Date of Award

5-2005

Level of Access

Campus-Only Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Educational Leadership

Advisor

Gordon Donaldson

Second Committee Member

David Brown

Third Committee Member

Sarah Mackenzie

Additional Committee Members

George Marnik

Constance Perry

Abstract

Researchers have established the importance of a critical link between high quality professional development and student achievement, yet empirical evidence connecting specific qualities of professional development to changes in teacher practice and student achievement remains scarce. Many professional development experiences for teachers continue to be isolated and disjointed activities that are evaluated through teacher opinion and self-assessment or distantly-related student achievement data.

The goal of this study was to explore empirically the complex impacts of professional development on teacher performance and student achievement. This was a qualitative case study of one professional development experience in writing focusing on two teachers and classrooms in Bridgeport, Maine. Data collection methods included observations of the professional development experience, teacher interviews and observations, student interviews, and assessments of student writing. The study examined four qualities of the professional development experience (ongoing; collaborative; data driven; focused on student achievement). It then examined the two teachers' engagement in these aspects of the experience, subsequent changes in the teachers' practice, and evidence of impact on student achievement in the areas of changed practice.

The study found evidence that students performed better when their teachers had engaged in several of the aspects of high quality professional development. Teacher attendance at the professional development sessions and engagement in collaborative activities, by themselves, did not appear directly to influence teacher practice or student learning. Focus on student achievement and the use of data on student learning in professional development appeared to have greater effects than the ongoing and collaborative nature of the experiences.

This study has implications for practice in professional development and, particularly, for tracing the links among professional development practices, teacher performance, and student achievement.

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