Exploring relationships between professional development and student achievement

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Exploring relationships between professional development and student achievement
Sieveke-Pearson, Starla J
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224 leaves : ; 28 cm


Subjects / Keywords:
Teachers -- In-service training -- Case studies ( lcsh )
Academic achievement -- Case studies ( lcsh )
Reading (Elementary) ( lcsh )
Academic achievement ( fast )
Reading (Elementary) ( fast )
Teachers -- In-service training ( fast )
Case studies. ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )
Case studies ( fast )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 214-224).
General Note:
School of Education and Human Development
Statement of Responsibility:
by Starla J. Sieveke-Pearson.

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Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
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|Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
57708233 ( OCLC )
LD1190.E3 2004d S53 ( lcc )

Full Text
Starla J. Sieveke-Pearson
B.S., Black Hills State University, 1986
M.A., University of Northern Colorado, 1994
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Educational Leadership and Innovation

Sieveke-Pearson, Starla J. (Ph.D., Educational Leadership and Innovation)
Exploring Relationships Between Professional Development and
Student Achievement
Thesis directed by Professor Elizabeth B. Kozleski
Professional development in education offers teachers rich opportunities for
ongoing learning throughout their careers. Quality professional development
promotes collaborative, social learning contexts through which teachers discuss
problems of practice. However, just as educational reform efforts hold teachers and
schools accountable for student learning, professional development is simultaneously
scrutinized for its effect on teacher learning, teacher practice, and student
This semester-long case study explored relationships among teacher learning
through professional development, changes in their classroom practice, and changes
in their students learning. A team of four middle school teachers participated, along
with seventeen of their students identified as reading below grade level. Data were
collected through teacher interviews, student focus group interviews, classroom
observations, and analysis of reading assessments. The researcher interviewed each
of the teachers three times and conducted two focus group interviews of six of the
seventeen students. The researcher also observed the teachers participation in
professional development, observed their classroom practice, and examined students
reading results on the Degrees of Reading Power and the Qualitative Reading
Findings of the study indicate that cursory relationships existed between
teachers learning through professional development and changes in their practice.
Student achievement data showed mixed results; however, aggregated data showed
evidence that teacher learning through professional development influenced student
use of reading strategies to some extent. The study further explored initial
implementation of a state mandate for ensuring students be instructed at their grade
level in reading.

Analysis of data revealed weaknesses in the design and delivery of
professional development offered the teachers, where lack of identified learning
outcomes resulted in random implementation of reading strategies. The study
resulted in changes in the design, delivery, and evaluation of professional
development within the middle school studied.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I recommend
its publication.

To my children, Drew Michael Pearson and Kaitlyn McKenzie Pearson. May your
own learning journeys take you to new and exciting places.

My thanks to my husband Darin and my children, Drew and Kaitlyn, for their
constant and loving support while I spent many hours, days, months, and years on my
I also extend my gratitude to Elizabeth Kozleski, who guided me through my work by
asking me good questions and sending me back to the drawing board more than once.
I am a better writer and researcher because of her. My committee members Lynn
Rhodes, Alan Davis, Bonnie Utley, Mary Gill, and Patsy Gleason each played
important roles along the way. I truly appreciate their careful feedback and guidance.
I thank Anne Patterson, Leslie Clemensen, Susan Boyd, Shelley Zion, and Jackie
Swensson who served as outside readers, along with Alan Davis, Mark Clarke and
members of the Lab of Learning and Activity at the University of Colorado, Denver
for helping me think through questions and study design.
I thank Karen Tarbell for her ongoing support of my work, and Steven Cohen for
getting me out of the starting blocks. I also thank the four teachers (each with a big
heart for kids) and seventeen students who allowed me to scrutinize ways in which
they worked to improve their learning.
Finally, I acknowledge the influence of my parents, Ivis Sieveke and the late Alfred
Sieveke, who made it clear through both words and example that a little hard work
never hurt anyone.

IMPROVING TEACHER AND STUDENT LEARNING.................................1
Professional Development for Ongoing Learning......................5
Quality Professional Development as a Move
Toward Quality Teaching............................................9
Quality Professional Development as a Benefit
to Recruit and Retain.............................................10
Defining Professional Development.................................12
The History of Professional Development
in the United States..............................................14
Past Practices..............................................14
Current Practices...........................................18
A Conceptual Framework for Exploring Relationships
Between Professional Development and Student Achievement..........22
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT FRAMEWORK....................................25
Professional Development: Content, Context, and Design
of Learning Activities............................................27
Content of Professional Development.........................28

Design and Context of Professional Development................30
Evaluating Professional Development...........................43
Summary of Professional Development...........................44
Teacher Learning: Context and Process of Learning....................45
Teacher Learning and Process..................................46
Summary of Teacher Learning...................................56
Instructional Practice: Result of Teacher Learning...................56
Summary of Instructional Practice.............................61
Student Achievement: Result of Improved Instruction..................62
Relationships Between Teacher and Student Learning............62
Summary of Student Achievement Results........................69
Summary of Literature Review.........................................69
The Need for Further Study...........................................72
3. BACKGROUND AND METHOD OF THE STUDY..................................... 73
Context of the Study Site............................................74
Background of the Study Participants..........................77
Seeking Evidence Through Case Study..................................81
Collecting Data...............................................82
Data Analysis........................................................95
Organizing and Analyzing Data.................................95

VISION MIDDLE SCHOOLS CASE STUDY......................................99
Data Collection...................................................102
Description of Teachers Participation in
Professional Development....................................106
Key Findings at Vision Middle School.............................112
How Professional Development Impacted the
Teachers Learning..........................................112
How the Teachers Learning Impacted Their
Classroom Practices.........................................131
How Changes in Teachers Practice Impacted
Students Achievement.......................................151
Relationship Between Teachers and Students Learning.......163
Summary of Findings.........................................167
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN EDUCATION.................................169
Revisiting the Conceptual Framework...............................171
Leadership for Professional Development...........................174
Providing Resources.........................................175
Making Expectations Explicit................................176
Systems Design Around Professional Development....................178
Changes Influenced by the Study...................................180
School Level Change.........................................180
District Level Change.......................................182

Changes in My Practice........................................184
Limitations of the Study......................................186
Suggestions for Future Research...............................189
Recommendations to the Field of Professional Development......190
A. Consent Forms..............................................192
B. Interview Protocols........................................196
C. Observation Protocol.......................................208
D. Human Subject Research Approval............................212

1.1 Framework for exploring relationships between
professional development and student learning...............................23
4.1 Graph illustrating who instructed.........................................139
4.2 Graph illustrating average amount of time spent
in group configurations....................................................140
4.3 Graph illustrating average amount of time spent
on major focus of activities...............................................141
4.4 Graph illustrating average amount of time spent
on literacy activities.....................................................143
4.5 Graph illustrating average amount of time spent
with instructional materials...............................................144
4.6 Graph illustrating teacher interaction....................................145
4.7 Graph illustrating expected pupil response................................146

1.1 Professional Development Paradigm Shifts from
1960s to 1990s......................................................15
3.1 Support Services in Addition to ILPs................................78
3.2 Professional Development Participation in Hours.....................80
3.3 Chart of Data Sources Aligned to Research Questions.................83
3.4 Strategies Identified for Students on ILPs..........................94
4.1 Codes and Working Definitions for Interview Data...................103
4.2 Teachers Participation in
Professional Development in Hours..................................107
4.3 Description of Reading-Related
Professional Development Activities................................108
4.4 Observed Use of Reading Strategies.................................118
4.5 QRI-3 Pre and Post Levels..........................................153
4.6 DRP Pre and Post Levels............................................155

Accountability for student academic achievement places increased pressure
on all levels of the educational system, making education a high-stakes business for
students, teachers, schools, and districts (Darling-Hammond, 1998; Darling-
Hammond & Rustique-Forrester, 1997; Corcoran, 1995). The past decade has
brought about many changes and reforms across the nation, particularly with the
adoption of content standards. States have developed learning standards for K-12
students and performance standards for educators (Darling-Hammond & Rustique-
Forrester, 1997; also available Guided by these standards,
many states measure the academic performance of students on standards-based tests.
In Colorado, for example, students from second to tenth grade test in reading, writing,
and math; students in eighth grade test in these content areas as well as in science
(available Teachers and school administrators are
accountable for their students performance; and in some instances, schools of
education are answerable for their graduates abilities to help students learn (Curtin,
2001). Legislative policy in Colorado holds K-12 schools accountable for 80% of

their students rating at least proficient on the states standards-based tests. Failure
to reach this goal has implications on schools accreditation. At the same time,
Colorado state legislators hold teacher preparation programs accountable for the
performance of their graduates. Additionally, the federal No Child Left Behind Act
of 2001 has educators scurrying to comply with its intentions of closing achievement
gaps between disadvantaged and minority students and their peers through (a) school
accountability, (b) local control, (c) options for parents, and (d) teacher quality (No
Child Left Behind, 2002). Despite the extent to which educators oppose or accept
measures of school accountability, current state and federal policymakers insistence
on student achievement results increases pressure on all aspects of school systems
including those who have the most direct impact with students, namely, current and
upcoming classroom teachers (Darling-Hammond, 2000).
The Colorado Basic Literacy Act of 1996 (Colorado Basic Literacy Act,
2003) provides a compelling example of how the policy arena forces this link
between student performance and teacher practice. According to Benyshek (1998),
the act makes several assumptions regarding reading and reading instruction. Namely,
the act assumes that all students can succeed in school if they have the basic skills in
reading and writing that are appropriate for their grade levels. For success in school,
reading is the most important skill, closely followed by writing and mathematics. It

is the obligation of the entire community to provide students with the literacy skills
essential for success in school and life. All students will be reading on the third grade
level by the end of third grade. Finally, no student may be placed at a reading level
that requires literacy skills not yet acquired by that student. Any student not
reading at grade level will have an Individual Literacy Plan (ILP) developed by the
school and family.
The Colorado Basic Literacy Act requires teachers, parents or legal guardians,
the student, and school administration to write ILPs for each student who is unable
to comprehend reading material at his or her grade level. Teachers assess each
students progress each semester, and students remain on the plan until they show
evidence that they are reading at or above grade level. Students with special needs
and English as Second Language needs may also have ILPs depending on their
understanding of the language. Each plan must include three components: (a)
sufficient in-school time for the development of literacy skills at the students
instructional level, (b) support for home reading, and (c) assessment of each
students progress based on a body of evidence.
The intent of the law is to improve the students reading ability through
effective instructional practices and home involvement. Administrators, teachers,
students, and parents in elementary schools worked since 1996 to meet the

requirements of the law. In 2001, those elementary students who did not show
adequate growth in reading comprehension and remained on ILPs moved on to
middle schools. While many schools districts across Colorado contain sixth, seventh,
and eighth grades and have accommodated for sixth graders on ILPs, other districts
middle schools house only seventh and eighth grade students. As a result, these
schools began their first year of implementation of the Colorado Basic Literacy Act
during the 2002-03 school year. Two years hence, high schools throughout the state
will prepare for students who may still have ILPs.
Well-intentioned legislators designed the Colorado Basic Literacy Act to
address learning needs for struggling readers as they move through the K-12 system.
However, it does pose a dilemma for secondary teachers who face a difficult
implementation task: inadequate pre-service preparation and weak inservice
programs for reading instruction. Those who train to be teachers in secondary
schools typically do not have a strong background in literacy practices, particularly
in reading instruction. In Colorado, for instance, teacher preparation programs
generally require a single course on reading strategies in all content areas. Beyond
that, teachers receive little assistance in developing the skills they need to promote
reading comprehension, ensure content learning through reading, and deal with the
differences in comprehension skills that their students display (Rand Reading Study

