The difference between observed and perceived learning in professional development programs for teachers (study)

Yesterday I found this interesting new study by Yasemin Copur-Gencturk and Ian Thacker. We’ve known that the perception students have about their learning isn’t necessarily correct, why should teachers be any different? Well, they are not:

An analysis of data collected from hundreds of teachers who participated in different professional development programs indicated no correlation between teachers’ self-reports and the direct assessments of their learning. This finding is especially important given that we explicitly tried to increase the congruence in what was captured by these two outcome measures by asking teachers to report changes in the aspects of knowledge they drew on when answering items on the direct assessments. Furthermore, our findings suggest that different sets of teacher background characteristics and self-reported instructional practices are associated with the learning captured by these two outcome measures.

This leads to this conclusion:

As we found in our study, teacher learning differs by the outcome measure; therefore, the success of the same program could be evaluated differently depending on the measure. Furthermore, what teachers felt they learned from the professional development program and the learning measured by direct assessments were related to disparate sets of teacher and teaching characteristics. Hence, to make informed decisions regarding how professional development programs will lead to teacher learning, more research is needed on how various aspects of teacher learning can be improved during the same program and how teachers’ background characteristics influence their learning.

Abstract of the study:

The success of professional development programs has typically been determined based on their impact on teacher learning, without much attention being given to the data sources used. Large-scale studies have generally relied on teachers’ self-reports, whereas small-scale studies have included more direct assessments and observations of teacher learning. The purpose of this study was to compare teachers’ self-reported gains in mathematical knowledge for teaching with those measured by direct assessments. Quantitative analyses of the data collected from 545 teachers who participated in content-focused professional development programs indicated a lack of correlation between teachers’ self-reports and direct assessments of their knowledge gains. Furthermore, different teacher-related factors were associated with the learning reported by these two measures. These findings speak to the need to pay careful attention to the outcome measures used to evaluate teachers’ learning.

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