Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

The Future of Professional Development Will Be Designed, Not Discovered: Response to Moon, Passmore, Reiser, and Michaels, "Beyond Comparisons of Online versus Face-to-Face PD"

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

The Future of Professional Development Will Be Designed, Not Discovered: Response to Moon, Passmore, Reiser, and Michaels, "Beyond Comparisons of Online versus Face-to-Face PD"

Article excerpt

We were pleased to read the response to our Journal of Teacher Education (JTE) article (Fishman et al., 2013) by Moon, Passmore, Reiser, and Michaels (2013). We believe that Moon et al. have properly identified both the value in our study and the importance of moving beyond not only our study, but similar studies, to better serve the urgent need for professional development (PD) designs that are effective in helping teachers successfully enact curricular reforms, such as the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS; Wilson, 2013) and the Common Core State Standards in mathematics and English language arts (Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2010; Porter, McMaken, Hwang, & Yang, 2011). We agree wholeheartedly that the field would benefit from scholarship that leads to "research-based design principles to guide the ongoing development, implementation, and evaluation efforts in online PD" (Moon et al., p. 1). Below, we briefly recap our study and address the issues raised by Moon et al. in their commentary. We then expand on the ideas introduced by Moon et al. for how to take advantage of the opportunity for studying teacher learning related to the NGSS presented by the Next Generation Science Exemplar System (NGSX) PD platform.

The heart of our study was the experimental comparison of PD delivered in two different media. Our study was a "media comparison" study, the value of which has been hotly debated in the field of educational technology (Clark, 1983, 1994; Kozma, 1994). We worked to make the two conditions in our study balanced with respect to opportunities to learn, while not limiting the natural affordances offered by each medium. Random assignment ensured that the teachers in each condition had equivalent characteristics. Our focus was on addressing the ongoing policy debate about how to invest in teacher PD and whether the imagined risks of online PD outweigh suggested benefits. We thus do not address the call by Dede, Ketelhut, Whitehouse, and McCloskey (2009) for a focus on theory building to articulate design principles.

Perhaps most importantly, we designed our study to address a conceptual framework for studying PD that links the features of the PD to changes in teachers' knowledge and beliefs, changes in classroom practice, and changes in student learning outcomes (Desimone, 2009). Student learning might be the most policy-relevant area for study in relation to PD, and yet is perhaps the least studied, in large part because it is so difficult to identify common student learning outcomes and measures related to the PD. We were opportunistic in this respect, building our study around the adoption of a new environmental science curriculum (Edelson et al., 2005). This curriculum represented challenging inquiry-based science (Crawford, 2000), with many new techniques and tools to be learned, and our PD would be teachers' primary information source for learning how to use the new materials. Best of all, because everyone in the study was using a single curriculum, we had a common measure of learning in the curriculum-aligned test.

We observed significant growth in teacher self-efficacy, classroom practice, and student learning in both conditions, but no difference between conditions. This finding was welcomed by many as a sign that it is "safe" to employ online PD, in light of concerns about what might be given up by districts in comparison with face-to-face PD (e.g., Herold, 2013). In our article, we were somewhat more conservative in our conclusions, observing that a finding of "no significant differences" indicates that we can be less concerned with media effects than with the specific needs and demands of particular contexts in which PD is needed.

We absolutely agree with Moon et al. (2013) when they state that "to take [our] findings as applicable to all online PD would be an overreach" (p. 2). In fact, we were careful to make the same argument ourselves and appreciate the chance to highlight this, given its importance. …

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