Group, 2002). The Rand report calls for improvement in teaching practices for
teaching reading comprehension. As it stands, few teachers receive adequate training
focused on reading comprehension; furthermore, students' reading achievement will
not improve unless teachers improve their knowledge and instruction of effective
comprehension strategies (Rand, 2002). In order to meet the instructional
requirements of the Colorado Basic Literacy Act, ongoing on-the-job training is
essential. -
Professional Development for Ongoing Learning
So that teachers are prepared to take on these and a multitude of other new
responsibilities, structures must be in place to support these professionals as they
continue to improve their practices throughout their careers. Professional
development is a promising approach for continuous growth throughout a teachers
professional career. Theoretically, professional development should improve student
achievement by improving instructional practices (Darling-Hammond, 1998; Hord,
Meehan, Orletsky, & Sattes, 1999; Sparks & Hirsh, 2000; Speck & Knipe, 2001).
Professional development leaders assert that professional development affects
student achievement when it is results driven, goal oriented, and of high quality
(Guskey, 1994; Guskey, 2000; Killion, 1999; Loucks-Horsely, Hewson, Love, &
Stiles, 1998; NSDC, 1995). This has not always been the case for the ongoing

development of teachers where one-time events or workshops have traditionally
served as the only source of professional development for educators (Speck &
Knipe, 2001). While there is still ample room for improvement, current professional
development practices increasingly reflect results driven, goal oriented, quality
professional development (Darling-Hammond, 1994; Darling-Hammond, 1997;
Darling-Hammond, 1998; Fullan, 1995; Joyce & Showers, 1995b).
It is unrealistic to think that teachers leave their preparation programs
knowing all there is to know about the many facets of educating youth, hence the
need for systematic, ongoing opportunities to participate in professional
development that will add to their content and pedagogical knowledge and skills.
Like the major researchers in the field of teacher education (Darling-Hammond &
Rustique-Forrester, 1997; Fullan, 1993; Glenn, 1993; Goodlad, 1999), I assert that
teachers must continue their professional learning throughout their careers. Further,
my own professional experience bears witness to the claims of well-respected
professional development experts that teachers ongoing professional learning
improves instructional practices that, in turn, improve student achievement (Darling-
Hammond, 1997; Guskey, 2000; Joyce & Showers, 1995a; Sparks & Hirsh, 2000).
And while research evidence to support this assertion is scant, emerging research

attempts to link teacher learning through professional development and impact on
student learning.
Without robust supporting evidence, it is difficult to connect professional
development to improved instructional practices, which in turn lead to higher student
achievement. Such an assertion makes a broad leap that does not account for intricate
variability. There are numerous inter- and intrapersonal variables that mediate the
learning process; these variables blur the complicated relationship between
professional development and practice. As a result, it is difficult to establish a causal
relationship between what teachers learn and do and the degree to which students
learn. At issue are intervening teacher variables, including teacher ability or
willingness to implement new learning at deep enough levels to influence student
learning. Student variables also figure into the equation; for instance, student
motivation to learn or student access to support structures at school and at home
affect learning outcomes. While these examples are hardly comprehensive, they serve
as points of consideration in a complex problem of educational practice.
To look carefully at relationships between professional development and
student achievement, I developed a conceptual framework to describe the elements of
professional development and their relationship to practice and to student
achievement. The conceptual framework incorporates salient features of professional

development literature and the National Staff Development Councils (NSDC)
Standards for Staff Development. The National Staff Development Council recently
updated and adopted a set of twelve standards that provide benchmarks for effective
professional development practices (NSDC, 1995). The twelve standards represent
three categories: content, process, and context. Content standards address the
necessary skills or knowledge that educators must possess or learn; process
standards pay attention to the delivery of professional development; and context
standards address the need for a conceptual knowledge about human learning,
development, and collaboration. These standards serve as a lens through which to
view a conceptual framework that considers the relationships between teacher
learning, professional development, classroom practices, and student achievement.
One of the standards in particular identifies the importance of evaluating the impact
of professional development on student learning. By evaluating professional
development practices, we begin to measure the effects, thereby adding to the body
of literature that will inform future professional development practices.
The terms achievement and learning are interchangeable in literature;
however, for the purpose of this dissertation, achievement refers to the evidence of
student learning. In other words, achievement represents students abilities to
perform what they know and are able to do. The terms professional development

and staff development are synonymous in literature. There seems to be no compelling
argument for an exclusive use of either term. The National Staff Development
Council consistently uses staff development in its publications and studies simply
because it identifies its organization by name, although the term professional learning
more closely exemplifies their organizational belief that staff development is much
more than a one-time event (Killion, 2002a). Throughout this dissertation, I use the
term professional development for constancy except when staff development is part
of a direct quotation or in reference to the NSDC Standards for Staff Development. I
chose to use the term professional development rather than staff development because
it more closely identifies the act of learning with the professional position of
Quality Professional Development as a Move
Toward Quality Teaching
Simply stated by experts in the field, quality professional development that
leads to quality teaching is the key to increasing student achievement (Fox, 2001;
Hirsh, 2001; Kaplan & Owings, 2001; Sparks & Hirsh, 2000). Darling-Hammond
(1997) and Sanders and Horn (1998) demonstrated that teacher expertise is the single
most important determinant of student achievement, and that money spent on
improving teachers qualifications nets gains in student learning. Professional

development meets this purpose by providing educators opportunities to improve
ways they increase their knowledge and adopt new practices (Anderson & Kanuka,
1997). Said another way, student performance improves when staff and
organizational performance improves (Loucks-Horsely, et al., 1998). Highly
qualified teachers bring about higher achievement in student learning, driving home
the need for powerful professional development that ultimately affects student
learning. Indeed, educators seek professional development that will help them
increase student learning. In 1998, 73% of teachers responding to a survey
conducted by the National Foundation for the Improvement of Education indicated
that they were motivated to seek professional development in order to improve their
practice and their students achievement (Renyi, 1998).
Quality Professional Development as a Benefit
to Recruit and Retain
Many do not consider education a high-paying career field, so besides
altruistic reasons, what draws and keeps teachers in the field? High quality
professional development is a possible draw for educators who wish to grow
professionally throughout their careers. As recently as 1996, Evans wrote that
nearly 50% of teachers leave the field in their first five years of teaching; another
50% of those who stay report being unsatisfied in their career. Therefore, engaging

educators in ongoing, provocative, compelling continued learning is an advantage in
drawing teachers to and keeping teachers in the profession.
Opportunities to develop professionally benefit teachers in shaping their
craft (Teacher take charge, 1996), which is of utmost importance with the nations
current and impending shortage of qualified teachers (Darling-Hammond, 1997; No
Child Left Behind, 2002). In an effort to combat teacher shortages, more and more
districts hire personnel with degrees, but without teaching credentials. Nearly a
quarter of newly-hired American teachers lack the content qualifications for their
jobs, and more than 40 states allow districts to hire teachers who have not met the
basic requirements to step into the classroom (Darling-Hammond, 1997). With such
a large number of teachers unprepared or under prepared for the job, it is imperative
that they have the opportunity to build and continue their professional growth
throughout their careers. The hope for this practice is that through mentoring and
induction programs, these professionals will gain on-the-job skills necessary to
become effective teachers. There is currently little quality control on such programs.
Well designed professional development is a vehicle for addressing the needs of this
unique group of educators to ensure that they can take on the rigorous demands of
educating youth.

Defining Professional Development
During a recent gathering of middle school teachers, I asked the group to
identify professional development activities that contribute to their growth as
educators. It was not surprising to hear many variations on the theme. Some felt
that their greatest professional growth occurs in the context of graduate courses.
Others stated that their mentoring experiencesboth as mentor and menteeoffer
growth opportunities. The group also noted peer observations, on-site professional
development activities, and department-level curriculum planning days as activities
that further their professional growth. These responses offer a small sampling of
what professional development means to educators. Professional development has
come to mean more than an inservice or a workshop (Hirsh, 2001; Robb, 2000).
More specifically, professional development includes processes and activities
designed to enhance the professional knowledge, skills, and attitudes of educators so
that they might improve the learning of students (Guskey, 2000). It is a systemic
process that considers change over time while taking into account all levels of the
system (Guskey, 2000; Robb, 2000). By way of analogy, the United States
Department of Education likens professional development to a bridge that connects
where educators are now and where they will need to be to help students achieve
higher standards of learning (Building bridges, 2000).

While there is general agreement in defining professional development among
contemporaries writing on the subject, this has not always been the case. Over two
decades ago, Sanders (1978) stated that, ...faculty development is hard to define;
it seems to mean different things to different people (p. 1). Traditionally, sabbatical
leaves, conferences, university courses, and research projects constituted
professional development. In 1995, Fullan criticized the state of professional
development for a lack of focus because it is too narrowly defined, detaching it from
real-time learning as episodes outside of the normal workday. Literature that is more
recent suggests a change in that kind of thinking. Rather than Fullans critique that
professional development lacks focus, improving instructional practices that will
increase student achievement is emerging as a primary purpose of professional
development. There is no question that educators and policy makers alike are paying
attention to how professional development relates to increases in student
achievement (Darling-Hammond, 1997; Darling-Hammond & Rustique-Forrester,
1997; Guskey, 1994; Guskey, 2000; Killion, 1999; Renyi, 1998; Sparks & Hirsh,
2000; Speck & Knipe, 2001). The increased attention on increasing student
achievement spurs the need for the ongoing professional growth of teachers.

The History of Professional Development
in the United States
Past Practices
A review of professional development literature in education reflects that
before the late 1950s, not many scholars and researchers wrote about the subject.
Teachers historically received their professional development before entering the
profession through teacher-training programs where they would gain all of the
necessary skills they would need to sustain professionally (Speck & Knipe, 2001).
Upon graduation, teachers continued their own professional learning. In the 1960s,
university professors and teachers began working together to create teacher proof
kits for all teachers to use in an effort to improve teachers learning opportunities.
This, however, led to disconnected and sporadic professional development that was
unrelated to daily classroom activities (Speck & Knipe, 2001, p. 208). Table 1.1
represents changes in professional development practices over the last four decades.
The 1970s saw a movement toward a practice still in existence today known
as the make it and take it sessions (Speck & Knipe, 2001). These consisted of
activities or lessons that teachers could immediately put to use in the classroom.
Problematic to this type of professional development initially was that professional
developers did not consult teachers to determine their or their students needs, nor
were there ongoing discussions about their depth of learning. By the following

decade, teachers began examining research on teaching, learning, and aspects of
coaching. Workshops and seminars focused on content knowledge and teaching
strategies (Speck & Knipe, 2001). The term professional development emerged,
suggesting a shift in thinking toward teaching as a profession.
Table 1.1
Professional Development Paradigm Shifts from 1960s to 1990s
Past Practice Desired Practice
Individual development Balanced individual and organizational
Fragmented and piecemeal development Clear, coherent, systemic plan
Adult needs and satisfaction Student needs and learning outcomes
Training apart from job Multiple forms of job-embedded learning
Transmission of knowledge by Study by teachers of teaching and learning
experts process
Generic instructional skills Combination of generic and content-specific skills
Professional developer as trainer Professional developer as consultant, planner, facilitator, trainer
Responsibility of professional Responsibility of multiple personnel, including
development department administrators and teachers

