In our last “What Works” essay, we cast serious doubt on the value of teachers analyzing student test data. Studies find the practice on average doesn’t produce student learning gains. We also noted that the practice is widespread, often forming a cornerstone of teachers’ professional learning time.
This raises a question: If this study of student data doesn’t improve schools, what should teachers do with their professional learning time?
It’s fair to say that many researchers have come to believe that professional development programs of any type are largely ineffective for increasing teachers’ skills. Driving this view are a handful of large, high-profile studies funded by the federal government over the past decade, which have returned near-zero impacts of PD on student learning.
Fortunately, scholars have studied many other teacher professional learning in the past two decades, and recent evidence points to two forms as particularly promising.