Academic journal article The Mathematics Enthusiast

The Others' Voice: Availing Other Disciplines' Knowledge about Sustainable Impact of Professional Development Programmes

Academic journal article The Mathematics Enthusiast

The Others' Voice: Availing Other Disciplines' Knowledge about Sustainable Impact of Professional Development Programmes

Article excerpt


The study of educational innovation over the long run is a depressing one.

(R. Slavin)

The question of how to promote mathematics teachers' professional development is of great interest and discussed in various papers (e.g., Krainer & Zehetmeier, 2008; Loucks-Horsley, Stiles, & Hewson, 1996; Maldonado, 2002; Sowder, 2007; Zehetmeier, 2010; Zehetmeier & Krainer, 2011). Ingvarson, Meiers, and Beavis (2005) state: "Professional development for teachers is now recognised as a vital component of policies to enhance the quality of teaching and learning in our schools. Consequently, there is increased interest in research that identifies features of effective professional learning" (p. 2).

In this context, the question of sustainability is of particular relevance. Despite its central importance for both, teachers and teacher educators, research on sustainable impact is generally lacking within teacher education disciplines (Datnow, 2006; Rogers, 2003). Hargreaves (2002) resumes: "As a result, many writers and reformers have begun to worry and write about not just how to effect snapshots of change at any particular point, but how to sustain them, keep them going, make them last. The sustainability of educational change has, in this sense, become one of the key priorities in the field" (p. 190). Similarly, Colbeck (2002) claims: "Despite its importance to the change process, institutionalization often receives little consideration by organizational participants" (p. 398). Van den Berg (2005) states that "most evaluations focus on short-term or intermediary results of the projects, programmes or policy to be evaluated" (p. 27).

However, a sound knowledge base concerning the issue of sustainability would be useful for understanding the long-term impact of teacher professional development programmes, in particular for mathematics teacher education. At the same time, this knowledge would allow thorough discussions regarding implications for upcoming professional development programmes' planning, implementation, and evaluation. Although some research findings are available (see e.g., Zehetmeier, 2008, 2009) it would be important to enhance further research and evaluation to get new results regarding the sustainability of impact. Slavin (2004) complains: "Most innovations adopted on a large scale were never adequately evaluated in the first place ... but even among the small number that have been successfully evaluated, few have been able to maintain themselves in schools over an extended time period. Most often, innovations that have been enthusiastically adopted and even found to be effective in particular schools are later dropped, sometimes to be replaced by other innovations and sometimes for a return to the status quo ante" (p. 61).

In particular, the facilitators of professional development programmes can make use of expertise "to carry out the functions associated with the innovation, as well as with the strategic planning, in order to plan for sustainability. ... Knowledge of process and outcome evaluation methods is necessary to assess and understand the effectiveness of the innovation" (Johnson, Hays, Center, & Daley, 2004, p. 144). This is particularly relevant for teacher educators.

The aim of this article is to provide other disciplines' knowledge concerning the sustainable impact of innovations and professional development programmes. For this, an extensive literature was carried out; using qualitative content analysis (Mayring, 2003), relevant topics were identified and clustered; this led to the following categories: the others' rationale, the others' definitions, the others' theories, the others' methods, the others' factors, and the others' discussions. After introducing "the others", each of these categories is provided in the following sections. Then, implications for mathematics teacher education are discussed.

The others

Am I or are the others crazy? …

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