Table 1.1 (cont.)
Past Practice Desired Practice
Measures teacher outcomes Measures student achievement
Developed by Speck; adaptedfrom Sparks and Hirsh (1997)
The 1983 publication of A Nation at Risk called for reform to raise
achievement, improve teaching and teacher education, and define challenging
standards (Futrell, 1994; Goodlad, 1994; Sparks & Hirsh, 2000; Speck & Knipe,
2001). Professional development played a key role in school reform efforts, both at
the organizational and individual levels with the intention of sustaining reform
(Goodlad, 1990; Holmes Group, 1995; Guskey, 1994; Miller, 1988; Speck & Knipe,
2001). Systems thinking, particularly the interrelationships between individuals and
the whole organization, rose in the 1990s. Fullan and Sarason (as cited in Speck &
Knipe, 2001), both leaders in school reform issues, called for systematic and coherent
plans for professional development to replace the fragmented approaches based on
fads and one-time, piecemeal approaches.
My own professional experience as a teacher mirrors much of these historic
trends. I began teaching in the late 1980s, and my experience was that there were
precious few opportunities for professional growth. In fact, if there was to be any
formal professional development, individual teachers had to seek and fund it, which

most often meant taking additional college courses. Since I taught in a very isolated
rural area, it became difficult for my colleagues and me to arrange for the necessary
time away to take classes. In the three years of my employment in that rural district,
there were no workshops, seminars, or classes offered at our school site. Moving to
a metropolitan area in the early 1990s allowed me to take advantage of classes, but
my own professional growth took place in isolation. I did not have the benefit of
learning and practicing alongside educators from my school site. In the mid 90s, I
became involved in partner schools where a critical function is the professional
growth and development of educators (Darling-Hammond, 2000; Goodlad, 1990;
Holmes Group, 1995). As a site coordinator between a middle school and partner
college, my understanding of professional development was broadened and deepened.
I no longer viewed college classes as the only means of growth. I began to see
firsthand the advantages of collective professional development through action
research, curriculum development, and other related partner activities. I realized that
professional development is part of the fabric of good teaching rather than a yearly or
bi-yearly event in which all staff takes part.
My current position as a mentor to new teachers and as a professional
developer allows me to apply what I know about professional development as I
coordinate professional development activities of a middle school staff using a job-

embedded professional development model. I have set out on a journey to learn more
about professional development in order to be more effective in my role. To that
end, I draw from the historical perspective of professional development that informs
my work as I analyze and apply what I learn to my own practice. Table 1.1 shows
changes in professional development practices over the last 40 years. Literature
shows the first column accurately represents the paradigm that existed in the 1960s.
However, the second column represents a blend of the present state and the ideal
state. While professional development practices are moving toward these promising
practices, my experiences as an educator and as a staff developer, as well as the
diminutive amount of research in the field, suggest that we are not there yet.
Current Practices
So what is the current state of professional development? Speck and Knipe
(2001) state,
If we are to dramatically improve schools and schooling, we
must insist on professional development designs and practices
that make a difference in teacher learning and student success.
The professional learning, therefore, will permeate the system,
resulting in higher academic results for students, (p. 3)
This statement, much like the paradigm shift shown in Table 1.1, reflects what
should be a baseline expectation for professional development according to how
contemporaries identity effective practice, but it does not necessarily reflect current

practice. Many schools and districts implement traditional professional
development practices where their teachers are restricted to three or four days during
the school year for professional growth with little or no input into the planning.
Additionally, many schools and districts require hours for certification or degree-
related courses as evidence of professional (Guskey, 2000). In some settings,
professional developers continue to offer courses, workshops, or inservice programs
that may or may not be relevant to teachers professional development needs
(NSDC, 1995). This typically includes a speaker or series of workshops with
inconsistent follow up. While some states are trying innovative approaches, the vast
majority of districts are ...doing what theyve always done (NSDC, 1995, p. 1).
Some say that our nations schools fail to provide adequate professional
development for teachers (Fullan, 1995; Murphy, 2000; Sparks & Hirsh, 2000;
Teachers take charge, 1996). Teachers must help all students achieve to high
standards, introduce innovative teaching strategies, communicate and collaborate with
colleagues and the larger community, and become experts in teaching and learning.
Instead, many teachers practice in isolation rather than as part of a larger learning
community. Such conditions need to change so that teachers have adequate time and
resources to successfully complete these tasks. Educational leaders need to attend to

the professional growth of each teacher as well as the collective growth of all
A recent survey conducted by the National Staff Development Council
(Sparks, 2001) provides additional information about the current state of
professional development. Out of 1,100 members who had staff development in their
job title, 202 responded to the survey. Eighteen percent of the respondents stated
that current allotment for staff development accounts for less than 1% of their
districts overall budget. Another 51% reported that 1-5% of their budget is set aside
for staff development while 27% responded that 6-10% of their budget is ear marked
for staff development. A small number (5%) stated that their districts professional
development allotment accounts for more than 10% of their districts budget. In
terms of time spent on professional development, 81% reported that teachers
dedicate less than 5% of their workweek to professional development, 17% said that
5-10% of the time was devoted to such activities, while only 1% reported that 11%
or more of the time was set aside for formal professional growth. In addition, 38% of
NSDC members surveyed reported that their districts set aside less than three days
each year for professional development; 30% said that their district allowed six days
or more of professional development time each year. This report suggests that while
there is awareness of the importance of professional development, there is a lack of

widespread, systematic dedication to the professional growth of educators.
Educational systems face challenges of providing meaningful, ongoing professional
growth to support both those already in the classroom and those who will enter. A
growing number of teachers entering the field each year, coupled with even larger
numbers needed over the next five to ten years (Darling-Hammond, 1997; Evans,
1996; NSDC, 1995) and those entering without traditional teacher preparation
exacerbate these challenges. Finding ways to improve professional development,
through the allocation of both time and money, is essential if educators are to play
their critical role in increasing student achievement.
So how does a nation of diverse systems, and diverse schools within each of
the systems, go about improving their professional development practices in a
systemic way that improves the quality of teaching, thereby improving the
achievement of students? The key is to develop a common understanding of
effective professional development practices. With widespread adoption and
implementation of professional development standards that lay out the non-
negotiables for results-based professional development practice (Hirsh, 2001),
professional development will improve instructional practices to bring about these
desired changes in schools.

A Conceptual Framework for Exploring Relationships
Between Professional Development and Student Achievement
The framework for exploring relationships between professional development
and student achievement (Figure 1.1) combines the professional development
standards adopted by the National Council for Staff Development (Sparks & Hirsh,
2000) with the current paradigm for professional development practice (Speck &
Knipe, 2001). The framework visually depicts the relationships necessary to
consider connections between professional development and student achievement,
showing that teacher learning must occur for there to be changes in instructional
practice, and that changes in instructional practices resulting in increased student
achievement inform future professional development. The framework accounts for
related processes between professional development, teacher learning, teacher
practice, and student achievement. The recursive nature of the framework represents
equally important factors that inform all levels of learning. Indeed, if the participants
of professional development activities are not themselves learners, or if they do not
transfer what they learn into their instructional practices, professional development
that affects student achievement is for naught. A primary assumption of quality
professional development is that professional learning and changes in practice are
intended outcomes. Through teacher learning and changes in instruction, well

designed professional development brings about increased results in student
Content, context & design
Based on student
learning needs
Ongoing support
Result of changes in teacher practice
Informs future professional
Social and
Structures for
Changes through learning
Expectations for
Figure 1.1. Framework for exploring relationships between professional
development and student learning.
The framework for exploring relationships between professional development
and student achievement visually represents these relationships, recognizing that
teacher learning and instructional implementation must occur in order to make such a
connection. Social learning, discussed further in Chapter 2, is the theoretical
framework that organized this study. I set out to learn more about how a team of
teachers defined and went about their professional learning. Further, I gathered

information in search of connections among their learning, their teaching, and their
students achievement. To that end, I sought answers for the overarching
dissertation question: How does teacher professional development impact student
achievement? Acknowledging the relationship among teacher learning, instructional
practice, and student achievement, three questions guided the study:
1. How does professional development impact teacher learning?
2. How does teacher learning through professional development impact
instructional practice?
3. How does teacher practice impact student achievement, specifically the
achievement of struggling readers?
In order to ask and seek answers to these questions, I reviewed existing
research and literature in the field. The following chapter applies the literature base
of professional development practices and standards to the framework for exploring
relationships between professional development and student achievement. I
reviewed studies that ask similar questions related to professional development.
Chapter 2 lays the groundwork for conducting this research in light of what exists,
and does not, in the current body of literature.

A review of the professional development literature reveals a mix of theories,
models, and studies. The literature mirrors the evolutions in educational policies and
practices of teaching and learning in a standards-based system (McDiarmid &
Corcoran, 2000). In other words, professional developers historically designed and
delivered to meet the needs and satisfactions of the teachers whereas recently
professional development has emerged into activities and programs that account for
student needs and learning outcomes that more closely reflect teaching and learning in
standards-based systems (Speck & Knipe, 2001). Newer studies consider the
complexities of the role and purpose of professional development, attempting to
relate it to what teachers are expected to learn and how they leam (i.e. Ancess, 2000;
Collopy, 2003; Davis, 2001; Drake, Spillane, & Hufferd-Ackles, 2001; Fuchs &
Fuchs, 1998). These studies also explore how teacher learning ultimately influences
student learning (i.e. Balfanz & Maclver, 2000; Sanders & Horn, 1998; Trimble,
2003; Wenglinsky, 2002). While rhetoric in the field supports evidence-based
practice, there is relatively little published research on the effects of professional

development on improving teaching, teacher learning, or student outcomes (Garet,
Porter, Desimone, Birman & Yoon, 2001).
Contemporary practitioners propose models for evaluating professional
development that very well might connect professional development, teacher
practice, and student learning (Guskey, 2000; Killion, 2002b; Loucks-Horsely, et ah,
1998). However, the research to measure and test these models has not yet appeared
in peer-reviewed journals. Perhaps the lag in publishing valid research on
professional development is due, in part, to the difficulty in connecting student
achievement to professional development. Indeed, the field needs a framework that
will systematically organize effective professional development practices in ways
that affectand measurestudent achievement.
The framework for this study explores the connections between professional
development and student achievement by providing direction for designing
professional development experiences that allow educators to acquire the necessary
knowledge and skills for improving student achievement. The framework represents
four components that take into account (a) the design and content of professional
development, (b) the context and process of teacher learning, (c) the result of teacher
learning that leads to improved instructional practice, and (d) the result of improved
instructional practice that leads to increased student achievement.

This framework serves as an organizer for this chapter, wherein I provide an
analysis of the existing knowledge and research base in professional development in
education, teacher learning, changes in practice through teacher learning, and impact
of those changes on student achievement. The analysis of published studies reveals
the strengths and weaknesses that currently exist within the field and leads to
recommendations for further research. The first section of the chapter looks at the
content, context, and design of professional development intended to bring about
teacher learning, including discussion of a call from the field for systematic and deep
evaluation. The second section of the chapter considers theoretical foundations for
teacher learning, a fundamental outcome of professional development. The third
section of the chapter discusses research on instructional implementation resulting
from teacher learning through professional development, while the fourth section
discusses existing research around student achievement as an outcome of professional
development activities. The final section of the chapter regards the need for further
research in the field.
Professional Development: Content, Context, and Design
of Learning Activities
The design of professional development must consider what teachers are
expected to learn to continue improving their knowledge and skills base (content) and

under what conditions they might effectively learn the specific skill or strategy
(context and design). Without thoughtful integration of content, context, and design,
there is little hope that teacher learning, changes in practice, or improvement in
student achievement will occur. This section focuses on literature that expands and
deepens my understanding of a) the content, (b) the context and design, and (c) the
evaluation of professional development in education.
Content of Professional Development
An intended outcome of professional development is continual deepening of
educators knowledge and skills (McDiarmid & Corcoran, 2000; Speck & Knipe,
2001), especially important because teacher preparation does not ensure sufficient
support once teachers enter the field (Peske, Liu, Johnson, Kauffman, & Kardos,
2001). A team of researchers (Garet, et al., 2001) studied teacher learning as they
compared effects of different characteristics of professional development on teacher
learning. The research team analyzed 1,027 surveys of mathematics and science
teachers representing 358 districts funded by Eisenhower grant funds. The
researchers found that three core features of professional development had a positive
effect on teachers self-reported increases in knowledge, skills, and changes in
classroom practice: (a) professional development that focused on content

knowledge, (b) professional development that provided opportunities for active
learning, and (c) professional development that connected to other learning activities.
Indeed, emerging body of work suggests that professional development
that focuses on subject-matter content and how children learn it may be an especially
important element in changing teacher practice (Corcoran, 1995, as cited in Garet, et
al., 2001). Grossman and Stodolsky (1995) applied this line of thinking to their
study of 399 math, English, science, social studies, and foreign language teachers
across 16 high schools. They surveyed and interviewed the participants to determine
the ways in which subject matter served as a catalyst for teacher learning. They
found that subject matter shaped the professional identity of these high school
teachers, and concluded that professional development efforts must respond to
subject-specific learning needs of teachers.
Similarly, another study of 25 middle schools in South Texas sought to .
identify professional development strategies that would lead to improved practice
and, ultimately, increased student achievement in math and science (Adams, Brower,
Hill, & Marshall, 2000). From the 177 surveys returned, 20% of the teachers
reported that effective professional development focused on improving teacher
expertise in their content areas. Comparatively, 24% reported improving teacher

