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Insights on how to shape teacher learning policy: The role of teacher content knowledge in explaining differential effects of professional development

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Published: 2016-05-23

Authors

Elizabeth Covay Minor

National Louis University

Laura Desimone

University of Pennsylvania

Jade Caines Lee

University of New Hampshire

Eric D. Hochberg

TERC

Keywords: learning policy; teacher professional development; teacher learning; content knowledge; pedagogical content knowledge

Abstract

In the US, many federal, state and local school improvement policies rely on teacher professional development (PD) to foster classroom change. Past research suggests PD that has a content focus is the most effective, but that even content-focused PD varies in its effectiveness. Through in-depth interviews of teachers participating in a middle school science PD randomized control trial in the US, we find that what teachers learn in PD varies significantly based on their prior knowledge and experience. This paper explores several hypotheses about how content knowledge and teacher learning interact. We conclude that the next step toward improving teacher PD is to calibrate learning opportunities to teachers’ prior knowledge. 

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Author Biographies

Elizabeth Covay Minor

National Louis University

Elizabeth Covay Minor is an assistant professor in Educational Leadership in the National College of Education at National Louis University. She studies inequality in student access to and experiences within opportunities to learn.

Laura Desimone

University of Pennsylvania

Laura Desimone is professor of education policy at the University of Pennsylvania. She studies policy effects on teaching and learning.

Jade Caines Lee

University of New Hampshire

Jade Caines Lee is an Assistant Professor at the University of New Hampshire in the Education Department.  Her research interests include test validity, fairness in testing, instrument development, standard setting, and the evaluation of educational processes and programs.

Eric D. Hochberg

TERC

Eric D. Hochberg is a senior researcher in the STEM Education Evaluation Center (SEEC) at TERC, a non-profit research and development organization in Cambridge, MA. A former elementary school teacher, his research interests include professional development, curriculum, and instruction in mathematics and science. He currently leads research and evaluation studies in the areas of elementary mathematics and secondary statistics education.
PDF

Published: 2016-05-23

How to Cite

Covay Minor, E., Desimone, L., Caines Lee, J., & Hochberg, E. D. (2016). Insights on how to shape teacher learning policy: The role of teacher content knowledge in explaining differential effects of professional development. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 24, 61. https://doi.org/10.14507/epaa.24.2365