Source: Journal of Research on Technology in Education Vol. 43, Iss. 1; (Fall, 2010). p. 53-74.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
The current paper presents findings from an evaluation of an instructional-technology professional development (PD) program. In this multiphase evaluation, the authors examined the connections between program characteristics and outcomes.
Description of the Program
The eMINTS (enhancing Missouri's Instructional Networked Teaching Strategies) program was begun in 1999 by educators at the University of Missouri, Columbia. This program is part of a suite of PD programs created to help educators, administrators, and technology specialists understand how to integrate technology into an instructional approach.
In 2006, eMINTS was being scaled up to different states. The program staff commissioned an evaluation which took a three-phase approach to understanding the program's fidelity and its relationship to the program's impact on teachers and students. The questions that guided the evaluation were the following:
* What is the relationship between PD fidelity and the quality (defined as alignment with core program concepts) of the lesson plans produced by participating teachers?
* What are the relationships between the various activities during instructional specialists' classroom visits and the quality of lesson plans teachers produce?
* What are the relationships between PD fidelity and the various classroom visit activities?
* What is the relationship of PD fidelity, lesson-plan quality, and classroom visit activities to the achievement of students in the classrooms of participating teachers? Do the relationships persist a year after teachers have completed the program?
The authors first examined the program's core components and created an instrument to assess how faithfully it was implemented across sites. The authors examined two components of the program: the PD sessions and the classroom visits.
The authors then looked at teacher understanding of the program concepts and how variations in PD fidelity were associated with this outcome.
Finally, the authors examined how variations in PD fidelity and teacher understanding were associated with student outcomes over two years.
The authors collected three levels of data: PD level, teacher level, and student level. Observers conducted 50 total observations of 31 different instructional specialists as they facilitated four-hour PD sessions.
The authors attempted to collect three pieces of data for each teacher: lesson plans, classroom visit information, and PD fidelity data. 287 teachers mainly taught elementary or middle grades.
The authors collected teachers' corresponding students' standardized test scores for the school years 2005-2006 (to be used as a control), 2006-2007 (Year 1), and 2007-2008 (Year 2). 2,004 third to fifth grade students' scores were used from Year 1, and 1,689 were used from Year 2. These students matched to 148 teachers and 141 teachers, respectively
The findings showed that teachers who experienced higher-fidelity PD demonstrated greater understanding of program concepts, as evidenced in the lesson plans they submitted.
Furthermore, it was found that more time spent planning lessons during classroom visits was associated with higher-quality lessons plans, whereas more time spent on technical assistance and problem solving were associated with lower-quality lesson plans.
In addition, the authors found connections between student outcomes and the program and teacher outcomes. This finding suggests that high-quality PD leads to improved teacher knowledge, which can then lead to higher student achievement.
The authors conclude that this study provides evidence suggesting that quality instructional-technology PD can have a positive impact on teachers and students.