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Evaluating professional development: The impact on classrooom teachers at the school district level

Lori J Liguori, Johnson & Wales University


Professional development is considered to be the vehicle by which educators continually enhance their professional knowledge and practice. More importantly, when educational leaders promote school reform initiatives, professional development is usually the most frequently recommended method for bringing about change. However, within the past ten years, educational literature continues to indicate that professional development is limited, has serious flaws that result in ineffective outcomes, and has minimal impact on teachers' classroom practice. According to Guskey (1997), more recently, researchers have tried to determine the true impact of professional development, but have met with little success. Further, despite the gains made in identifying teaching practices that result in increased student achievement, there is little systematic inquiry into the process of professional development and its effects on teaching practices on a much broader level (Guskey, 2000; Guskey & Sparks, 1996; Sparks, 1988). The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of professional development on classroom teachers at the school district level. Three areas were examined: change in teacher knowledge, skills, and classroom practice; teacher perceptions of student learning; and change in teacher beliefs and attitudes. The study was designed to measure professional development outcomes through a cross sectional survey methodology in four public school districts located in Southern New England. Research subjects were 228 teachers who volunteered to participate in the research study by completing a professional development survey. Despite the criticism surrounding professional development, this study has confirmed other research studies indicating that teachers believe that professional development is important and worthwhile. In contrast, the results of this study also support the research literature indicating that professional development continues to be riddled with inherent weaknesses that lead to its ineffectiveness. One of the most significant findings of this research study is the lack of evaluation methods to determine the effects of professional development. The results of this study indicate clear implications for all educators involved in professional development. Recommendations for practice are also included.

Subject Area

Teacher education|School administration

Recommended Citation

Liguori, Lori J, "Evaluating professional development: The impact on classrooom teachers at the school district level" (2000). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI9999554.