Linda Diamond, Chief Executive Officer for CORE, shares research and best practices for effective professional learning for K-12 educators.
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).
All schools and all educators intend to meet the needs of all their students. Indeed, educating all students is the promise of a democracy. Nonetheless, in many American schools, this promise is largely unfulfilled. Teachers struggle to meet the needs of their increasingly diverse classrooms. It is not uncommon to find a single classroom in which ten different languages are spoken, the teacher must manage three to four varying skill levels, and must address the disparate needs of children who live in poverty and children who live relatively comfortable lives. How then is the goal of “all” students to be realized? How does the teacher “leave no child behind”?
Linda Diamond, Executive Vice President of CORE, shares her thoughts on the importance of high fidelity implementation of instructional materials. Linda was one of the original founders of CORE and developed their basic training and leadership materials. She continues to develop CORE’s professional programs, school change models, and professional products. Linda was formerly the Director of Curriculum, Staff Development and Evaluation for the Alameda City Unified School District as well as an elementary and middle school principal. She worked as a policy analyst with RPP International, an education research and public policy forum. Linda served on the California State Superintendent’s Task Force on Reading and was co-author of Building a Powerful Reading Program, which helped establish the foundation for reading policy and legislation in California. She is the co-author of CORE Assessing Reading: Multiple Measures and the nationally acclaimed CORE Teaching Reading Sourcebook.
While many schools and districts use assessment data to determine student needs, only a few are utilizing the data to differentiate support for teachers, make decisions about intervention programs, and monitor program implementation. Some districts use assessment data to determine system-wide professional development needs, allocate coaching time, identify students who need frequent progress monitoring, and purchase and implement intensive intervention programs designed to support at-risk students. Schools using this approach recognize the power of assessment-driven instruction. They use a variety of tests for different purposes, with particular attention to progress monitoring tests focused on critical reading instructions.