Spotlight on Teacher Professional Learning
When teachers learn, students learn. Because of this, school systems invest in professional learning experiences for teachers, such as workshops, learning communities, and instructional coaching. For decades, AIR has conducted studies of teacher professional learning and helped others use evidence to develop, implement, test, and scale professional learning programs.
The Foundation of Our Work
In the late 1990s, AIR conducted a landmark study of federally funded professional learning programs. Using a national sample, researchers identified several features of professional learning experiences that were associated with changes in instruction.
AIR then examined those features in a series of experiments, using treatment and comparison groups to determine whether programs with these promising features affected teachers and their students. Experiments led by AIR across the next 20 years advanced the field’s thinking about what does and does not work. For example:
- A series of three large-scale experiments challenged prevailing views about how to design professional learning that is content-focused;
- Another experiment demonstrated an impact from small amounts of carefully designed feedback on teaching and instructional leadership; and
- Most recently, AIR developed and pilot tested a program that uses classroom simulation technology to help math teachers engage students in math content using questions and classroom dialogue.
To draw together lessons from across published evidence from experiments, AIR conducted a meta-analysis that identifies the program features most clearly associated with improvements in instruction.
Advancing the Field
We continue to develop and use evidence about how teachers learn, carrying out an extensive and ambitious agenda. Our projects bring together school systems and providers of professional learning programs to develop, test, refine, and scale innovations.
- School systems partner with AIR to try cutting-edge programs with implementation supports.
- Established providers of professional learning, like the Danielson Group and Jim Knight, work with AIR to develop and test better ways to support implementation of their models.
Making a Difference
We share our lessons learned with the field through academic journals, news media, and publications read regularly by superintendents and other education leaders. To further reach education leaders who influence teacher professional learning, AIR has partnered with Learning Forward in the following ways:
- Articles and blogs in Learning Forward outlets have shared lessons from the participants in a project focused on the instructional coaching program MyTeachingPartner, which has demonstrated impact in prior experiments involving middle and high school teachers.
- Webinars and conference presentations allow AIR, providers, and school systems to share lessons from AIR projects with Learning Forward’s audience.
- AIR advises Learning Forward on its standards for professional learning, summarizing lessons from rigorous research that Learning Forward uses to advance to field.