Research has provided important lessons about developing and delivering high-quality professional development to educators. Features identified as indicative of high-quality professional learning experiences are the organization of the activity and its duration, the extent to which there is collective participation of teachers within an education institution, the degree of active learning opportunities, a content focus, and the degree to which the activity promotes coherence in professional development goals (Garet, Porter, Desimone, Birman, & Suk Yoon, 2001). The evaluation of the Teacher Technology Leaders (TTL) PT3 (1) Project at George Washington University (GWU) has been documenting the evolution of a professional development strategy exhibiting a number of these quality features. Over the three years of the project life, project staff and participants have been constructing knowledge and practice regarding the infusion of technology in teaching and learning by working first as individuals on their own knowledge development and then constructing multilayered teams with representatives from university, school, and technology partners. The results thus far have shown that progress has been enhanced by collective participation with a content focus in the study of a particular problem. In the following article, the evolution of this approach is presented and implications for faculty development are discussed.
In the past five years, a number of key organizations and research studies have contributed to the knowledge about how to structure high quality professional development. Although fewer studies connect these features to student learning and achievement, more work in this regard is currently being funded by federal agencies, such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) in the Department of Education.
The Council for Basic Education (CBE) held a Wingspread conference in 2001 and released a report listing the many sets of principles for high-quality professional development resulting from research and published in the educational literature. CBE recommended a few approaches (lesson study, student work, and assessment practice) as promising. Principles and strategies for effective professional development researched and described by Loucks-Horsley, Stiles, & Hewson (1996; also, Mundry & Loucks-Horsley, 1999) and her associates have been cited throughout the literature as well as the recognition of the challenging process of making decisions about professional development.
A National Evaluation of the Eisenhower Professional Development Program contributed a model to analyze the relationships between features of professional development and teachers' self-reported increases in knowledge and skills and changes in teaching practice. On the basis of national sample data, the researchers concluded that six key features of professional development are effective in improving teaching practice. Three are characteristics of the structure of the activity: (a) the organization of the activity-whether it is a reform type, such as a study group or teacher network, in contrast to a traditional workshop or conference; (b) the duration of the activity, including the total number of contact hours and the span of time over which it extends; and (c) the extent to which the activity has collective participation of groups of teachers from the same school, department, or grade. Three additional features are characteristics of the substance of the activity: (d) the degree to which the activity has active learning opportunities for teachers; (e) the extent to which the activity has a content focus; and (f) the degree to which the activity promotes coherence in teachers' professional development by incorporating the experiences that are consistent with teachers' goals and aligned with state standards and assessments. (Garet et al., 2001) Although this model was tested with teachers of mathematics and science, its findings regarding change in teaching practice are supported by other arenas of research regarding the development of new skills or knowledge, such as constructivist theory, technology skill development, and team development. …