To the surprise of absolutely no K-12 teacher, a new study has found that the typical professional development session for teachers leads to zero or a negative impact on teachers.

You can read more at the study, which is not behind a paywall: How effective is the professional development in which teachers typically participate? Quasi-experimental analyses of effects on student achievement based on TIMSS 2003–2019.

Here’s their explanation of the reasons behind it:

Notably, PD may cause negative effects because it takes time and resources from other purposes… In addition to induce loss of instruction time, PD may also disrupt the continuity of teaching and/or increase the use of less-skilled substitute teachers. Therefore, if PD decreases qualitative instruction time, and this negative effect is not balanced by sufficient improvements in teaching quality, the average effect would be negative, in line with the findings in the present study.

Of course, the reason they don’t talk about, which is the more likely reason for this result, is that a whole lot of professional development is just plain awful.

Schools and districts could do soooooo much better if they asked their teachers what kind of professional development they wanted, and then found – among their own teachers – people to lead the sessions (and give them time to prep for them).

But, no, so many bring outside providers, many whom haven’t taught in a classroom for years, and who have very little understanding of local context. Is there any wonder most PD is useless?

Granted, there are some exceptions to outside provider uselessness (Seidlitz Education, the National Writing Project, and the California Writing Project are some), but they are few and far between.

I don’t expect schools and districts any time soon to recognize the expertise they have within their midst but, the sooner they do it the better for teachers and their students.

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