A New Tool for Measuring the Impact of Teacher Professional Development

Year: 2015

Author: McChesney, Katrina, Aldridge, Jill

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Although teacher professional development is widely viewed as an effective way to disseminate and promote new teaching strategies and educational trends, research evidence suggests that much professional development may be of poor quality and have minimal impact on classroom practice. Accurately evaluating the impact of professional development is important for schools and education systems to ensure that financial, time and human resources are utilised wisely. Unfortunately, in practice much evaluation of professional development focuses only on participants’ feelings, attitudes or opinions (‘happiness quotients’). Other so-called ‘evaluation’ of professional development is, in fact, not evaluation at all but, rather, a description of processes or activities (such as details of courses delivered or numbers of participants). Experts in the field of teacher professional development have identified various levels of impact for professional development and have called for evaluation to explore these levels more rigorously. However, to do so is widely considered difficult, time-consuming and costly and there is a lack of robust and manageable tools.
This paper considers how a newly-developed, trialled and validated bilingual survey instrument meets this need and may contribute to bridging the gap between the theory and practice of teacher professional development evaluation. Whilst the new instrument was designed to be time- and cost-effective (to encourage its use in the field), it was also theoretically grounded. The new instrument draws on two major literature-based frameworks for evaluating the impact of teacher professional development. It is also informed by an instrument from the general workplace training literature.
The newly-developed instrument was administered twice (examining different types of professional development) to 393 teachers in the United Arab Emirates. Results for both sets of data demonstrated a clear factor structure with good internal consistency for all scales (Cronbach’s alpha), indicating that the instrument possesses convergent validity. Data analysis also indicated that the instrument could effectively distinguish between the experiences of different groups of teachers, implying divergent validity.
This session explores how the instrument could be a useful tool for professional development evaluation in schools and education systems. This instrument may be relevant to stakeholders ranging from policy-makers, management and administration through to teachers and professional development providers as a new tool for assessing and evaluating professional development at all levels of impact. In addition, the new instrument may be of interest to the research field as it proposes a model for practical, theoretically based, evaluation of teacher professional development.