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What are the characteristics of teacher professional development that increase pupil achievement? Protocol for a systematic review

Sims, S; Fletcher-Wood, H; O'Mara-Eves, A; Stansfield, C; Van Herwegen, J; Cottingham, S; Higton, J; (2021) What are the characteristics of teacher professional development that increase pupil achievement? Protocol for a systematic review. Education Endowment Foundation: London, UK. Green open access

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On average, teachers spend 10.5 days per year attending courses, workshops, conferences, seminars, observation visits, or other in-service training (Sellen, 2016). The rationale for this substantial investment in professional development (PD) is clear: meta-analyses find that teacher PD programmes tend to improve pupil academic achievement (Fletcher-Wood & Zuccollo, 2019; Lynch et al., 2019). How this PD should be designed is, however, somewhat less clear. While research has identified some programmes or interventions for which there is persuasive evidence of impact on pupil achievement (e.g., Allen et al., 2011, 2015), many schools do not have access to such programmes, due to either cost or location. School leaders and teacher educators instead need to know which characteristics of PD matter to help them design or commission effective PD (Hill et al., 2013). Several reviews have attempted to identify the characteristics of effective PD (Desimone, 2009; Kennedy, 2016; Timperley et al., 2007; Walter & Briggs, 2012; Wei et al., 2009; Yoon et al., 2007). Indeed, many of these reviews have themselves been summarised in two meta-reviews (Cordingley et al., 2015; Dunst et al., 2015). However, these (meta-)reviews have either been inconclusive or have important methodological limitations (Sims & Fletcher-Wood, 2020). In particular, existing reviews have no way of distinguishing causally redundant components of interventions from the ‘active ingredients’ that lead to improved teaching and learning (Sims & Fletcher-Wood, 2020). A new synthesis of this literature, using improved methods, is therefore required. Previous reviews have not used a consistent definition of PD. Indeed, several proceed without offering any explicit definition (Lynch et al., 2019, Cordingley et al., 2015, Dunst et al., 2015, Kennedy, 2016), with one stating only that professional development is “hard to define by aggregation and generalities” (Opfer and Pedder, 2011, p. 379). A recent review adopted a relatively broad multi-part definition, which can be summarised as: facilitated learning opportunities for qualified professionals that aim to enhance the professionals’ knowledge and skills in ways that are relevant for application in practice, that is, to serve ultimate beneficiaries (students) (Filges et al., 2019). This is a useful starting point, however, the breadth of this definition seems problematic for our purposes. For example, it would seem to include programmes that introduce some new educational technology and incorporate a short training session to familiarise teachers with the software (e.g. Campuzano et al., 2009). Similarly, it would appear to include so-called ‘out of the box’ curriculum packages, that are accompanied by token training to introduce the teacher to the new curriculum materials (e.g. Miller et al., 2007). Intuitively, we believe that both researchers and teachers would recognise these as educational technology and curriculum programmes, respectively, rather than PD. Our approach therefore builds on this broad definition, while also seeking to refine it slightly. We define teacher PD as structured, facilitated activity for teachers intended to increase their teaching ability. The focus on teaching ability is intended to include a broad range of skills including classroom management, assessment, and lesson planning. At the same time, it is intended to exclude educational technology programmes with a token training element (e.g. Campuzano et al., 2009). The focus on teaching ability, rather than merely knowledge, is intended to distinguish PD from new curriculum programmes with a token training element (e.g. Miller et al., 2007). Furthermore, this will help distinguish PD from activity focused on simply providing teachers with general updates about school business. We acknowledge that our definition will still require a degree of inference on the part of the reviewers, but we submit that this definition is tighter and more transparent than those used – or indeed not used – in previous reviews. This review will employ a systematic search of the literature evaluating teacher PD. This will be used to develop a map of the relevant literature, which will inform the development of the final inclusion criteria. Results will then be extracted from each of the included studies. Crucially, each of the interventions in each of the included studies will also be coded based on the ‘mechanisms’ they incorporate, defined as “entities and activities organized in such a way that they are responsible for the phenomenon” (Illari & Williamson, 2012, p14; see also Sims & Fletcher-Wood, 2019). In the social sciences, mechanisms can be thought of as domain-general empirical regularities related to what motivates individuals, how they learn, and why they act in certain ways. Coding for such mechanisms helps distinguish the causally active from the causally redundant components of the interventions, in a way that previous reviews have not. Meta-analysis and qualitative comparative analysis will then be used to investigate the relationships between (groups of) mechanisms and the impact of the interventions on pupil achievement. The results of this analysis will directly inform the development of recommendations for a subsequent EEF guidance report on the characteristics of effective PD.

Type: Report
Title: What are the characteristics of teacher professional development that increase pupil achievement? Protocol for a systematic review
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/educat...
Additional information: This version is the version of record. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Teacher professional development, systematic review, meta-analysis, continued professional development, pupil achievement
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Learning and Leadership
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Social Research Institute
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10126929
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