effectiveness through national standards, 24% through curriculum development, 23%
through performance-based assessments, and 9% through state assessment.
Design and Context of Professional Development
Whereas content of professional development attends to what teachers learn
to improve their knowledge and skills, design and context refers to the conditions in
which they learn. There is a host of design models discussed in contemporary
professional development literature. However, there is little evidence that links the
effectiveness of any particular model to improved practice or student achievement.
To that end, several of those who write about professional development call for
designs that are goal driven and that lead to a coherent, long-term plan for improving
instructional practices and student performance (Building bridges, 2000; Guskey,
1994; Guskey, 2000; Murphy, 2000). Because the professional development
community universally touts these models, it is important to understand how they
Design models. Speck and Knipe (2001) assert that a good design will
include strategies for teacher groups to work collaboratively while involving teachers
in the planning and design of the professional development (Building bridges, 2000;
Glickman, Gordon, & Ross-Gordon, 1998; Guskey, 2000; Speck & Knipe, 2001).
Several contemporary designs meet principles of professional development that

promote optimal teacher learning, further discussed in the following section of this
chapter. One example, study groups, involves teachers in collective work to identify
critical issues in education and work together to find solutions to common problems
(DuFour & Eaker, 1998; Joyce & Showers, 1995). The study group model
recognizes teachers as professional, informed practitioners (Robb, 2000) while
breaking down the isolation common to teaching (Fullan, 1993; Guskey, 2000).
Other designs that support optimal learning constructs include instructional coaching
between peers (Darling-Hammond & Rustique-Forrester, 1997; Guskey, 2000; Joyce
& Showers, 1995a; Killion, 1999; Walling, 1994), collective inquiry and action
research (Clark, 1995; Guskey, 1994; Killion, 1999; Robb, 2000; Speck & Knipe,
2001), and mentoring of early-career teachers by veteran teachers (Darling-
Hammond, 1994; Darling-Hammond, 1997; Glickman, et al., 1998; Guskey, 2000).
Each of these designs allows professionals to engage collaboratively in learning
around issues in practice.
Two studies underscore the importance of design as a critical component to
effective professional development (Fein & Rawling, 1996; Geimer, Getz, Pochert, &
Pullam, 2000). The first of these studies (Geimer, et ah, 2000) showed that action
research and collective inquiry led to a group of teachers becoming more reflective in
their practice. This group of action researchers in suburban school districts in Illinois

studied their own language arts instruction as they compared traditional instructional
approaches (i.e. full-class instruction, worksheets) to multiple intelligence strategies
(see Gardner and Hatch, 1989 for a more comprehensive discussion on multiple
intelligence theory). Participants included students in a second grade class, one third
grade class, and two fifth grade classes. Data included student performance on
classroom and standardized assessments, teachers reporting of student time on task,
and amount of work completion. Post intervention data indicated a slight trend
toward increased student achievement in reading with multiple intelligence strategies.
Students in all grades made gains on their English grammar assessment scores under
multiple intelligence conditions in contrast to their assessment scores during
traditionally taught English grammar units. Conversely, students exposed to multiple
intelligence strategies in spelling did not show improvement over their performances
under traditional approaches. In addition, the overall return rate of completed
homework increased when teachers exposed students to multiple intelligence
strategies. Surveys showed that students enjoyed the multiple intelligence activities
and that student engagement increased as evidenced by teacher observation. This
study suggests that students performed somewhat better with instruction that
incorporated multiple intelligence strategies. Further, it illustrates how action
research as a design of professional development caused teachers to examine their

own practice and its effects on their students. Indeed, their action research resulted
in changes in their practice. As the teachers discovered increased student engagement
and slight improvements in student learning when they designed multiple intelligence
learning activities, they incorporated that structure into their teaching more
frequently. Inquiry and action research allow teachers to grapple with common
issues and seek solutions, helping educators to become more reflective practitioners,
more systematic problem solvers, and more thoughtful decision makers (Sparks &
Simmons, 1989 as cited in Guskey, 2000).
A second study demonstrates that robust professional development design
provides structure to guide teacher learning throughout the planned sequence of
events. Fien and Rawling (1996) validated the need for structure in their case study
that looked at the design of professional development for environmental educators.
The 20 study participants took part in professional development designed to bring
them together as a reflective practice group to engage in participatory research,
professional dialogue, and critical reflection. The purpose for forming the reflective
group was to examine decision-making processes, namely taking into account ethical
and contextual considerations in making decisions rather than basing decisions on
habit, impulse, or tradition. Through interviews of the participants, the researchers
sought to gauge the participants understanding of reflective practices through their

participation in a reflective group. While the participants reported in interviews that
there was opportunity to change their decision-making processes through reflective
discussion and dialogue, the participants indicated that they needed more structure to
form a reflective practice group. They needed a procedure to guide the selection of
problem focus, the process of task assignment, the discourse within the group, and
the agreement on products. Hence, good design includes clear sets of processes that
help novices engage and progress through the process without spending too much
time and energy figuring out what to do as opposed to getting to the heart of the
Collaborative context. Chrislip & Larson (1994, p. 14) state as a
collaborative premise: ...if you bring the appropriate people together in
constructive ways with good information, they will create authentic visions and
strategies for addressing the shared concerns of the organization or community.
Applying that notion to school settings, teachers are among the appropriate people
who must come together in constructive ways, who need to feel as though they are
part of a larger community and that they are collectively working toward common
goals. They need to feel that their learning is not separate from their regular work.
Fullan (1995) found that research on collaborative school cultures shows that day-to-
day interactions are part of staffs that are continuously learning. In order to ensure

implementation of new learning, professional development needs to involve teams of
individuals working together (Guskey, 1994). Many of the professional
development designs discussed earlier in this paper call for collaborative structures
(i.e. peer coaching and observation, collective inquiry and action research, and
mentoring of early career teachers), and the literature supports collaborative
professional development as a catalyst for improved teacher learning.
Engaging in collaborative processes is deliberate, not automatic; and as Fien
and Rawlings research suggests, teachers seek structure in order to move their
collective work forward. Structure as discussed in this review of the literature refers
to processes or protocols teachers use to examine their practice, examine student
work, and center their dialogue on educational issues that impact their work. Such
structure might assist teachers as they set norms for their group, work to understand
group processes, or participate in looking at their practice and their students work.
One powerful source for structure comes from Critical Friends Groups (CFGs)
(available at Using a series of
protocols that ground conversations and activities in authentic practice, CFGs serve
to analyze artifacts or issues and provide feedback to one another. Rather than
assuming that professional conversations will serendipitously occur, CFSs protocols
guide collaborative conversations and activities toward intended outcomes to improve

teaching and learning. While other structures for engaging in collaborative work exist,
I use CFGs to illustrate the essentiality of structure.
In March of 1999, the Professional Development Laboratory of the New
York University School of Education hosted a forum to discuss issues related to
professional development. The panel was comprised of eight leaders in professional
development from across the nation (Moller, 1999). Their discussions revolved
around many facets of professional development, including the need to build learning
communities among teachers. Paula Evans, the Director of Professional
Development from the Annenberg Institute, charged, ...we have stripped teaching of
the importance of relationship building among the adults in schools that will enable
the kinds of changes that we want to take place (p. 14).
Several authors assert that many teachers work in isolation (Fullan, 1993;
Sparks & Hirsh, 2000; Walling, 1994; Wasley, 1991), reinforcing traditional views
that professional development is separate from daily tasks. While this reflects the
status in many schools, literature suggests that effective professional development
takes place when teachers work together and learn from each other throughout the
school day (Sparks & Hirsh, 2000; Speck & Knipe, 2001). In the context of schools,
collaborative processes serve as a vehicle for moving schools forward as staffs work
together toward common learning and student achievement goals.

In her summary of the study of eight schools professional development,
Killion (1999, pp. 12-14) reported an increase in teachers instructional strategies and
student academic success when teachers had time during the school day to collaborate
on an ongoing basis. Another study at a Canadian university reported that face-to-
face interaction was important to collaborative learning processes. The study set out
to determine if on-line or face-to-face interaction was more supportive of
collaborative learning processes (Anderson & Kanuka, 1997). In a three-week virtual
forum, researchers assessed the potential for adopting an on-line forum for
professional growth and development. Collecting data from twenty-three
participants through a survey, telephone interviews, and transcript analysis of
postings, 65% of the respondents felt that on-line interactions were not as effective
as face-to-face interactions would have been. Seventy-nine percent felt that it limited
their ability to communicate through discussion or by asking questions, and 82% felt
that it was more difficult to socialize with other participants. There was low
consensus (14% strongly agreed; 29% agreed) in participants perceiving value to this
kind of platform as a professional development activity. The study concluded that it
was important for the teachers involved in this research to be part of an interactive,
face-to-face learning community; while interaction is important, virtual interaction
did not satisfy the participants needs for supportive collaborative learning. This

study asserted that teachers need ongoing, face-to-face opportunities to learn with
and from one another, supporting the notion that learning occurs through
collaborative structures.
Further illustrating the importance of collaboration among teachers is a study
conducted in an urban high school (Scribner, 1998). This embedded case study
included interviews of forty-five teachers and seven administrators; in addition, it
included observations of professional development activities and faculty meetings.
Professional development activities consisted of workshops, conferences, school
inservices, and university courses. Findings of the study showed that teachers relied
on collaboration to meet professional challenges even though they reported that
opportunities to collaborate were rare. Lack of time as well as isolation worked
against teachers ability to collaborate. The researchers also discovered that whoever
designed their professional development did not typically build collaboration into the
professional development activities. Findings also suggest that isolation impeded the
teachers abilities to engage in learning activities. Indeed, teachers in this study
showed little impact on their practice because of limited and formal professional
development. The researchers concluded by calling attention to the contexts that
define teacher work as well as the types of learning activities in which educators
engage, calling for a school culture that supports learning opportunities that occur

during school hours and between colleagues. The researchers final summary called
for multi-dimensional teacher learning that occurs throughout the school day and
between colleagues to establish a culture of learning. The larger body of research
suggests that the findings of this study are indicative of the lack of collaboration that
impedes teachers ability to establish or engage in such a culture, namely, lack of time
and structure that support collaborative practices within the context of teachers
work (Darling-Hammond, 1999).
Orrill (2001) discovered through observation and interviews in her four
months of research that a collaborative structure supporting one-on-one and group
interactions lead two teachers in a New York City school to reflect and explore new
ideas in supporting middle school teachers to become more learner centered when
implementing computer-based simulations in classrooms. This study supports the
principle of collaboration in professional development design.
Just because educational leaders deem collaborative learning communities to
be important, though, does not mean that teachers will quickly and openly embrace
this type of organizational structure. Robb (2000) warns, You can legislate that
teachers join a study group, but you cant ensure that theyll read professional
literature, participate in group discussions, or try new strategies (p. 3).
Manouchehri (2001) discovered this in her study of two teams of middle school

mathematics teachers as they engaged in a school-wide professional development
project centered on increasing teachers' collegial discourse with the intent to improve
their practice. Through a four-month long, naturalistic case study involving
participant observation and interviews, she observed that mere physical proximity
between the four teachers did not naturally provoke intellectual collaboration. After
watching these teams at work during ten sessions of their planning time and five
rounds of classroom observations, she concluded that one team of teachers engaged
mainly in social conversation, spending little time discussing instruction or pedagogy.
The other team developed into more of a learning community, primarily because one
of the team members continued to push conversations more specifically toward
teaching and learning goals. The researcher speculated that there would have been
greater potential for productive professional discourse had an experienced supervisor
familiar with collaborative teaming facilitated the teams conversations. Along with
other studies discussed in this section, this study makes a case for the need for
structure in the design of professional development activities.
Researchers tested the notion of collaborative structures in another study of
seven elementary teachers who, together with researchers, engaged in a collaborative
structure of professional development (Vaughn, Terrejo Hughes, Shay Schumm, &
Klingner, 1998). In addition to the seven primary participants, five special education

teachers served as secondary participants. The two-year study involved ongoing
interviews of the participants and examination of the teachers learning and
implementation of instructional strategies they learned while meeting together
throughout the school year. Specifically, the researchers introduced one professional
development strategy each quarter of the school year during the first year (i.e.
Writing Process, Collaborative Strategic Reading, Classwide Peer Tutoring, and
Making Wordsall intended to increase literacy capabilities), then examined
implementation follow-up the second year. The collaborative structures provided (a)
the opportunity to learn and reflect on new learning with colleagues, and (b) the
opportunity to engage in collaborative instruction between the general education and
special education teachers who worked in co-teaching situations. Summative findings
suggested that not all teachers implemented all of the four instructional practices,
regardless of the support from coaches or experts. Further, interviews and
observations indicated that general education and special education teachers did not
engage in collaborative teaching to a high degree. What might this study suggest
regarding collaboration among teachers? Salomon and Perkins (1998) remind us that
just because individuals are brought together to collaborate does not mean they will.
Additionally, the study did not discuss whether the participants possessed the
necessary knowledge, skills, or norms to collaborate. If we expect schools to

