Does ‘professional development’ really mean better teachers?

Does ‘professional development’ really mean better teachers?
Teacher development programmes may not be as effective as we’d like to believe according to a study from research group TNTP.
In a report called “The Mirage” the researchers ask whether applying teacher development programmes more widely actually makes much difference to the quality of teaching and is says is has uncovered the hard truth.

In the US (where the study was undertaken), spending by education administrations was larger than many people realised and equated to US$18,000 per teacher. However the research found that almost 70 per cent of teachers being given development training either remained constant or declined in their evaluation ratings over two to three years.

Teachers in their early years in the profession achieved better improvement in performance than those in later years. In fact the difference in improvement between years 1 and 5 for an average teacher was nine times that of years 5 to 20.

The report says that: “More importantly, many teachers’ professional growth plateaus while they still have ample room to improve: As many as half of teachers in their tenth year or beyond were rated below “effective” in core instructional practices, such as developing students’ critical thinking skills.”

Where there was improvement in standards, the researchers were unable to find a particular development strategy that was responsible.

The report concludes that teachers are bombarded with help “but most of it is not helpful”. Around 40 per cent of the teachers questioned said that the development programmes they had been on did not represent good use of their time.

Recommendations from the report include making development clear, measurable and observable and ensure that teachers understand what is expected. Rewards and incentives are also suggested.