Online professional development helps teachers, students

August 17th, 2010 - 6:45 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Aug 17 (ANI): A study on the impact of online professional development for educators has found that it is not only student who are gaining from it, but the teachers as well.

English and math teachers who took professional development courses online improved their instructional practices and boosted their subject knowledge scores, producing modest performance gains for their students.

The report is from the Technology and Assessment Study Collaborative, a unit of BC’s Lynch School of Education and its Center for the Study of Testing, Evaluation and Educational Policy (CSTEEP).

It showed that as teacher performance comes under increased scrutiny, the findings point to online professional development as a powerful option to improve teacher quality.

“A series of online professional development courses that focus on specific content and target student learning needs can have positive effects on teacher knowledge and instructional practices,” said Boston College Associate Professor of Education Laura O’Dwyer.

“The studies also show that teacher participation in online professional development can translate into improvements in targeted student outcomes,” he stated.

The four studies were conducted in waves over a period of three years and involved approximately 330 teachers and 7,000 students across 13 states.

“As states are discussing the implications of common education standards proposed by the U.S. Department of Education, the findings from these four randomised trials suggest that online professional development may be a viable and cost effective means of improving teacher knowledge and ultimately student outcomes” O’Dwyer said.

The researchers found improvement in instructional practices and content knowledge across all groups of teachers in the subjects of fourth and seventh grade English and fifth and eighth grade mathematics, according to the team, which included O’Dwyer, Lynch School Associate Professor Michael Russell, and research associates Jessica Masters, Sheralyn Dash, Raquel Magidin De Kramer, and Andrea Humez.

Russell, the study director, said the findings show e-learning for educators should be looked at as an option to assisting teachers in remote settings and to help schools build capacity in subjects plagued by a shortage of highly qualified teachers.

“This set of studies included educators working in a variety of settings and demonstrates that on-line professional development is an effective approach for improving teaching and learning in remote areas and high-need schools,” said Russell.

“Given the positive effects found across these studies, it is reasonable to expect that on-line professional development is an effective strategy for supporting teaching in difficult-to-staff content areas, like mathematics and science,” he added.

The studies are part of the e-Learning for Educators Project, a 10-state initiative designed to expand each state’s capacity to deliver high-quality online professional development that improves teacher quality and student achievement. (ANI)

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