When done right, professional development can improve teacher practice and student experiences. But when done wrong, it can have little to no impact and end up frustrating teachers who don’t see any relevance to their work. And it’s all part of a costly, $18 billion market with little quality control.
A new paper, published by the Research Partnership for Professional Learning and written by researchers at Harvard Graduate School of Education and Brown University, examines the literature to understand what works in the field of professional development—and, just as importantly, what doesn’t.
“Teachers in different schools, in different subject areas, in different districts have very different experiences with their professional learning,” said John Papay, an associate professor of education and economics at Brown and a co-author of the paper. “Some of it, we know, can be effective, and some of it, we know, isn’t effective. The challenge is, how do we maintain this investment in and emphasis on professional learning and teacher development throughout the career while also working to make it more effective?”