improve through enhanced teacher learning, then teachers must possess the
knowledge and skills to collaborate, and school leaders must support organizational
structures in which collaboration happens. Said another way, leaders must organize
time within the school day so that teachers can collaborate (Guskey, 1994; Stein, et
al., 1997), coupled with necessary structures to give guidance to the expected
outcomes to which collaborative practices are intended to lead. As it stands,
American teachers work largely alone (Darling-Hammond, 1999), yet research shows
that the most effective form of professional development takes place when teachers
work together and learn from each other throughout the school day (Sparks & Hirsh,
Follow up as design component. Regardless of the design of the professional
development activity, follow up is essential. Unfortunately, the initial design does
not always account for necessary follow up. In 1996, a study examined the delivery
of professional development for administrators (Walker, Mitchel, & Turner, 1999).
The researchers interviewed 182 school-level administrators in an urban school
district three times over the course of two years. The study reported that
administrators look to professional development to meet a wide variety of their
learning needs as well as the needs of their staffs. However, activities not supported
through follow up did not effect change. Without the necessary follow up, there

were no opportunities for teachers to apply or receive feedback regarding the newly
acquired knowledge. The findings of this study clearly mark the need for ongoing
support and follow up of professional development for all educators, certainly
something to pay attention to in the initial design.
Evaluating Professional Development
Twenty-seven years ago, Rose (1976) stated, Evaluation is as basic to
professional development as it is to education. Unfortunately, systematic
evaluations of professional development programs are rarely, if ever, undertaken (p.
1). That statement is as true today as it was over two decades ago. The lack of
published studies evaluating professional development shows that not much has
changed in nearly three decades. Evaluating professional development takes time and
money, both of which are in limited supply in school districts (Eraut, 1995), which
might explain why so few studies exist. However, the increased focus on the need for
evaluation and the emergence of models to carry out evaluations may enrich the
literature base.
The essence of evaluating professional development lies in the ability to ask
good questions and to seek and understand valid answers (Guskey, 2000).
Professional development must be evaluated to determine if, indeed, the professional
development activities are affecting instruction and raising student achievement.

Guskey (2000) maintains, Clearly, if professional development does not alter
teachers professional knowledge or the classroom practices they employ, little
improvement in student learning can be expected. Successful implementation is
difficult to measure without evaluation; overall, we know little about the difference
professional development makes (Eraut, 1995). When professional developers
evaluate programs, seminars, and workshops, the evaluations are typically superficial
and not to the deep level that determine the impact on students. Ultimately,
professional developers should measure the success of professional development on
improved instruction and improved student achievement rather than measuring how
participants enjoyed it or perceived its value (Guskey, 2000; Sparks & Hirsh, 2000;
Speck & Knipe, 2001).
Summary of Professional Development
Contemporary beliefs of effective professional development, along with
research studies discussed in this section, call for well-designed and effective
professional development that (a) improves teachers knowledge (e.g. Adams, et al.,
2000; Garet, et al., 2001; Grossman & Stodolsky, 1995), (b) engages teachers in
collective learning through structured activities (e.g. Anderson & Kanuka, 1997; Fien
& Rawling, 1996; Geimer, et al., 2000; Killion, 1999; Manouchehri, 2001; Orrill,
2001; Scribner, 1998; Vaughn, et al., 1998), (c) follows up with ongoing support

(Walker, et al., 1999), and (d) evaluates outcomes at deep levels in order to uncover
its relationship to teacher learning and student learning (Guskey, 2000; Sparks &
Hirsh, 2000; Speck & Knipe, 2001). The following section explores the relationship
between professional development and teacher learning.
Teacher Learning: Context and Process of Learning
Hawley and Valli (1998) criticize conventional approaches to professional
development, stating many are not suitable to adult learners needs. In order to
design and deliver effective professional development activities resulting in increased
teacher knowledge, skills, and improvements in practice that increase their students
achievement, the planning task must focus on how (process) and under what
conditions (context) teachers go about increasing their knowledge and skills. This
section includes an analysis of the literature that (a) explores learning theories to help
understand how adults learn in order to advance their skills and knowledge, and (b)
offers perspectives on conditions in research situations supporting the ongoing
learning that occurs when teachers collectively participate in professional

Teacher Learning and Process
Teachers learn when they collaboratively engage with one another; they learn
by reading, reflecting, and examining students and their work, and by sharing and
inquiring about what they see (Darling-Hammond, 1998; Darling-Hammond &
McLaughlin, 1995). Teacher learning involves long-term development that builds on
their existing knowledge and set of experiences with new learning and unfamiliar
Social and constructivist learning theories apply to the kind of collaborative
and interactive practices called for in current professional development literature
(Pardini, 2001; Scribner, 1998; Sparks, 2000; Speck & Knipe, 2001). Social learning
theories state that learning occurs through reciprocal relations within a social
environment (Bandura, 1977; Salomon & Perkins, 1998). Contrasting these theories
is the claim that many teachers currently learn and practice in isolation (Fullan, 1993;
Guskey, 2000). By considering social aspects of learning, we elevate professional
development from an individual to a collective activity wherein teachers come
together as they learn through professional development; they increase their
knowledge and skills, examine their practice, examine student work, or engage in
discourse around educational issues. Social learning provides us with an
epistemological understanding of how adultsin this case, teachersleam from and

with one another. Vygotskys concept of the Zone of Proximal Development
influences much of social learning theory (Cole, John-Steiner, Scribner, & Souberman,
1978; Leong & Bodrova, 1995; Salomon & Perkins, 1998; Wertsch, 1998). The Zone
of Proximal Development (ZPD) serves as a conceptual framework to help
understand the relationship between learning and development wherein the learner
externalizes social processes, thereby raising the cognitive performance of individuals
in ways they would not have reached without mediation (Leong & Bodrova, 1995;
Wertsch, 1998). Based on a series of carefully calibrated experiments, Vygotsky
coined ZPD to describe a childs ability to perform tasks independently and with
assistance, postulating that development is not a point on a scale. Rather,
development is a continuum of behaviors. Independent performance is what a child
knows and can do alone, while assisted performance is what the child can do with
assistance in a social environment. As teachers monitor and assess what a child is
able to do independently, they assist him or her in moving beyond his or her current
zoneor levelof performance. This recursive process continues to move the child
to higher levels of learning, initially with assistance, then graduating into independent
Although Vygotsky applied his study to the independent performance and
assisted performance of children (Leong & Bodrova, 1995), I suggest that the same

logic applies to teachers as they learn and implement new instructional strategies. A
teachers current level of understanding, from a Vygotskian perspective, can be
elevated to a more complex level when that teacher socially engages with another who
possesses a more advanced level of understanding. Through dialogue, modeling,
coaching, or a combination of these social activities, the less experienced teacher
assimilates the new skill or performance, building on his or her existing cognitive
schema. Eventually, the less experienced teacher will independently perform the
skill, consequently moving beyond his or her current zone of proximal development.
Spillane (1999) refers to a similar structure applied specifically to teacher learning,
the zone of enactment. He described the zone of enactment as ...that zone in which
teachers notice, construe, construct and operationalize the instructional ideas
advocated by reformers (p. 144). Spillane (1999) conducted a five-year case study
of mathematics teachers and their efforts to change their practices. Initially, 283
teachers responded to a questionnaire regarding reforms in mathematics and science
teaching. Of those who responded, he selected to observe and interview 25 who
scored high on the reform scale. He learned that teachers were more likely to change
their practice when they engaged in rich deliberations and conversations with
colleagues about their practice. Said another way, those teachers whose zone of

enactment was social showed evidence of changing their practice over those whose
zone of enactment was individualistic or private.
Lave and Wenger (1991) view learning as an integral and inseparable aspect of
social and situated practice, termed legitimate peripheral participation. They posit
that an apprentice in the presence of someone with a deeper knowledge and skill base
learns a trade or skill. Through social interactions, the apprentice becomes a full
participant who can readily apply his or her learning. Using legitimate peripheral
participation as a lens through which to view professional development in social
situations, teachers are able to share their range of experiences and expertise with one
another. Novice teachers have access to a wide range of professionally related
activities while more skilled teachers offer their knowledge, experience, and resources.
Two research studies help put this in a context of teacher learning in
educations model of apprenticeship, that of student teaching (Landt, 2002; Lemlech
& Hertzog, 1999). A third study explored teacher learning among and between
novice and veteran teachers (Johnson & Kardos, 2002), and a fourth study examined
the functions of a community of teacher learners (Thomas, Wineburg, Grossman,
Myhre, & Woolworth, 1998). The first of the aforementioned studies investigated
what master teachers and student teachers learned from one another during reciprocal
teaching (Lemlech & Hertzog, 1999). The researchers examined teacher learning

through an innovative approach that paired two student teachers with one
cooperating teacher, restructuring the social configuration of the student teaching
experience. They collected data over an academic year as part of two case studies:
(a) interviews and observations of 16 student teachers, their eight cooperating
teachers, three additional supervising teachers who did not have students at that time,
and four university coordinators; and (b) questionnaires of 56 student teachers, and
an interview of a sample group among them. They concluded that there is value in
pairing student teachers with cooperating teachers, finding the development of
collegiality affected both the novice and master teacher. Partnering created a
structure for conversation about teaching wherein the participants compared
accepted and best practices as well as childrens needs. The participants reported
value in professional dialogue, reflection, and collegiality; further, they gained a
deeper respect for the developmental process of learning to teach.
A second study, while also focusing on the social nature of cognition, took a
different approach to understanding learning in this context. This study examined
connections between being a cooperating teacher as a form of professional
development, demonstrating that veteran teachers who desire to transform their
teaching practices can use their work with student teachers as professional growth
opportunities (Landt, 2002). Through two-hour interviews of 18 cooperating

teachers whose experience ranged from five to thirty-five years, Landt set out to
learn the extent to which (a) cooperating teachers changed their practice as a result of
working with student teachers, (b) the role as cooperating teacher stimulated
reflection on their teaching practice, and (c) the cooperating teachers practice was
affected by taking on that role. Her research found that all 18 teachers agreed they
were better teachers in some manner because of working with a student teacher, and
each reported making changes in their practice that they attributed to their role as
cooperating teacher.
The third study focused on 50 Massachusetts teachers over a five-year
period wherein the researchers set out to understand new teachers experiences better
and determine how best to recruit, support, and retain teachers (Johnson & Kardos,
2002). Through a series of interviews in this qualitative study, the researchers
concluded that new teachers seek access to experienced colleagues who will watch
them teach and provide feedback, help them develop instructional strategies, model
skilled teaching, and share insights about students work. Further, they determined
novice teachers needed sustained, site-based professional development, guided by
expert colleagues responsive to their learning needs.
Finally, researchers in a two-year study of teachers in a large, multiethnic
urban high school examined the groups discourse as a measure of their collective

professional development (Thomas, et al., 1998). Twenty-six teachers (nine English,
five history, four student teachers, one special education teacher, one English as a
Second Language teacher, one librarian, and five university researchers) with differing
experience levels met twice a month to read and discuss literature and history and to
develop curricular units. The research team interviewed and surveyed teachers to
determine their learning experiences in this community of learners. The researchers
found that new teachers actively sought collegiality provided by the project, while
some experienced teachers found the project activities difficult and threatening. This
led the researchers to wonder about the complexity of changing practice when
teachers hold deeply rooted beliefs and approaches to teaching and learning. They
did, however, find evidence that teachers tried out the curricular units they developed
with colleagues, and they brought project-related text into the classroom.
In summarizing social and constructivist learning theories, research shows
that learning occurs both as a social activity in interaction with others and as a
situated activity, taking into account the context. I assert that schools serve as a
context for learning, and teachers are the social players who learn formally and
informally from one another.
Other studies examine ongoing teacher learning and its relation to changes in
practice (Davis, 2001; Drake, Spillane, & Hufferd-Ackles, 2001; Kim & Zitzer,

