preparation and in-service professional development experiences.
In addition, there is a largeliterature describing “best practices” in professional development, drawing on expert experiences.Despite the size of the literature, however, relatively little systematic research has been conducted onthe
of professional development on improvements in teaching or on student outcomes.Although relatively little research has been conducted on the effects of alternative forms of professional development, the research that has been conducted, along with the experience of expertpractitioners, provides some preliminary guidance about the characteristics of high-qualityprofessional development. (See, in particular, Loucks-Horsley et al., 1998.) Recently, for example,the U.S. Department of Education, drawing on the literature on teachers and teacher learning,identified six features of “best practice” in professional development. According to the Department(1999b, p. 63), effective professional development:
Reflects an image of teaching and learning that embraces high standards for allstudents.
Those who provide professional development must have a clear image of effective classroom learning and teaching. Good professional development is groundedin approaches to teaching that enable all students to achieve high standards, and makesthese approaches real and accessible.
Focuses on deepening teachers’ knowledge of content and how students learnspecific content.
Good professional development develops teachers’ skill andknowledge regarding the disciplines that they teach and children’s ways of learning atdifferent ages and in different contexts. It is rigorous, relevant, and research-based.
Provides extended, in-depth learning opportunities for teachers.
Good professionaldevelopment promotes learning through, among other things, modeling the methods to beused with students and showing how methods are adapted for different types of students.Like all good teaching, such experiences build on existing knowledge, immerse learnersin stimulating processes, allow for teamwork, and spread out over time to permit learnersto digest new ideas, try them out, and re-gather for critical feedback. Professionallearning is embedded in the life of the school whenever appropriate.
Supports expanded roles for teachers as leaders and colleagues.
Good professionaldevelopment provides opportunities for teachers to serve as mentors, peer coaches,leaders, designers, planners, and facilitators. Such roles encourage collegial relationshipsin a community of learners. These, in turn, could entail changes in allocations of authority, responsibility, and time in schools.
Links to an educational system’s programs and standards.
To strengthen theeffectiveness of schools, professional development should be linked to other federal, stateor district initiatives. It should be tied to relevant curricula, assessments, and standards.
Is accountable for results.
Professional development should be regularly evaluated forits impact on teaching and learning, and evaluation results should be used to supportcontinuous improvement.
See, for example, Cohen (1990) for a recent intensive case study of change in mathematics teaching; Carey andFrechtling (1997) for a program evaluation of exemplary professional activities in science; and U.S. Department of Education (1999a) for a national survey of teachers focused on teacher preparation and qualifications.