Opportunities for Teacher Professional Development in Oklahoma Rural and Nonrural Schools

Oklahoma is facing a severe shortage of teachers. Professional development is one potential channel for attracting new teachers, increasing teacher retention, and improving retained teachers’ effectiveness. But a dearth of data about professional development in Oklahoma schools is hindering the state’s efforts to plan for and effectively support teacher professional development.

The purpose of this study was to fill the gap in statewide information about teacher professional development opportunities in Oklahoma and compare the opportunities in rural and nonrural schools. The Regional Educational Laboratory Southwest, along with members of the Oklahoma Rural Schools Research Alliance, developed a survey that measured how professional development is structured, how it is planned, and what supports and barriers teachers may face in accessing professional development.

Key findings

  • A majority of rural schools in Oklahoma offer many types of professional development structures for teachers, such as conferences and workshops. However, the shares of schools offering each structure are generally higher for nonrural schools than rural schools. This is especially true for collaborative learning activities and formal coaching or mentoring.
  • Most schools have at least one local team that plans professional development, but such planning teams are less common in rural schools than in nonrural schools.
  • In both rural and nonrural schools, the biggest barrier to teachers attending any type of professional development is scheduling conflicts with other school or professional activities. That barrier is more prevalent for rural teachers than for nonrural teachers.
  • Among schools that offer each type of professional development, rural schools provide substantial support for these offerings, but the nonrural schools offering each type generally provide more peer-based support than their rural counterparts.