1999). Davis (2001) examined teacher learning out of concern for lack of change in
science instruction in spite of intensive call for instructional reform. Defining teacher
learning as ...the process of acquiring new ideas, changing or deleting old ones, and
gleaning new knowledge and skills (p. 5), she postulates that teacher learning is a
key to educational reform. She further states that teacher learning must take place
within the school and classroom settings. To examine this further, she conducted
more than 40 site visits to a middle school over a nine-month period, collecting data
through observations of classrooms and faculty meetings; through interviews with
teachers, 24 students, administrators, and university site coordinators; and through
review of science curriculum materials and state and district documents related to
reform efforts. Within her research questions, she examined (a) how staff
development with constructivist underpinnings facilitated teacher learning, and (b)
how regular and frequent opportunities for interactions with colleagues and outside
support personnel contributed to teacher learning. Throughout the study,
professional development sessions provided time for teachers to share ideas on how
the science program was working and to talk about learning theories and the
application of those theories to science instruction. Her research revealed that many
teachers valued opportunities to talk with other educators, and they built on each
others ideas and collectively examined approaches and problems of practice. She

concluded by calling for educational leaders to attend to the many factors related to
successful reform, particularly support for social and constructivist teacher learning.
While Daviss study examined teacher learning in social contexts, Drake,
Spillane, and Hufferd-Ackles (2001) took a different approach to explore the
complexities of teacher learning as they embarked on a study involving ten first
through fourth grade teachers in three urban schools, all who were implementing the
same new mathematics curriculum. They approached the study believing all learning
is situated and that teachers identities as teachers and as learners shape what and
how they learn. They observed teachers for two years from ten to fifty times over
the course of each school year, followed by 20-30 minute interviews through which
they gathered teachers stories of how they identified themselves as teachers and
learners. So rather than looking at socially situated learning, they examined learning
through ways in which teachers identified themselves as learners. The researchers
found differences in how teachers perceived themselves as teachers and learners of
mathematics and how they perceived themselves as teachers and learners of literacy.
In terms of mathematics, they discovered that reform-oriented teachers looked to
curriculum as a source for learning, culturally-oriented teachers learned from their
own and their students experiences, and non-reform teachersprimarily early-career
teachersdid not see themselves as learning from either curriculum or from their own

or their students experiences. Said another way, they discovered the teachers had
limited situations in which they reported learning mathematics. Conversely, the
teachers reported having many situations for literary learning. The researchers
concluded that improving and enriching situated contexts in which teachers learn
mathematics will expand and enhance their identities as teachers of mathematics.
Kim & Zitzer (1999) conducted a qualitative study to identify descriptors
explaining teachers learning experiences. They began with The Powerful Learning
Framework developed by the Accelerated Schools Project that provides descriptors
for student learning. They believed, however, that teacher learning had unique
characteristics different from student learning. The researchers interviewed seven
teachers regarding their own learning experiences, and then measured the interview
data against the initial framework. They found the descriptors for teacher learning
include (a) authentic learning, wherein teachers relate what they experience to real
issues and situations; (b) interactive learning with opportunities to collaborate with
others; (c) learner-centered, which includes teacher exploration and continual
discovery; (d) inclusive learning, giving all teachers equal access to learning
opportunities; and (e) continuous learning, which strengthens connections between
different learning contexts. This study supports the collaborative and social nature

(i.e. interactive, inclusive) as well as the constructivist concept (i.e. authentic, learner-
centered, and continuous), all of which are essential to teacher learning.
Summary of Teacher Learning
In this section, I connected collaborative professional development design and
context with learning theories that provide lenses through which to view teacher
learning. Research supports that (a) teachers learn through social and constructivist
situations (e.g. Johnson & Kardos, 2002; Landt, 2002; Lemleck & Hertzog, 1999;
Spillane, 1999; Thomas, et al., 1998), and (b) professional development serves as a
catalyst for social and constructivist teacher learning as a means of examining and
changing their practice (e.g. Davis, 2002; Drake, et al., 2001; Kim & Zitzer, 1999).
The following section explores the relationship between teacher learning and changes
in practice.
Instructional Practice: Result of Teacher Learning
It is imperative to design professional development with outcomes to
improve the quality of teaching. While teachers are key agents in changing classroom
practice (Spillane, 1999), we cannot assume that teachers will immediately move
toward implementing new instructional practices even if they felt the experience was
worthwhile and even if there is adequate organizational support. New learning takes

time to transfer (Guskey, 2000; Rogers, 1995; Skinner, 1986; Weinert & Helmke,
In addition to applying knowledge about teacher learning, high quality
professional development also applies knowledge about change. Teachers are
ultimately responsible for implementing change in instructional practice (Spillane,
1999); therefore, professional development must address the needs and concerns of
teachers both individually and as members of an organization (Guskey, 1994; Stein,
et al., 1997). Change affects staff members in personal ways, and each teacher is at
his or her own level of readiness for changes (Stein, et al., 1997). Rogers (1995)
reminds us that adopting change occurs at different times, depending on the
individuals or the organizations readiness to adopt new programs or strategies.
Guskey relayed in a presentation (2001) that as he studies professional development
and change in schools, he finds teachers are more likely to embrace change when they
see that doing so will improve student learning.
Four studies, while divergent in scope and method, all examine the effects of
teacher learning on their practice through implementation (Bryant, Linan-Thompson,
Ugel, Hamff, & Hougen, 2001; McDiarmid & Corcoran, 2000; Unok Marks &
Gersten, 1998; Vaughn, et al., 1998). As the state of Kentucky set out over a decade
ago to overhaul their public school system, policymakers recognized that teachers

needed new knowledge and skills in order to help students meet demanding learning
goals (McDiarmid & Corcoran, 2000). Two assumptions about teacher learning and
classroom practice guided their ongoing study of the reform efforts: (a) teachers had
to learn not only learning outcomes for students, but also how to transform their
knowledge into opportunities for students to learn; and (b) identifying student
content-specific outcomes did not fully encompass what teachers needed to know
about the content. Through surveys and interviews of teachers regarding their
professional development, the researchers determined that teachers had to unlearn old
practices before implementing new. Another research team, though employing a
different research method, found similar results (Bryant, et al., 2001). Their study
examined a four-month professional development reading intervention program with
ten middle school teachers. Through interviews and evaluation forms that looked for
promoters of and barriers to implementation of instructional strategies learned -
through professional development, the data suggest that although teachers seemed to
understand the strategies after each of the inservices, very few of them taught the
strategy to students. Teachers reported they needed more time to become
comfortable with the strategies themselves before introducing them to students, and
they asked for more in-class modeling to show them how to implement the strategies.

In an effort to understand the engagement of teachers in professional
development learning that results in changes in practice, a group of researchers from
Eugene Research Institute and University of Oregon conducted a small, cross-case
qualitative analysis (Unok Marks & Gersten, 1998). Prior to the study, they
assumed that change in instructional practice would be gradual; they set out to test
this assumption through action research that included informal interviews with
teachers and analysis of documents (i.e. memos, reflections, observation notes, and
field notes). In total, twelve first through sixth grade teachers and five sixth and
seventh grade teachers were involved in two coaching projects intended to help them
tailor new teaching strategies. The instructional coaches represented special
educators who observed classroom teachers experiment with implementing new
strategies; the coaches then provided feedback to the teacher based on the
observation. The researchers studied (a) how to engage teachers and what would
sustain their engagement; and (b) how teachers changed their practice based on
suggested changes. They found that contextual variables included personal
preference, a willingness or lack of willingness to change, and previous experiences in
a co-teaching or collaborative situation influenced teachers engagement in the
coaching process. Further, their findings supported their initial assumption that

implementation is gradual, and they warn not to expect significant changes in
instructional practice too soon.
In the previous section of this chapter, I reviewed a study as part of the
discussion around collaborative structures (Vaughn, et al., 1998). While the study
helps explore teachers work within collaborative structures, it also helps to uncover
the degree to which teachers implement their learning through professional
development. Among the findings of the two-year study are these:
Teachers preferred easy-to-implement practices to use with a whole class.
Teachers commitment to implement and attend follow-up meetings
enhanced the likelihood of implementation.
Teachers learned the global features of instructional practices, but often did
not maximize its effectiveness by providing differentiated instruction for
special learners.
Some of the teachers selected a few of the instructional practices that best
suited their present teaching practice and that required little or no additional
Those who implemented instructional practices in the first year of the study
tended to carry over the following year with the same level of

An important lesson comes from these studies: teachers may not
immediately implement their new learning because they do not have adequate time to
process or practice. Indeed, teachers may attempt changes in their practice, but they
are unable to sustain them and become frustrated and discouraged without deep
support structures in place (McLaughlin & Talbert, 1993). Tyler (as cited in
Guskey, 2000) refers to this as pulling up the plant to see if the roots have taken.
Too often in education, we expect a quick turnaround of events; we expect immediate
changes in practice. If we expect teachers to make deep connections between subject
matter and pedagogy, we must factor in time to make those connections. Teachers
are more likely to change their practice through deliberations and conversations with
colleagues (Spillane, 1999).
Summary of Instructional Practice
Professional development may provide new learning for teachers, but there is
no guarantee that new learning will translate into their instructional practice.
Therefore, support for implementation and changes in practice are essential. Such
support includes (a) providing time for teachers to explore their practice critically
and make changes accordingly (e.g. Bryant, et al., 2001; McDiarmid & Corcoran,
2000; Unok Marks & Gersten, 1998), and (b) providing structures in which teachers
engage in collective dialogue and conversation about changes in their practice

(Spillane, 1999; Vaughn, et al., 1998). The following section explores how teacher
learning that results in changes in practice impacts student achievement.
Student Achievement: Result of Improved Instruction
In what ways do changes in instructional practice influence student
achievement? This section considers this question in relationship to teacher learning
and changes in instructional practices. While emerging research examines these
relationships, it remains scarce and does not go far in helping us answer this question.
What those in the field agree upon is that we must evaluate professional development
in ways that help us see its relationship to student achievement. This section draws
from literature that considers research that examines relationships among teacher
learning, teacher practice, and student learning.
Relationships Between Teacher and Student Learning
Research shows there is a direct relationship between what teachers know
and are able to do and how well their students perform. Darling-Hammond (1997)
reported that money spent on improving teachers qualifications has the greatest
impact on improving students learning. While Darling-Hammonds research focused
on the initial preparation of teachers, her findings offer implications for ongoing
teacher training. A large-scale study draws a similar conclusion correlating the

quality of teachers with the level of student achievement (Sanders & Horn, 1998). In
1992, legislators in Tennessee agreed to spend money on improving student
achievement, but demanded strong accountability of teachers, schools, and districts.
The Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (also referred to as the Sanders
Model) accounts for the effects of teachers, schools, and districts on student
achievement. Researchers collected and analyzed longitudinal test data for each
student from third to eighth grade; they considered a wide range of variables in the
analysis (i.e. socio-economic factors, race, gender, class size). Because the data
provided a linear view of individual student performance over time and between
classes or even schools, the researchers were able to determine unbiased predictors of
the effectiveness of individual teachers as well as schools and school systems.
Their research results consistently showed that teacher effectiveness was the most
important factor in the academic growth of students; said another way, the more
knowledgeable and skilled the teacher, the more likely students were to successfully
perform on Tennessees standards-based assessments.
This compelling research clearly connects teacher learning with student
learning. Also emerging in the literature are studies that specifically examine
relationships between teachers learning through professional development and their
students learning. There is a call from the field to align through research professional

development, change in teacher practice, and change in student performance
(Greenwood, 1998). Five studies illustrate how researchers are responding to this
need (Ancess, 2000; Fisher, 2001; Harwell, DAmico, Stein, & Gatti, 2000;
McCaffrey, Hamilton, Stecher, Klein, Bugliari, & Robyn, 2001; Wenglinsky, 2002).
One such study examined the reciprocal and dynamic relationship of teacher
learning, teaching practice, and student outcomes in three east coast high performing
secondary schools for at-risk students (Ancess, 2000). Over a five-year period, the
researchers collected and analyzed data through formal and informal interviews of 66
faculty members and 96 students; formal and informal observations within
classrooms and throughout the school; and surveys of students perceptions of their
affiliation with their school, their intellectual development, their relationship with
teachers, and the pedagogy to which they were exposed. Each of the three sites were
undergoing restructure: one was reorganizing their staff into interdisciplinary teams,
a second was restructuring their schedule and adopting a course specifically designed
to focus on raising academic standards and student performance, and a third was
restructuring their entire organizational system including curriculum, instruction,
assessment, student support services, and decision-making processes. In the school
where teachers were forming interdisciplinary teams, the faculty reported learning
individually and collectively that increased control over the conditions of their

