Poor Results from Teacher PD

AIR Report

A new report from AIR informs that after 13 years of significant federal investment totalling more than $30 billion, teacher Professional Development (PD) has shown mostly disappointing effects on teacher practice and student achievement. Birman (2009) conducted an analysis of more than 7,000 teachers and found that U.S. teachers have been receiving professional development that is superficial, short-lived, and incoherent.

Only 13 percent of elementary teachers reported receiving more than 24 hours a year of in-depth training teaching reading. Only 6 percent of elementary teachers participated in more than 24 hours of in-depth study of teaching mathematics.„ Only one in five elementary teachers reported participating in professional development in which they practiced what they learned and received feedback.„ Only 17 percent of elementary teachers reported participating in professional development that was explicitly based on what they had learned in earlier professional development sessions.


According to a 2014 Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation report fewer than three in 10 teachers (29 percent) are highly satisfied with their professional development, and only 34 percent say that PD is getting better. Research suggests educators perform better when they acquire the right knowledge and the right skills and have a chance to practice these new learnings, study the effects, and adjust accordingly.

In 2013–14, for example, the average U.S. teacher received just about $251 worth of Title II–funded professional development and each principal received roughly $856. How should Congress revise this law so that a smarter allocation of the funds occurs? How should educational leaders match the right improvement activities to the right resources to the right educators? Please describe your best teacher professional development experience in the comments section.

The graphic below illustrates the benefits of collaboration. Unfortunately, only 7 percent of teachers report working in schools with effective collaboration models.


Why Use Peer Review?

Peer Review

There is considerable debate over the use of peer-review in MOOCs. I would argue that since MOOCs attract intrinsically motivated learners, the feedback given can be especially valuable.  As a case in point, I offer a snippet from a final assignment I completed from a Match Education class on teacher coaching.  The questions are in italics, my response is in plain text. The four peer reviewers comments are below. I received an average of the four scores, so my “grade” on this particular assignment was a 24 out of 25 points.

We would hypothesize that this coaching session suggests that Ms. McRookie is in the middle circle (i.e. “Skill B”) of skill acquisition represented in The Snowman Effect. Explain how the teacher’s behaviors suggest that she is in the middle “Skill B” acquisition loop.

Ms. McR has completed the mastery of her first effective teacher move and can now identify and correct student misbehavior. This completes the Skill A acquisition and mastery loop. Next, Mr. EC expresses concern that a larger instructional problem (Skill B) has manifested itself in the student practice domain of the Kraken. Mr. EC knows that once Ms. McR sees how she has mastered the first skill of time on task, she will master a second skill even faster. After paying a small amount of the fixed mindset tax, Ms. McR commits to beginning Skill B.

Mr. EC outlines the action steps needed on the next big takeaway and describes how Ms. McR should implement those action steps. Ms. McR immediately begins brainstorming with Mr. EC on how to improve her cold calling and turn her group discussion questions into stop and chats. This suggests that Ms. McR is engaged in Skill B acquisition and will work hard until she masters it before beginning the Skill C acquisition loop. Each subsequent skill acquisition and mastery loop should take less time because Ms. McR has seen the evidence of her growth mindset from her previous successes.

Mr. EC refines how Ms. McR cold calls. Instead of “Johnny, what was the first step?” He advises she use “What is the first step, Johnny?” Then Ms. McR goes from “I want everyone to write an explanation” to the more specific “Take 60 seconds to write in the box on the worksheet explain the steps in integrating polynomials.” Because of the success Ms. McR had in acquiring Skill A with Mr. EC, she is more optimistic and proactive in changing her teacher behavior. This suggests she will be able to master the moves of an effective teacher and change her name from Ms. McRookie to Ms. Effective Coach in a short amount of time.

peer 1 → The Author got all the technical details of the best practice of a coach teacher, his understanding is optimum and can link the variables perfectly

peer 2 → Absolutely brilliant! I don’t think this could have been done any better.

peer 3 → I was very impressed with your response to the last question about the Snowman Effect. I think it was the best response that I have read out of the five assessments that I have done so far. Overall, your answers were well written and it was easy to comprehend them. Thank you for all your hard work, and good luck!

peer 4 → Excellent!

