Monday, August 10, 2015

Professional development: Is it effective?

Trigger warning: if you are at all allergic to snark, you are advised to avoid this post.

It's that time of year, colleagues. You're rested up from that "summer off". [Please note: "Summer" is defined as the eight weeks between mid-June and mid-August, and "off" means you weren't teaching your subject in your classroom.] What better time to suck the life out of you with school-wide (if not district-wide) professional development (PD)?

According to thorough research collected by physics teaching superstar and Einstein Fellow, Marc "Zeke" Kossover, it turns out your professional development training may, in fact, be effective. But chances are that it's not.
A study of 25 professional development programs for math and science teachers in 14 states showed positive student outcomes if three conditions were met.
1. The programs focused on content in mathematics and science.

Honestly, you can probably stop right there. Chances are that the the PD you're engaging in is not focused on math or science. But if it is, feel free to continue.

2. The programs included on-site follow up in classrooms.

3. The teacher contact time reached at least 50 hours.

If the PD you're beginning this week meets all those conditions, please post a comment! To me, such PD is a unicorn: I know what it's supposed to look like, but I've never seen one in person.

In other news, I am beginning my 30th year of teaching this week.


Steve DeSanto said...

Do you have a link to his study?

Unknown said...

Not terribly surprising! (Did they provide a list of those programs that were effective for STEM teachers?)

Eric Plett said...

Dean, At my high school a few years ago, we had a half day presentation basically about considering using color paper. Waste of 3 hours - yes. But we all laugh now around the copy machine remembering this presentation. Effective on one small point - yes. Effective for students - perhaps. There is another data point. I have to say that I'm not opposed to the inspirational speaker-type presentation (like Tony Robbins).