Teacher Participation in Content-Focused Professional Development and The Role of State Policy

Nov. 10, 2011

Source: Teachers College Record Volume 113 Number 11, 2011.

Purpose of Study

In describing state policy environments along several dimensions, the authors examine which types of policies are more or less influential in moving teachers into the types of professional development that research has shown to be most effective for improved teaching and learning.

Research Design
Using a national sample of high school mathematics and science teachers from the Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), the authors conduct a secondary analysis using a three-level hierarchical linear model (HLM) to predict teachers’ level of participation in different types of professional development. The authors conduct separate analyses for mathematics (a high-stakes subject area) and for science (currently a low-stakes subject area).


The authors find that the policy context at both the school- and state-level is more predictive of teacher participation in effective professional development in a high-stakes subject (mathematics) than a low-stakes subject (science).
The authors also find that the alignment between state standards and assessments is a key attribute of state-level policies that tend to promote teacher participation in content-focused professional development in high-stakes subject areas.
Even though state-level policies are important in promoting participation in effective professional development, the authors find that policy environments are strongest when they are closest to the teacher.


The authors conclude that both state- and school-level policy environments are associated with teachers taking high-quality professional development, but these findings are most pronounced in high-stakes subject areas.
The authors also find that policies promoting consistency in the form of alignment between standards and assessments are perhaps the most important type of policies that states can adopt to encourage teachers to participate in effective professional development.

Updated: Nov. 01, 2011