The Influence of Contextual Factors on the Sustainability of Professional Development Outcomes

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March 2016

Source: Journal of Science Teacher Education, Volume 27, Issue 2, March 2016, p. 205–226

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The present study investigated differences in contextual factors across schools and their influence on teachers’ decisions about science instruction.

Methods
The participants were 39 k-2 teachers from 16 schools in 16 districts in northern California. They completed a 3-year professional development program that provided science assistance for teachers in rural districts.
The authors used a case-study approach with a purposive sample of five elementary schools that varied in instructional time in science several years after the funding period.
Data were collected through teacher surveys and interviews. The interviews were conducted 2 and 3 years after the end of the professional development program.

Conclusion
The findings show the influence of context on the sustainability of professional development outcomes.
Furthermore, these results suggest that ongoing yet modest support for teachers may help maximize the longevity of professional development outcomes in science. The authors argue that this support may important for teachers in the early grades. The findings highlight school contexts vary considerably, even within the same district or geographic region.

Additionally, it was found that principal support and collegial support are particularly important to teachers in sustaining science instruction. The authors found that collegial support for science also shifts over time as teachers retire, move to different schools, and change grade levels. They argue that when a school has a pool of teachers who participated in the professional development and share an interest in teaching science, collegial support is enhanced.

Finally, the study found that variations in school context also influence the extent to which state-level factors affect teachers’ decisions about science instruction. For instance, the process of adopting Common Core standards led to increased instructional demands in mathematics and language arts at some schools but not others.
Based on the findings, the authors conclude that the role of the school principal in sustaining science instruction over time in the early grades is particularly important. 

Updated: Mar. 11, 2018
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