Source: Teacher College Record, Volume 115, No. 5, 2013.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This study examines relationships between teachers’ participation in professional development and changes in instruction, and between instruction and student achievement growth, from third to fifth grade.
The analysis answers two main research questions:
(1) To what extent do teachers’ topic coverage, emphasis on memorization and solving novel problems, and time spent on mathematics instruction, predict student mathematics achievement growth? and
(2) To what extent does teacher participation in content-focused professional development predict the aspects of instruction found in our first analysis to be related to increases in student mathematics achievement growth?
This study uses data collected by the U.S. Department of Education for the Longitudinal Evaluation of School Change and Performance (LESCP) in 1997, 1998, and 1999. The LESCP drew its sample from 71 high-poverty schools in 18 school districts in 7 states.
The student-level analyses include 7,588 observations over three years of 4,803 students assigned to 457 teachers.
Teacher-level analyses include the same 457 teachers in 71 schools over three years.
The findings reveal that
(1) when teachers in third, fourth, and fifth grade focused more on advanced mathematics and emphasized solving novel problems, student achievement grew more quickly;
(2) when teachers focused more on basic topics and emphasized memorizing facts, student achievement grew more solely; and
(3) when teachers participated in professional development that focused on math content or instructional strategies in mathematics (in Year 1), they were more likely to teach in ways associated with student achievement growth—specifically, they were more likely to teach advanced topics and emphasize solving novel problems.
These results are consistent with major mathematics reforms that put a premium on conceptual mathematics, seeking to foster deep understanding that allows students to transfer knowledge to novel situations.
The authors were also able to link teaching practices with professional development, the most popular mechanism for teacher change.