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The relationship between elementary teacher professional development and classroom practices

Donna M Ottaviano, Johnson & Wales University


Although inservice education and professional development endeavors in their various forms continue to be enormously popular and widely valued, we still know relatively little about what difference they make in the classroom (Guskey, 1997). The focus of this qualitative case study was to determine the extent to which teacher professional development affected principal and teacher perceptions about improvements in classroom practices and pedagogy. The findings from the study provided information on the degree to which there is a relationship between changes and improvements in the classroom as a result of professional development initiatives. According to Guskey (1997), researchers are still unsure of the elements that contribute most to effective professional development; what formats or specific practices are most efficacious; or how professional development contributes to improved teaching and learning. The need to investigate professional development in a suburban school district in Southern New England originated from the fact that the school department has employed two different models of professional development over the last 7 years. The initial model followed the large group, one presentation, approach. The most recent model followed a small group site-based format. That is, topics originated from the school site where the training was going to take place. A need existed to explore and investigate how to design professional development opportunities so that the system of learning for teachers becomes compatible with what is expected from students and also results in teacher development. Methods utilized in conducting this study involved one-on-one interviews of elementary principals, certified elementary classroom teachers and support staff. Dennis Sparks, the Executive Director of the National Staff Development Council was also interviewed due to his level of expertise. Information obtained was compared to standards set by the National Staff Development Council (1995) as criteria for professional development programs designed for elementary school staff. A major finding in the study was that site-based professional development is imperative to ensure the involvement of teachers, the attainment of site goals and needs, and the designing of follow-up activities as an on-going effort toward whole-school improvement. In addition, it was found that professional development efforts that are research-based and content area specific affected teacher pedagogy in the classroom within this suburban school district in Southern New England.

Subject Area

Teacher education|Elementary education|Curricula|Teaching

Recommended Citation

Ottaviano, Donna M, "The relationship between elementary teacher professional development and classroom practices" (1999). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI9941908.