Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Creating Teachers' Perceptual, Behavioral, and Attitudinal Change Using Professional Development Workshops

Shriner, Michael, Schlee, Bethanne, Hamil, Melissa and Libler, Rebecca (2009) 'Creating teachers' perceptual, behavioral, and attitudinal change using professional development workshops', Teacher Development, 13: 2, 125- 134. 

As providing high quality teacher professional development comes to the forefront of our current political state, many studies have focused on how the professional development that is being offered can impact systemic change and student achievement results.  This study, however, was conducted to determine how the participants in four different professional development workshops change their knowledge, attitudes, perceptions and behaviors as a result of being involved.  The four different options for professional development were: Technology for PE Teachers, 1000 Ways to Open Lockers/ Keys to Creative Problem Solving, Using Environmental Media to Stimulate Interest in Reading and Math Concepts.  They were offered over the summer of 2007 for K-12 teachers who were given a stipend and able to select which workshops to attend.  They used pretests and post-tests to gather data around how teachers expanded their knowledge and skills as a result of the professional development.  Based on the results, researchers gleaned three dimensions to help plan professional development that will ultimately translate into increased effectiveness in the classrooms for the teachers in attendance.  These dimensions are: a focus on academic content (subject matter and student learning goals); opportunities for hands-on experience and active learning; and information that fosters a sense of coherence (with school goals, individual goals, state mandates, etc.).

While I found some aspects of this research helpful, including the quotes below, for the most part, I did not learn new information about which types of professional development will most positively impact teachers' development.  Since the researchers all used the workshop model and each workshop was on a different topic with different teachers involved, there was not much comparison.  The teachers who attended reported satisfaction and the desire to change their practice as a result of the workshop.  However, the teachers involved in the study, which was both optional and offered over the summer, were likely teachers who enjoy learning and enjoy implementing new strategies learned during professional development.

Important Quotes 

  • Workshops were especially designed to have three key elements including 'clearly stated goals communicated to the participants,' 'a leader or facilitator guiding the participants' learning,' and 'group structure that necessitated a collegial learning environment'.  In particular these workshops were designed 'to be offered for shorter periods of time and address more discrete learning goals, such as learning to use a particular set of lessons or try a new assessment strategy'.   
  • Not only did the participants of this study believe they had learned concrete information and skills, they also believed they were capable of translating these newly acquired skills into actual classroom application.

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