Working Toward Improving Professional Development

Every teacher experiences professional development, some good, some bad, some engaging, some not so engaging. Authors and PhD students Jeanne Dyches Bissonnette and Katie Caprino have recently published an article titled A call to action research: Action research as an effective professional development model. The article addresses the importance high quality and engaging professional development, offering empirical support for teacher participation in action research as a high-quality mechanism for professional development.

No Child Left Behind mandates that high-quality professional development be made available to teachers within the public school system, yet there is no definition of what this high-quality professional development must look like. In their review of the literature, Bissonnette and Caprino found that researchers have identified the following key features as ineffective within professional development: “fragmentation, lack of implementation, and lack of teacher-centeredness” (p. 13). They also found that researches described effective professional development as “ sustained, content-based, contextually situated, and teacher centered” (p. 14). One way for schools to eliminate the ineffective factors while incorporating all of the effective factors is through action research.

Action Research engages teachers in research focused on a particular issue that will lead to the improvement of their own instructional practice. “In short, teachers function as researchers; their classroom becomes their laboratories, their students become their subjects” (Bissonette & Caprino, 2015, p. 15). This professional development requires that teachers scrutinize their own practice and become more reflective practitioners. This process can be done individually or teachers may chose to work as teams organized by content area, grade level, or by the issue that needs to be assessed.

The article lists Babkie and Provost’s (2004,p. 262) planning guide for conducting action research as follows:

  • Identify the problem/concern to be researched.
  • Collect information from various sources and evaluate it.
  • Develop a plan for intervention/change.
  • Implement the intervention/ change and collect data.
  • Analyze the data/evaluate the results of the intervention or change.
  • Plan for future action: keep, revise, or alter intervention.

Action research is professional development proven to be beneficial for students, teachers, and entire schools through its content-based, teacher- and student-centered qualities. It allows the time and space for explicit conversations about meeting the needs of individual teachers and students.

Jeanne Bissonnette and Katie Caprino. (2015). A look at ineffective and effective professional development: Moving toward action research. Mid-Atlantic Education Review, 2(1).

Babkie, A.M., & Provost, M.C. (2007). Teachers as researchers. Intervention in School and Clinic, 39(5), 260-268.