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Teachers Feel Left Out of the Conversation When It Comes to Professional Development, According to Study

A study shedding new light on the professional development of teachers concludes that a majority of teachers feel that they are not involved in the decision-making process when it comes to refining the profession and lack adequate time to apply new skills in the classroom.

A study conducted by Corwin, in partnership with Learning Forward and the National Education Association, found that across the United States school district leaders were committed to furthering the professional development of teachers, though left them out of the decision-making process. For teachers, regular “collaborative, job-embedded, standards-driven professional learning” is the most accessible way to develop new skills for connecting with and teaching students.

For the study, researchers contacted upwards of 6,300 teachers across the United States and had them respond to a 60-item survey. Teachers surveyed ranged from those who had been in the classroom less than a year to teachers with 25 years already under their belt. Among teachers surveyed, 29 percent taught in rural schools, 42 percent in suburban schools, and 27 percent in urban schools, illustrating a similarity to the national average.

The survey measured how the professional development teachers had in schools lined up with methods and attributes proven to improve teaching/student achievement laid out by the seven Standards for Professional Learning (learning communities, leadership, resources, data, learning designs, implementation, and outcomes).

The study’s findings yielded both positive findings as well as areas that the study’s authors feel could be improved upon. Overall, teachers who responded to the survey said that they do feel their school district leaders regard professional development as a “top priority” and advocate for resources to further such development. A majority of surveyed teachers additionally recognized that school system leaders had confidence in staff continuing to become professional leaders.

Other results pulled from the survey were not as encouraging, however. When asked about what kind of role they have in the decision-making process in their own professional learning, 75 percent of teachers identified principals and district leaders as the primary decision-makers. Just a little over half of the teachers responded said that they have “some say” in their professional learning decisions, while 20 percent said they had zero input. The study’s researchers recognize that school leaders face the challenge of providing professional development for all staff, but encourage a more shared collaboration between teaching staff and school leaders in professional learning process.

Teachers also largely felt that while schools used student achievement data to plan professional learning, teacher-experience levels, backgrounds, and needs, were generally not incorporated into these plans.

In terms of professional learning and follow-up, teachers surveyed expressed a preference for on-campus development during the workday. This could be anything from teachers collaborating on lesson planning to teacher coaching. Only 25 percent of respondents though, said that a majority of their professional development happens during school hours. Half of respondents said professional learning occurred during in-service days or summer break. Regarding this area of the study, the researchers felt there could be improvement with allowing teachers more time to collaborate with colleagues and test new strategies in the classroom.

 

Article by Joel Stice, Education World Contributor

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