The Impact of Online Professional Development: Designing Research that Creates Policy-Relevant Information about Teacher Learning

Updated: 3:25pm, 20 Oct, 2022
10 February 2006 (Fri)
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A key goal of research on teacher learning should be to understand what forms of professional development lead to changes in practice that produce better student learning; that after all is the goal of education in general. Unfortunately, much research on teacher learning from professional development is unable to provide evidence of changes in students' learning, or even of changes in classroom practice. The vast majority of research on professional development limits itself to measurement of teachers' opinions on the worth of the professional development. In this seminar, I will describe (and invite feedback on) a new five-year study funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation where my colleagues and I attempt to address these shortcomings. The study is an experimental comparison of face-to-face and two forms of online professional development, where we control for content knowledge presented across condition. All teachers are implementing a new one-year environmental science curriculum, which allows us to compare changes in practice across classrooms and also to measure student learning outcomes. This design allows us to build a chain of evidence linking professional development to student learning, and provide policy-relevant information to guide future choices in professional development funding and design.

About the speaker(s):

Barry Fishman is an Associate Professor of Learning Technologies in the University of Michigan School of Education. His research focuses on the use of technology to support teacher learning, standards-based systemic school reform, and the role of educational leaders in fostering classroom-level reform involving technology. Dr. Fishman is a principal investigator in the Center for Highly Interactive Computing in Education ( His current research is an experimental study of teacher learning in face-to-face and online conditions that examines the relationship between professional development modality and changes in teacher knowledge, practice, and student learning. This research builds on prior research in professional development design, including the construction of an online professional development tool for use in curriculum-based reforms called Knowledge Networks On the Web (KNOW, This work has been recognized with an Urban Impact Award from the Council of Great City Schools and as a Computerworld/Smithsonian Laureate. Dr. Fishman is the 2001 recipient of the Jan Hawkins Award for Early Career Contributions to Humanistic Research and Scholarship in Learning Technologies and the 2003 Pattishall Junior Faculty Research Award from the University of Michigan. He received his Ph.D. in Learning Sciences from Northwestern University in 1996.

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