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Professional Development Helps Teachers Improve Students' Writing Skills

A two-year study of nearly 100 California teachers has found that quality teaching training can, in fact, directly improve student outcomes.

The study, conducted by the University of California, Irvine, assessed how teachers exposed to "46 hours of training in the 'cognitive strategies' instructional approach" would affect student learning, says Science Daily.

Called the Pathway Project, the study provided students in 16 Anaheim Union High School District schools during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years with a writing assessment designed specifically for the study. The assessment was provided to students through the California High School Exit Exam, to which it was attached for the duration of the study.

According to Science Daily, students who were taught by teachers who had undergone the professional development were likely to score better on the writing assessment.

"On average, students of the Pathway teacher group showed moderate improvement from pre-test to post-test the first year, and students in the second-year Pathway group showed high improvement," said Carol Booth Olson, professor of education, creator of the Pathway Project and director of the UCI Writing Project as well as lead author of the study, according to Science Daily.

"These robust findings demonstrate the impact of teacher training on student outcomes. There is stronger growth in student achievement after two years of teacher participation, highlighting the importance of sustained professional development," she said.

Specifically, the professional development focused on helping teachers integrate cognitive strategies into their existing language arts curriculum. By providing students with cognitive strategies throughout the reading and writing process, Olsen said, students learn how to best "summarize, make inferences, interpret, draw conclusions, evaluate, assess, revise and reflect as they read and write about complex texts."

"We use a tool kit analogy and visual aids that identify the different techniques for reading comprehension and analytical writing. Students are encouraged to think of themselves as craftsmen who reach into their mental tool kit to construct meaning from, or with, words," she said.

Read the full story.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor


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