teaching and student learning could increase their control over the quality of student
performance; they examined their own practice as a powerful source of improving
their and their students learning. Specifically, the course pass rate for the school
increased by 5% after the first year of restructuring. The school that adopted the
new course instituted appropriate interventions for student success, and teachers and
students reported improvement in student writing because of the course. Finally, the
school that restructured their entire system reported a change in student outcomes
because of restructuring, namely, improvement in writing assessment scores and an
increase in college admission. The researcher concluded with a cross-case analysis
that reflected the interconnectedness of relationships between teacher learning and
student learning. In these three cases, teachers engagement in professional
development affected their practice, which influenced student achievement as
evidenced by an increase of students passing courses, an improvement in writing
scores, and an increase in the number of students admitted to college.
A California study of one of its lowest performing high schools found that
student achievement in reading increased as a result of focused professional
development around instructional strategies (Fisher, 2001). Fifty-four teachers
participated in focus groups over two months. The researcher randomly selected ten
of the fifty-four for three unannounced classroom observations to capture in field

notes the teachers instructional strategies. The professional development committee
identified specific reading strategies they expected the teachers to use, and the
teachers took part in monthly meetings where they discussed the implementation of
those specific reading strategies. In a years time, reading scores increased by 12%
overall on the statewide achievement test, and the average reader improved
approximately a one-year grade equivalent on the Gates-MacGinitie test. Using a
recursive data analysis process throughout the study, the researcher concluded that
there was no simple answer as to why reading achievement improved over the school
year. However, his data suggested quality instruction influenced student
achievement, and he linked achievement to professional development of teachers.
One study of a New York City district explored the influence of factors in
student achievement with particular attention paid to teacher professional
development (Harwell, et al., 2000). Thirty-seven teachers in third and fifth grades
responded to two questionnaires to gather information about the frequency of their
participation in professional development activities as part of their regular daily
routine. The survey indicated that teachers participated in mathematics-related
professional development one or two times a year and literacy-related activities
monthly. A multi-level analysis on a sample of student data for which there was also
teacher questionnaire response indicated that only a few of the identified professional

development activities accounted for differences in achievement patterns.
Specifically, none of the mathematics-related activities could explain differences, and
only two of the literacy-related experiences could explain differences in literacy
achievement. Further analysis showed when teachers discussed strategies with one
another, students showed slight literacy gains. This study supports a connection
between professional development where teachers engage in professional dialogue
with an increase in their students achievement.
A national study sought connections between teachers learning through
professional development and their students achievement. Researchers studied
eleven school sites across the nation to investigate the degree to which teachers use
of instructional practices in mathematics and science aligned with reforms related to
student achievement (McCaffrey, et al., 2001). They asked teachers how well they
were prepared to engage in a range of instructional activities, how frequently they
engaged in instructional activities, and how frequently students engaged in related
learning activities. Study participants were simultaneously engaged in professional
development training designed to increase their use of classroom practices believed to
improve achievement (i.e. integrated approaches to teaching mathematics). Looking
at a range of students from third through eighth grade, Stanford Achievement Test
results, coupled with teachers reporting on a questionnaire, showed small, positive

relationships between teachers reported use of reform practices and students
achievement with consistency across grade levels and sites (0.27 correlation between
traditional practice and achievement; -0.32 correlation between integrated practice
and achievement).
Wenglinsky (2002) explored the link between classroom practices and student
academic performance by applying a multilevel analysis model to the 1996 National
Assessment of Educational Progress in mathematics. His study looked specifically
at 7,146 eighth graders who took the 1996 NAEP mathematics assessments and their
teachers. He hypothesized that analyzing the data available about teacher quality
would show that classroom practices would have the greatest impact on students
test scores followed by the teachers participation in professional development; he
measured test scores against these variables. Running the data through his analysis
model confirmed that teacher quality had the greatest impact on test performance and
that those students whose teachers received professional development in learning
how to teach different groups of students outperformed students whose teachers did
not receive such professional development. Further, he found that participation in
professional development in general influences teachers classroom practices. The
study, however, is limited in that teachers reporting of participation in professional

development did not distinguish between rich, sustained professional development
and a one-time seminar.
Summary of Student Achievement Results
This collection of studies attempts to make connections between teachers
engagement in professional development activities and the achievement of their
students (e.g. Ancess, 2000; Fisher, 2001; Harwell, et al., 2000; McCaffrey, et al.,
2001; Sanders & Horn, 1998; Wenglinsky, 2002). While acknowledging the
complexities of making such connections, the studies fail to show a widespread or
systematic means of measuring the effects of professional development on student
achievement. The literature is lacking large-scale studies that attempt to answer the
important question: To what extent does teachers professional development impact
student achievement?
Summary of Literature Review
Professional development has the potential to affect multiple facets of
learning in education. Guided by the conceptual framework for this study, a review
of the body of professional development literature shows that effective professional
development improves teachers knowledge, engages teachers in collective learning,
follows up with ongoing support, and evaluates outcomes at deep levels. A review

of the body of literature published on teacher learning shows that teachers learn
through social and constructivist situations, and that professional development
serves as a catalyst for teachers to examine and change their practice. A review of the
body of literature regarding instructional practice reveals that in order for changes in
practice to occur, teachers must have time to explore their practice critically and
make changes, and they must have structured dialogue about changes in their practice.
Finally, a review of literature surrounding student achievement results exemplifies the
difficulty in connecting teachers engagement in professional development and results
in students achievement by the lack of large-scale studies in this arena. Studies are
emerging that show promise toward making a connection; however, research is still
catching up to the concept of the impact of quality professional development on
multiple facets of teacher and student learning.
This collective review of the body of literature shows that researchers are
conducting more advanced and sophisticated studies in the field of educational
professional development. Whereas many earlier publications attempted to define
professional development and make suggestions about design and delivery, more
recent studies strive to study organizational structures in which professional learning
is effective. Further, some current studies attempt to make connections among

professional development and teacher learning, teacher practice, and student
However, acknowledging that the literature base is building around these
important professional development issues, there remain some fundamental
questions not yet answered. The literature does not discern aspects of teacher
learning that are similar or dissimilar to other professionals learning. Specifically, we
do not know if there are unique characteristics or nuances related to teacher learning
that professional developers need to take into account when designing professional
development for educators. Nor does the literature offer studies that consider
variables that might bear on the content, context, readiness, or motivation for teachers
to learn. Literature does not make clear what factors into the motivation, willingness,
or resistance for teachers to change their practice. Researchers have yet to consider
who measures changes in teachers practice as well as what reliable student
achievement measurements we are willing to trust as measures of teacher
effectiveness. Finally, are some professional development models more effective
than others in increasing teacher learning, changes in practice, and increasing student
achievement? The literature base has yet to produce research that tackles these
aspects of professional development.

The Need for Further Study
Having discussed what the literature saysand does not saythis literature
review shows a great need for study in the field of professional development as it
relates to changing teacher learning, teacher practice, and its effects on student
achievement. There is also a need to learn more about the effectiveness of the various
design structures of professional development touted in the professional
development arena. While current studies are promising, researchers have not tested
a consistent model for evaluating professional development, particularly as it relates
to the achievement of students. Because researchers have not tested evaluation
models on a wide scale, the models effectiveness and reliability are questionable.
This literature review explores theories of learning in the context of teacher
professional development. Additionally, studies illuminate the effects of
professional development on teacher learning, changes in teacher practice, and the
effects of teacher learning on student achievement. In an effort to contribute to this
emerging body of literature, I conducted my study to explore ways in which
professional development influences all of the areas that can be impacted by
professional development: teacher learning, classroom practice, and student
achievement. The following chapter more fully explains the processes and
procedures used in gathering and analyzing data.

This case study explored the ways in which teacher learning through
professional development activities affected student achievement. In order to explore
potential relationships between teacher learning and student achievement, it was
important to uncover what happens among professional development, teacher
learning resulting from that professional development, teacher practice, and student
learning measured by achievement data. The study gathered evidence of teacher
learning through professional development activities, the extent to which teachers
transferred their learning into their practices, and finally the relationship between
instruction and student achievement. Specifically, three questions framed the study,
crafted to answer the larger question How does teacher professional development
impact student achievement?
1. How does professional development influence teacher learning?
2. How does teacher learning through professional development impact
instructional practice?
3. How does teacher practice impact student achievement, specifically the
achievement of struggling readers?

Context of the Study Site
Vision Middle School is located in the western region of the United States in a
rapidly growing area. Five years ago, the school was on a rural site; today, it lies on
the fringes of suburbia. Residential and commercial development marks what in the
recent past was open, undeveloped ranch land where horses outnumbered people.
The schools population mirrored that of the surrounding area. From 2000 to 2002,
the population increased by 25% from 744 to 932 students. The number of minority
students increased in that same time period from 8% in 2000 to 11%. At the time of
the study, the student body was 89% Caucasian, 6% Hispanic, 2% Black, 2%Asian
Pacific, and 1% Native American The average age range of the seventh and eighth
grade students ran from 12 to 14 years old. Of the 65 certified staff members, 89%
were Caucasian, 6% were Hispanic, 3% were Asian Pacific, and 2% were African-
American. The average number of years in teaching was nine, and 60% of the
teachers taught in the area in which they received their degree. Fifty-one percent of
them held bachelors degrees, while the remaining 49% held masters degrees.
At the time of the study, Fillmore School District to which Vision Middle
School belongs had a student population of approximately 39,000 and a teacher and
staff population of nearly 5,000. The district experienced an average annual student
growth of 6%-7%. Fillmore district supported the professional growth of teachers

and classified personnel through a district-wide professional development center.
The professional development center staff included a director, an assistant director, a
registrar, a bookkeeper, and a secretary. Collectively, they offered all professional
development courses via an online catalog, kept track of registration and credit for the
participants, collected payment, paid instructors, and oversaw approval of site-based
courses. The center itself did not accommodate space for all courses; rather, most
courses were offered at various sites throughout the district. Courses offered online
were fluid; in other words, there was no set number of courses offered at any given
time, and new courses were added frequently. In addition to overseeing district
professional development, the director and assistant director were in charge of the
group of site-based professional developers, offering ongoing support and training
through monthly meetings. Both classified and certified staff members across the
district were encouraged to take professional development courses. The district
offered some of the courses at a nominal cost, but teachers could use course credit
toward salary advancement. They offered other courses as a skill block, where the
participant received a one-time stipend. Further, each school in the district housed a
specialist whose responsibilities include coordinating the professional development
of its staff; that was my position in this school. At Vision, professional
development received approximately 10% of the 2002-03 school budget. The

majority of the money secured substitutes for classroom teachers released to engage
in department or team planning days. Every department, as well as every
interdisciplinary team, received at least one full day during the school year to engage
in collective professional development. In addition, all teachers in the building
participated in a monthly 50-minute session of job-embedded professional
development. Job embedded in this sense simply means that the professional
development activities took part during the school day during a portion of the
teachers planning time; there was no other structure to the job-embedded
professional development in this case. Teachers across the building joined in these
sessions by virtue of a common planning time rather than by interest or need for
learning. That made job-embedded professional development a challenge as I strived
to organize meaningful learning activities that addressed state, district, and school
goals and that applied to all content areas. Because the Colorado Basic Literacy Act
and ILPs were entirely new concepts to these middle school teachers, I devoted much
of the professional development during the study to introducing reading strategies
that teachers in any content could adapt for their students.
The building administration required interdisciplinary teams to meet regularly
throughout the week during common planning time; they required department
members to meet monthly either before or after school. However, they did not

