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The Gates Foundation Examines What Teachers Want in Professional Development
posted by: Melissa | March 13, 2015, 07:18 PM   


There’s a lot of information available to consider with choosing professional development.  While the occasional study will look at teachers’ attitudes towards a particular form of professional development, most research has focused on efficacy and the assumption that administrators will be in the driver’s seat.  Despite this track record, a new study from the Gates Foundation puts teacher opinions front and center.



The new analysis, conducted by the Boston Consulting Group, studied the current state of professional development needs and satisfaction, how professional development decisions were made, who was providing professional development, the types that they were providing, and professional development needs in the future.


The findings confirm perceptions about teachers’ views on professional development.  Unfortunately, most teachers are unhappy with the professional development offered and don’t believe it meets their needs.  Even supposedly high quality initiatives like coaching and professional learning communities are often implemented poorly and end up being more of a road block to a teacher’s desire to improve instead of an aid.  When voicing opinions of what they wanted, teachers described learning that was relevant, hands-on, and sustained overtime.  While workshops remain the most common form of professional development, teachers voiced a strong preference for online self-paced courses.


According to the study, since most professional development is chosen by the districts, with teachers given very little choice, and since professional development is so often implemented poorly, teachers remain skeptical of the offerings.  Many teachers view professional development as a measure of compliance only and not helpful to their professional careers or their ability as teachers.  When teachers are given a choice, the narrative changes radically; however, only 30% of teachers say they are allowed to choose their own professional development.


When the study looked into what was keeping teachers from higher quality professional development, they found a number of barriers.  Namely, teachers are not provided the funds necessary to purchase the learning opportunities they desired, opportunities from the district were often ‘one size fits all’ and not useful to their particular subject area, and there was no overall continuity or chance to practice and develop new concepts.


Here at AAE, we’ve recognized that teachers strive for control over their own professional progression. With the rise of new technologies, we’re seeing teachers collaborate using online channels and regularly crowd source for funding.


Critics of the report point out that this is no surprise to anyone in the education field and that there are already examples of high quality professional development in teacher-run schools.


You can read the entire report on the Gates Foundation website.

Comments (2)Add Comment
written by AAE, April 09, 2015

Hi Carolyn,

Thanks for the feedback. This blog is an analysis of professional development research. We've found similar results in our own polling. Teachers are interested in taking control over their own professional learning.

With regard to Common Core, AAE seeks to give members the opportunity to voice their views on the subject and participate in a process that will work to establish best practices for these standards. While AAE does not endorse CCSS as an organization, we support teachers and are interested in providing educators with a seat at the table.
written by carolyn, March 17, 2015

I revisited your website after many years and was dismayed to see this former independent-thinking organization has apparently bought into the Gates' brainwashing and the Common Core takeover of our education system which is destroying the love of learning for our children..shame!

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