Despite a solid and long body of research, school districts continue to futilely emphasize one-off workshops rather than invest in the ongoing, job-embedded professional learning and coaching necessary to change practice. Like Sisyphus, our educators are condemned to participate in the same poor quality professional development over and over with little hope of obtaining sustained support to lead to full implementation. The research on professional development for teachers consistently points out the need to provide ongoing, robust support and coaching to transfer knowledge and skills learned in workshops to classroom practice.
This research dates back to the Joyce and Showers studies of the 80s, and more recent research continues to support the findings: training alone results in at most 10% implementation; whereas, practice and coaching lead to implementation rates as high as 95%. In 2009, Linda Darling-Hammond conducted a study that found 90% of teachers interviewed reported that their participation in professional development was by and large useless (Darling-Hammond et al., 2009). Indeed workshops alone have had a poor track record of changing teacher practice and improving student achievement (Yoon et al., 2007). Yoon analyzed 1300 studies, finding that only those experiences which were intensive and ongoing impacted student achievement. In their 2002 study, Joyce and Showers (2002) found that on average teachers required 20 practice instances to master a new skill. Fuller (2001) noted that the greatest challenge for teachers was not learning a new skill, but implementing it. Furthermore, research confirmed that teachers changed their underlying beliefs only after they saw student success (Gusky, 2002). The Center for Public Education cited this dilemma: “To internalize a practice and change beliefs, teachers must see success with their students, but student success is very hard to come by initially, as learning new skills takes several attempts to master” (Gulamhussein, 2013).