impose required structures, guidelines, or expectations to these meetings and no
accountability for participation existed. In other words, it was up to team leaders or
department chairs to organize the meetings. Meetings varied greatly from one team
and department to another.
Background of the Study Participants
The study focused on an interdisciplinary team of four seventh grade teachers
representing math, science, language arts, and social studies. Additionally, seventeen
of the teams 108 students came to Vision reading at least one grade below grade level
and were, therefore, on ILPs. I invited all seventeen of the teams students on ILPs
to participate in interviews. Six agreed to be interviewed, two declined to take part in
interviews, and the remaining students did not respond to either of two invitations.
As a point of interest, three of the students who did not participate in the interview
portion of the study sought me out to talk to me about the project. Two of them
told me they were going to participate, but kept forgetting to get their parents to sign
the consent form (see Appendix A for participant consent forms). I gave them a
third copy of the consent form, but did not receive consent forms from either of
these students or from their parents. A third student told me that he thought it
would take too much time, and he needed all the time in class he could get. When I
assured him it would be very little time away from class over the course of an entire

semester, he concluded with, Well, I already feel different [from other students].
This wouldnt help any (field notes). I examined reading achievement data from all
of the seventeen students.
Since ILPs focused on instructional support provided by classroom teachers
in the context of the regular school day, it was considered a classroom-level
intervention, not a supplemental support service. Some students on ILPs received
additional learning services through English as a Second Language (ESL) or special
education. Table 3.1 illustrates that 12 of the 17 students in the study (71%)
received intervening services outside of the classroom. Five of the 17 students (29%)
Table 3.1
Support Services in Addition to ILPs
Additional Support Services Number of Students
English as a Second Language 2
Special Education 5
Small Group with Literacy Specialist 5
No other services 5
received reading support in a pullout program with the building literacy specialist. I
disaggregate these data in Chapter 4 as I analyze the students reading achievement

scores. This team was selected because the teachers represented a variety of content
areas as well as a range in their years of teaching experiencefrom one year to
thirteen years experience, five years being the average. Two of the four had earned
masters degrees. The teachers were also the only team in the seventh grade that had
worked together the previous school year. The heterogeneous composition of
students on this team was similar to other seventh grade teams in the building in
terms of total number of students and the number of students with ILPs.
The study took place over the course of the first semester of the 2002-03
school year, from mid-August to mid-January. During this period, the four teachers
participated in 53 job-embedded professional development activities for a total of
181 hours. I provide further detail of their engagement in specific activities in
Chapter 4; however, Table 3.2 breaks down their time spent on all professional
development activities and the amount of time spent specifically on reading-related
professional development.

Table 3.2
Professional Development Participation in Hours
Abbott Haynes Kirk Sellick
Reading Total Reading Total Reading Total Reading Total
9.5 45.5 10.5 42.5 8.5 45.5 11.5 42.5
During the period of the study, the teachers spent seventeen percent of their
total professional development time on job-embedded activities to increase the
teachers knowledge and use of effective reading instruction. This year was the first
time these teachers had encountered the ILP process. Because all of the ILPs
addressed reading skills, the professional development activities helped meet the
teachers need to further their understanding of how to help students become better
readers. The teachers participated in specific professional development activities to
meet a particular group of students needs. This made the study more reasonable for
examining relationships between the development of the teachers as they increased
their knowledge of teaching reading and the achievement of this group of struggling
readers. Beyond the job-embedded activities, none of the teachers reported taking
part in any outside professional development during the study period.

Participation in this study was voluntary. Each teacher and student who
agreed to take part signed a consent form, which outlined the purpose and format of
the study. I provided a summary of the interviews and observations to each as a
measure of accuracy, reliability, and research integrity. In addition, I took actions to
ensure confidentiality to each of the teachers and each of the students; I used
pseudonyms for each participant.
Seeking Evidence Through Case Study
I conducted the study using a case study approach, a popular research
method for studying interventions or innovations in educational settings (Lancy,
1993). Case study design is an ideal methodology for holistic, in-depth investigation
as a way to bring out details from the participants points of view in multiple ways
through multiple sources of data (Tellis, 1997). The study followed a holistic, single-
case design where the unit of analysis was a single team of teachers and an identified
group of their students within a middle school. Case studies seek explanations to
provide deeper understandings of issues or problems in practice while allowing for
work in natural situations (Krathwohl, 1998). Yin (1994), an expert on case study
methodology, calls for case studies where the events are contemporary, where the
researcher has no control over behavioral events, and where the investigators goal is
to expand and generalize theories. Instead of seeking answers or explanations for the

entire field, a case study allows for detailed illumination of a specific critical issue in
education. Yin identifies quality case studies as those that are significant, complete in
covering important information within the boundaries of the study, and sufficient in
its display of evidence. Unlike a large-scale or quantitative study, this case study
followed the professional development activities and instructional practices of one
core team of teachers in a middle school rather than a large number of educators
within the school or across multiple sites.
Collecting Data
Most qualitative studies involve the collection of artifacts, including various
sorts of printed material (Lancy, 1993). The key to case studies is the collection of
multiple sources of evidence (Yin, 1994). Thr ough triangulation, no single source has
an advantage over other sources. The need to triangulate data comes from the ethical
essentiality to confirm validity (Tellis, 1997). Triangulation strengthens construct
validity because it provides multiple measures of the same phenomenon. Due to the
qualitative nature of the study, I was open to whatever emerged from the data, then
adjusted data collection and analysis accordingly, as recommended by Krathwohl
(1998). This study relied on several data sources for collecting evidence of the
impact of professional development on student achievement including interviews,

observations, and documents. Table 3.3 depicts sources and for the studys data
collection as they relate to the research questions.
Table 3.3
Chart of Data Sources Aligned to Research Questions
Research Question . P. s P n p ob p s "c gp
5 E 5 53 S- T-J 3 3 r* I-. k to £ a> is m ;£ cu "g £4 2 g
S I 3 o o cob % M £ Q -O
£ £ co Uh C3 o u O o. O H Q
How does professional
development influence X XXX
teacher learning?
How does teacher learning
through professional XXX
development impact
instructional practice?
How does teacher practice
impact student achievement, XXX XX
specifically the achievement
of struggling readers?

Interviews. Case study researchers, according to Yin (as cited in Tellis,
1997), must possess or acquire skills to ask good questions, be a good listener, be
adaptive and flexible in reaction to various situations, have a firm grasp of the issues
being studied, and remain unbiased by preconceived notions. Asking good questions,
being a good listener, and remaining flexible are of utmost importance during
interviewing. I scheduled and conducted standardized interviews with each of the
teachers and the student focus group where I asked all respondents the same
questions in the same order, a process recommended by Goetz and LeCompte
(1984). I interviewed each teacher for one hour within the first two weeks of the
study. The initial interview helped determine a baseline of their professional
development experiences and interpretations. Mid-way through the study, I
interviewed the entire team as a group for just over an hour, a technique that Lancy
(1993) found to be more natural than one-to-one interviews. At the conclusion of the
study, I again interviewed each teacher individually for an hour. I conducted the final
interview to determine their perceptions of the quality of professional development
activities engaged in during the study as well as their perception of implementation
and effects on their learning, their practice, and their students achievement.
Following are selected interview questions asked of teacher participants (see

Appendix B for complete teacher and student interview protocols, including probing
and clarifying questions):
Teacher Interview #1:
1. Please talk about your educational background.
2. How do you continue your own professional learning?
3. Tell about how your professional learning has developed throughout your
4. What professional development activities have you taken part in over the last
5. How have these activities impacted your instruction?
6. How have these activities impacted your students learning?
7. What do you consider to be quality professional development?
8. Tell about how you learn with your colleagues.
Teacher Group Interview #2:
1. What professional learning activities have you participated in as a team so far
this year?
2. What instructional changes have you made since August?
3. Talk about professional development in which each of you is currently
4. How are the instructional changes youve made related to the professional
development activities in which youre involved?
5. Overall, how would you describe the ability of your students on ILPs?
6. What changes do you see in your ILP students learning as a result of
professional development in which youre currently/recently involved?
7. If you could design the type of professional development activity that would
best meet your teams needs, what would that look like?
Teacher Interview #3:
1. Talk about your professional development during this school year.
2. How has your team impacted your learning?
3. What changes have occurred in your instruction this school year?

4. To what extent are these changes the result of your learning through
professional development?
5. What changes have you noticed in your ILP students learning since August?
6. To what extent has your professional learning impacted your students
7. When something new comes along like ILPs, how do you typically respond?
8. How do you know when you have successfully implemented a new
instructional strategy?
I interviewed the students in a focus group setting for an hour during the first
month of school, and again for an hour at the end of the semester. The focus group is
a method of interviewing that allows for simultaneous data collection from multiple
respondents (Krathwohl, 1998). Since a potential drawback to conducting focus
group interviews is the possibility that one or two of the participants may
monopolize the conversation, I paid careful attention to skillful facilitation in order to
include all voices. I reviewed focus group norms at the start of each interview,
reminding students to keep information shared throughout the session confidential.
Following are focus group questions:
Student Focus Group #1:
1. Tell me about your school experiences up until now.
2. What do you expect to learn this school year in your classes?
3. How do you know when you have really learned something?
4. How do your teachers know if youve learned in their classes?
5. How can your teachers help you be successful students?
6. How do your teachers help you become better readers?
7. Are you aware of whether or not your teachers are working on getting better
at teaching?
8. What impact do you have on how or what your teachers teach?

Student Focus Group #2:
1. Tell me about your seventh grade year so far.
2. What are some important things youve learned in seventh grade?
3. What are some projects or assignments youre working on currently?
4. How are your team teachers helping you be successful students?
5. How have your teachers helped you improve your reading in seventh grade?
6. How do you see your teachers working together?
7. Do you think your teachers are excited about their learning?
While focused questions and probes guided all of the interviews, they
remained open ended to allow for complete verbal reports. Yin refers to interviews
as soft data due to the self-reported nature of the responses. Interviews are useful
for capturing the users perceptions. Along with notes taken during the interviews, I
transcribed audio tapes verbatim to allow for deeper analysis.
Observations. I directly observed each of the teachers in their classrooms to
document their instructional practices with particular attention being paid to
implementation of strategies they reported learning through their professional
development activities. I observed each teachers classroom four times during the
course of the study. I requested that the teachers invite me in to conduct an
observation when they felt they were implementing a strategy that resulted from
their professional learning. One of the four extended invitations while the other three
issued an open invitation to observe at any time. Wolcott (1990) reminds us that it is
not how muchbut how wellthe researcher observes. Therefore, a tool for

collecting observational data was necessary. The protocol I used for collection of
observational data helped to identify and code classroom activities related to literacy
instruction. The Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement
originally designed the tool to capture instructional literacy practices in kindergarten
through sixth grade (Taylor & Pearson, 2000). I adapted the tool slightly to account
for the level of reading instruction that occurs at the middle level (see Appendix C for
observation protocol). Because these seventh grade teachers did not engage students
in direct reading instruction (i.e. phonics, phonemic awareness), they instructed
students in more general reading strategies (i.e. content-related vocabulary and
spelling, highlighting text, note taking). The protocol follows this sequence:
The observer spends five minutes writing a narrative of all classroom
activities, including scripting what teachers and students are saying and doing.
After five minutes, the observer notes the number of students in the class and
the number of students on task.
Using the notes, the observer identifies literacy activities and codes for each
level (Level 1: who is providing instruction; Level 2: pattern of grouping;
Level 3: major literacy category; Level 4: type of activity; Level 5: materials
used; Level 6: teacher interaction style; and Level 7: expected student

The codes are entered on the tally sheet.
The scripting, coding, and tallying process is repeated four or five more times
per observation.
The intention of the teacher observations was not to evaluate the practices of the
teacher; rather, I observed to capture evidence regarding instructional practices. Yin
(1994) considers direct observation a measure of hard data, particularly when
coupled with the use of a protocol to show impartiality and objectivity. Krathwohl
(1998) likens observation to a flashlight in that it lights up only where the researcher
directs it. In these observations, I directed the flashlight at reading activities and
reading-related instruction in each of the teachers classrooms.
In addition to classroom observation, I observed all job-embedded
professional development sessions in which the teachers participated as well as three
of their team meetings. As the building professional developer, I delivered 40% of
their reading-related professional development, the building literacy specialist
delivered 30%, an outside reading expert delivered 20%, and the district literacy
specialists delivered 10%. While the building literacy specialist, the outside literacy
specialist, and I delivered professional development in the form of reading strategies
the teachers could readily use in their classrooms, the district literacy specialist
offered training specific to ILP procedures and use and management of ILP forms.