Source: Teachers College Record, Volume 111 Number 5, 2009.
There is a growing body of literature on the characteristics of effective professional development. However, there is little direct evidence on the extent to which these characteristics influence teacher learning and practice. In particular, few studies exist to date that demonstrate the impact of technology-focused professional development on teacher learning and practice. Even fewer studies have examined teacher learning for more than a year to understand the sustainability and growth of professional development gains.
The purpose of this study is to explore the long-term impact of research-based professional development on teacher learning and practice with respect to technology. Analysis is based on data collected from 7 urban teachers 2 years after their participation in a yearlong, technology-focused professional development program. Follow-up data are compared with data collected by the author during the teachers’ participation in professional development to (1) investigate the sustainability and growth of teachers’ learning, (2) identify the conditions that facilitated or hindered teachers’ capacity to further develop their thinking, knowledge, and practice with regard to technology, and (3) map the trajectory of teachers’ learning over a 3-year period.
Research Design: The study employed a qualitative multiple case study design. Data were collected from multiple sources that included teacher interviews, surveys, classroom observations, and collection of artifacts. Two outcomes were defined as critical measures of long-term learning: sustainability and growth.
Results indicated that participation in research-based professional development fostered sustained changes in teachers’ educational technology knowledge, ability to design and implement technology-supported experiences for students, and beliefs toward teaching and learning with technology. In two cases, these changes became the basis for continual learning and led to ongoing professional growth. Further, findings revealed three factors that influenced teacher learning over time: (1) student characteristics, (2) access to resources, and (3) social support and opportunities for collaboration with peers.
Findings of the study suggest that participation in professional development that is grounded in the currently accepted best practices can impact teacher learning and practice. They also offer insights into the process by which teachers modify their knowledge, practices, and beliefs and the conditions that influence learning over time. Further, they provide new lenses for analyzing teacher learning that suggest looking more closely into the interactive relationship between practices and beliefs, as well as the ways in which classroom experience influences continual learning and change.