What professional development takeaways do math teachers use in the classroom?

Governments and districts spend resources on professional development, but little is known about how it may improve math learning outcomes.

 Project title 
Investigating Impact of Different Types of Professional Development on What Aspects Mathematics Teachers Take Up And Use in Their Classroom

 Official grant name 

Investigating Impact of Different Types of Professional Development on What Aspects Mathematics Teachers Take Up And Use in Their Classroom

 Award amount 

 Grant effective dates 
March 1, 2021June 30, 2022

 Principal investigator(s) 
Karen Koellner

 Direct sponsor 
National Science Foundation

The challenge

Professional development is a critical way in which teachers who are currently in classrooms learn about changes in mathematics teaching and learning and improve their practice. Little is known about what types of professional development support teachers’ improved practice and student learning. However, federal, state and local governments spend resources on helping teachers improve their teaching practice and students’ learning. PD programs vary in their intent and can fall on a continuum from highly adaptive, with great latitude in the implementation; to highly specified, with little ability to adapt the program during implementation.

The approach

Karen Koellner is studying the design and development of PD that supports teacher development and student learning, and provides evidence to inform teacher educators, administrators, teachers and policymakers of factors associated with successful PD experiences and variation across teachers and types of PDs. The impact study will expand on the evidence of promise from four 2015 National Science Foundation-funded projects — two adaptive, two specified — to provide evidence of the impact of the projects on teachers’ instructional practice over time.

Using a specified sampling procedure, the project will select eight teachers from each of the four projects as case study teachers. Subsequently, the project will conduct a cross-case analysis focusing on variation among and between teachers and different types of PD. The research questions guiding the impact study are:

  • What is the nature of what teachers take up and use after participating in professional development workshops?
  • What factors influence what teachers take up and use and in what ways?
  • How does a professional development's position on the specified-adaptive continuum affect what teachers take up and use?

Findings & impact

Funding for this project continues through June 2022 (estimated). Understanding the nature of the professional development including structure and design elements, and unpacking what teachers take up and use in their instructional practice potentially has widespread use to support student learning in diverse contexts, especially those serving disadvantaged and underrepresented student populations.

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