are grounded in the academic achievement of ELLs as a fundamental ingredient to overall school success. Although different in form, the schools in the examples utilize interdisciplinary teacher teams, peer coaching, peer evaluation, and teacher portfolio presentations. The focus of the professional development varied from school to school, including curriculum development and revision, examining student data and school progress, peer visitation, and discussions of professional literature.

Frat, L. (2007). Professional development for the new century. District Administration, 43(6), 56–60.

This article discusses the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) model, a professional development program for English teachers in the United States. According to the author, the program aims to address the increasing number of non-English-speaking students in the country. A number of districts are turning to SIOP, a scientifically validated professional development program that trains teachers in techniques of sheltered instruction that emphasizes content vocabulary and language acquisition. The San Marcos Consolidated School District in Texas places its ELLs among its 24 SIOP-trained teachers, which allows students to remain in content-area classes as opposed to the traditional "pull-out" method of English instruction that allowed students to fall further behind in content areas as they learned English. 

Gándara, P., Maxwell-Jolly, J., & Driscoll, A. (2005). Listening to teachers of English language learners: A survey of California teachers' challenges, experiences, and professional development needs. Santa Cruz, CA: The Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning. Retrieved from http://www.cftl.org/documents/2005/listeningforweb.pdf

Teachers of English language learners (ELLs) need special skills and training to effectively teach students English and meet rigorous standards. This study aimed to identify teachers' greatest challenges in educating ELLs; to analyze how those challenges vary according to factors such as teacher experience, training, and student need; and to determine the kinds of support teachers have—and need—for doing their jobs effectively.

The study included a survey of almost 5,300 teachers from 22 small, medium, and large districts across California in 2004. Although not randomly selected, participants reflected the demographics for teachers in the state with regard to gender and ethnicity. They included teachers with varying credentials and training, teaching ELLs in a variety of programs. In addition to the survey, four focus groups were conducted, each in a different geographic region with varying program and demographic characteristics.

The study found that, over the previous five years, many ELL teachers had little or no professional development designed to help them teach ELLs, and the quality of the training was uneven. An analysis of survey and focus-group data revealed that teachers found the most useful professional development to be focused on strategies for teaching a second language and on the learning, developmental, and other factors unique to second language learners. Teachers most often cited the need for professional development in reading and writing in English and instructional strategies. When presented with choices of additional assistance, teachers most often chose paraprofessional help, more time to teach and collaborate with peers, and better English language development materials. The report includes a summary of nine key findings from the study. It concludes with a discussion of five recommendations for policymakers to consider in order to improve teaching for California's ELLs.[1]

Hart, J. E., & Lee, O. (2003). Teacher professional development to improve science and literacy achievement of English language learners. Bilingual Research Journal, 27(3), 475–501.

Teachers of English language learners (ELLs) face several challenges, not the least of which is facilitating students' simultaneous acquisition of academic content and English language and literacyUsing the results of first-year professional development efforts, which form part of a three-year longitudinal design, this study examined a professional development intervention aimed at enabling teachers to promote science and literacy achievement for culturally and linguistically diverse elementary students. Researchers examined teachers' initial beliefs and practices about teaching English language and literacy in science and the impact of the intervention on teachers' beliefs and practices.  Participants included 53 third- and fourth-grade teachers at six elementary schools in a large school district with a highly diverse student population. The results of these first-year professional development efforts indicate that at the end of the year, teachers expressed more elaborate and coherent conceptions of literacy in science instruction. 
In addition, they provided more effective linguistic scaffolding in an effort to enhance students' understanding of science concepts. The results suggest that teachers require continuing support in the form of professional development activities in order to implement and maintain reform-oriented practices that promote science and literacy achievement of culturally and linguistically diverse students.

Karabenick, S. A., & Noda, P. A. C. (2004). Professional development implications of teachers' beliefs and attitudes toward English language learners. Bilingual Research Journal, 28(1), 55–75.

In this study, the researchers surveyed 729 teachers in a Midwestern suburban district recently impacted by high numbers of immigrant and refugee English language learners (ELLs) about the teachers' beliefs, attitudes, practices, and needs related to ELLs. Results focus on (1) overall trends and typical responses and (2) differences between teachers with more positive attitudes versus those with less positive attitudes toward having ELLs in their classes. The survey revealed a responsive district climate, ready for the institution of systematic professional development for its teachers of ELL students. Teachers' responses on the survey indicate a pervasive need for intensive professional development and training to equip them with the content knowledge and instructional skills to ensure quality instructional practices, and to enhance their levels of confidence in teaching ELL students. By incorporating cultural awareness and second language theory into districtwide professional development institutes, the researchers and district leadership reinforced the majority of teachers' positive dispositions toward ELL students.  

Musanti, S., & Pence, L. (2010). Collaboration and teacher development: Unpacking resistance, constructing knowledge, and navigating identities. Teacher Education Quarterly, 37(1), 73–89. Retrieved from http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/search/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=EJ872650&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=EJ872650

This article presents a study of the Collaboration Centers Project (CCP), a three-year, federally funded program that focused on helping in-service teachers better address the needs of English language learners (ELLs) in their classrooms. This longitudinal qualitative study integrated elements of narrative inquiry and critical incident methodology to investigate the ongoing collaboration created by the CCP program in order to provide a multilayered understanding of how collegial and collaborative professional development affects teachers, and how teachers affect professional development. Study participants were seven certified and experienced bilingual or English-as-a-second-language (ESL) teachers from a single school district who were trained as cofacilitators; they participated in the program from beginning to end.

Researchers focused on exploring teachers' stories, told individually or collectively through either oral or written accounts. The article describes two critical incidents in detail and concludes with the researchers' reflections on the findings. Musanti and Pence conclude that professional development needs to be conceived as a "collaborative enterprise, where a space for learning through mutual exchange, dialogue, and constant challenge is created." Furthermore, they contend that "resistance" is an unavoidable presence in collaborative professional development programs, and they propose redefining resistance as a positive force for change. The authors also point out that teacher identity and knowledge are intricately interwoven. Asking teachers to team-teach and to serve as models of practice and mentors for others raises anxiety and creates dissonance with the prevailing identity expectations for teachers as isolated, self-made experts.

National Education Association. (2011). Professional development for general education teachers of English language learners (NEA Policy Brief). Washington, DC: Author.  Retrieved from http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/PB32_ELL11.pdf

This policy brief highlights the importance of ensuring that general education teachers are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to teach the growing number of English language learner (ELL) students in the United States. In this brief, NEA recommends focusing on the following essential components of a comprehensive professional development program for general-education teachers of ELLs:

  • A process for establishing high standards for English language acquisition, English language development, and academic content in lesson planning and instruction
  • A process for integrating teachers' understanding of academic content and English-language proficiency standards with instruction in teaching methods and assessments
  • Knowledge and use of effective pedagogy
  • Methods for implementing instructional strategies that ensure that academic instruction in English is meaningful and comprehensible
  • Exposure to a demonstration showing how to implement strategies that simultaneously integrate language acquisition, language development, and academic achievement
  • Exposure to a demonstration showing why increasing academic achievement of ELLs is dependent on multiple instructional approaches or methodologies
  • Provision of a "strategies toolkit" for teachers, which offers ways to enhance and improve instruction for struggling students, based on assessment results.

The brief reviews the demographics of ELL students and key challenges that teachers face in serving them. Recommendations for national, state, and local policymakers also are discussed.

[1] See also a summary of the findings of this report on The Center for the Future of Teaching Learning website (www.cftl.org/centerviews/july05.html).

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