Professional Development

Report Builds Case for Failure in Teacher PD

Districts tend to spend an average of $18,000 per teacher each year on professional development, and up to 10 percent of the school year — as many as 19 school days per year. According to a new report from MDR EdNET Insight, which performs and reports on education research, that adds up to an $18 billion PD market.

Yet the results aren't making the recipients of that PD investment happy. "The report's data clearly shows that teachers do not believe PD is preparing them for the changing nature of their jobs," noted Annie Galvin Teich, author of "The Evolution of Professional Development to Professional Learning," in a prepared statement. "The data also shows that neither teaching skills [nor] student outcomes are significantly improved by traditional PD."

The 36-page report draws on research from a number of experts in the topic of PD, including The New Teacher Project, the Center on Education Policy, ASCD, NEA and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. What it identifies is a "disconnect" between what teachers believe they need to make improvements in their practices and what education leaders believe they need. For example, while lesson observation and coaching are among the forms of PD the decision-makers would like to deliver more of, the teachers are either completely neutral or negative about those approaches.

Quoting from a Digital Promise report, Galvin Teich pointed out that "nearly three in four classroom practitioners" are going after forms of informal learning, such as "tweet-chats and un-conferences." However, those types of learning opportunities aren't really considered PD since there's no credit for recertification and no tracking or evaluation tied to them. "It is a bit like the Wild West in terms of who is using these informal learning opportunities and how much impact they are having on teaching practice," she wrote.

Likewise, the concept of "professional development" itself is beginning to be viewed as "one-time events imposed upon [teachers] by district leaders that have no real impact on their teaching practice." The teachers themselves have begun using the term "professional learning" as way to designate those activities that are "ongoing, self-organized and directed by the teacher learner herself."

The report, intended for use by vendors in the professional development market, covers a number of innovations that have come to the forefront, including micro-credentials, tech-enabled coaching and online platforms. The latter, especially, is "one area of great interest," because they "allow districts to adopt best practices of professional development, such as video to extend the learning across their district" and "provide a safe learning space where teachers and administrators can work collaboratively and learn from each other as they improve their teaching and leadership skills."

The complete report is available for $249 on the MDR website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.