My final point is that teacher coaching is considered by many as the gold standard for improving teaching. If peer review is an essential component of the coaching model, should it be expanded from MOOCs and into the classroom?  One of the goals of 21st Century pedagogy is to transform education into authentic work-based tasks. Many corporations use 360 degree evaluations. Should those be expanded into education and used as tools in teacher evaluations?

The Teacher’s Role in Online Classes

Many low-income schools do not offer enough high quality Advanced Placement (AP) or A-G (college prep) courses required for students who wish to attend competitive universities. The University of California has offered credit for college prep online course for years, and is now enlarging their virtual learning offerings with a program called UC Scout.


These courses are designed to support independent students, however, UC requires that a local or remote teacher provide weekly assistance, monitor assignments, proctor final exams, and offer labs. In other words, UC regards the relationship between a teacher and student as so integral to learning that it won’t sell its content to schools or districts unwilling to pair online learning with a high touch human connection.

UCSD educational researchers examined the types of support in-person teachers provided to 200 low-income students enrolled in Scout courses at four high schools. They characterized the seven roles that emerged from this inquiry as (a) Humans as fixers/explainers of technology; (b) Humans as digesters of content; (c) Humans as explainers of content; (d) Humans as extenders of content, toward application; (e) Human as providers of feedback and assessment; (f) Humans as regulators of the learning experience; and (g) Human peers as supporters of the learning experience. These categories may evolve over time, but they offer an important first step in categorizing the taxonomy of teaching in this new milieu.

While previous posts have offered teachers data points and learning outcomes from my blended classroom to consider as they move their instruction toward a 1:1 model, this post is to encourage teachers making the transition from a traditional classroom approach to blended pedagogy to consider these labels as they recast their teaching style.

My next few posts will be devoted to analyzing how these new seven teacher roles will affect teachers influenced by behaviorist, cognitivist, and constructivist learning theories. It remains to be seen whether these new roles will give teachers additional opportunities to deepen their relationships with students, and create more positive interactions in their classrooms, or will the new roles create new barriers to educators looking to connect with their students?

I recently read a book called Evocative Coaching. It states there is minimal evidence that the teacher observation methods currently in place lead to any significant improvement in student achievement. Reduced resources and expanding expectations have teachers feeling disheartened, discouraged, and in a downward spiral. When a large organization is full of people who aren’t doing well, or having fun, something needs to change. We need to make two shifts in replacing teacher observations with evocative coaching: (1) move from evaluation to valuation; (2) move from problem-solving to strength-building. Ed Tech coaches, in particular, need to start conversations around these seven new teaching roles, and articulate a vision about how teachers in both traditional and online courses should recast their responsibilities.


Pollock, M., et al. (2014). Innovating toward equity with online courses: Testing the optimal blend of in-person human supports with low-income you and teachers in California. The Center for Research on Educational Equity. University of California San Diego. La Jolla, CA. Accessed at http://create.ucsd.edu/research/CREATE%20Equity%20RR_1Mar2014.pdf

Tschannen-Moran, Bob & Megan (2010) Evocative Coaching:  Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time. San Francisco:  Jossey-Bass


Use of Student Surveys for Teacher Evaluations

As support seems to be slipping for value added models and biased classroom observations, educational leaders may be well advised to consider incorporating student surveys into teacher evaluations.  Eduwonk has an interesting post and paper available on this topic.

I am posting a short promo video that explains how to analyze student survey data. As a small school principal, I analyzed over 3,000 teacher evaluations.  The video is to promote an upcoming MOOC on improving teacher-student relationships that will start on http://www.canvas.net on September 22, 2014.