Panel Paper: Linking Student Achievement Growth to Professional Development Participation and Changes In Instruction

Saturday, November 10, 2012 : 8:30 AM
Hanover A (Radisson Plaza Lord Baltimore Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Laura M. Desimone, University of Pennsylvania, Thomas Smith, Vanderbilt University and Kristie Phillips, Brigham Young University

One approach to teacher professional development that has received significant attention in the literature and in policies is content-focused professional development. This study increases our understanding of the role of content-focused professional development in changing teaching practice in ways that boost student achievement.  The study uses longitudinal data over three years to answer two main research questions:

(1) To what extent do teachers’ topic coverage, emphasis on memorization and solving novel problems, and time spent on mathematics instruction predict student mathematics achievement growth?

(2) To what extent does teacher participation in content-focused professional development predict the aspects of instruction found in our first analysis to be related to increases in student mathematics achievement growth?

This study uses data collected by the U.S. Department of Education for the Longitudinal Evaluation of School Change and Performance (LESCP) in 1997, 1998, and 1999. The LESCP drew its sample from 71 high-poverty schools in 18 school districts in seven states. This study’s student-level analyses include 7,588 observations over three years of 4,803 students assigned to 457 teachers.  Teacher-level analyses include the same 457 teachers in 71 schools over three years.

To answer the first research question, the authors employ a four-level cross-classified growth model using MLwiN software, with time points nested within students, students cross-classified by teachers over the three years of the study, and teachers and students nested within schools.  To answer the second research question, the authors employ a series of hierarchical linear models (HLM) to test the relationship between instruction and professional development.

The study findings suggest that (1) when teachers in third, fourth, and fifth grade focused more on advanced mathematics topics (defined as operations with fractions, distance problems, solving equations with one unknown, solving two equations with two unknowns, and statistics) and emphasized solving novel problems, student achievement grew more quickly, (2) when teachers focused more on basic topics (defined as measurement, rounding, multi-digit multiplication, and problem solving) and emphasized memorizing facts, student achievement grew more slowly, and (3) when teachers participated in professional development that focused on math content or instructional strategies in mathematics (in Year 1), they were more likely to teach in ways associated with student achievement growth; specifically, they were more likely to teach advanced topics and emphasize solving novel problems. Effect sizes ranged from 0.01 to 0.15 standard deviations.

Full Paper: