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ASCD 2012 Conference: Evaluating Professional Development, Thomas Guskey

March 23, 2012

Just attended the 1-day pre-conference with Thomas Guskey, Evaluating Professional Development.  He was working through the strategies that educators and administrators need to use to effectively evaluate professional development.

He went through each of the 10 components of professional development (see the list below).  For each one, he told stories about the “best” and the “worst.”  What does the research show?  From his presentation, he had us reflect on what makes for effective professional development?

  •  program topic
  •  program planning
  •  program participants
  •  program leadership
  •  group size
  •  program training
  •  length of training
  •  types of activities
  •  extent and complexity of change
  •  follow-up & improvements

He also went through his five levels for evaluating whether professional development is effective.  The five levels are:

  • Level 1: What are participants reactions to the experience?
  • Level 2: What is it that participants learned from the experience?
  • Level 3: What is the capacity for the organization (school) to support & change as a response to the professional development their faculty experience?
  • Level 4: What is the capacity of the faculty to use the new knowledge & skills they gained from the professional development?
  • Level 5: What are the student learning outcomes we would expect to see as a result of the learning and implementation that faculty experience from the professional development?

His research would indicate that most professional development is evaluated and tracked fairly well in Levels 1 and 2 and less well in Levels 3-5, especially Levels 4 and 5.

He pointed out that most professional development is ineffective not because teachers reactions are negative or they didn’t learn much from the professional development experience, but because their schools (structure and administration) are not set up to support faculty implementation of what they learned from their experiences.  Schools are institutions that do not respond well or quickly to change or innovation.  It is a very slow process in more schools or school districts.  As a result, faculty become disillusioned with regard to how slow their schools respond and support their efforts to implement change in the classroom.  Guskey shared an example that comes from his work on effective grading practices.  Many participants who come to hear him speak on why schools need to change how they grade student performance leave informed and energized by what the research tells us about how ineffective our grading practices in schools are.  Any yet, when they return to their schools, their administration is generally unwilling to consider what the research says and look at changes in practice.

I thought Guskey did a good job today of laying out a framework for how organizations like the Center for Teaching can more effectively evaluate whether the professional development we offer is meaningful for teachers, will help them change their practice, and will have an impact on improving the learning environment for students.

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