Okay teacher friends, we’ve all been there. You just completed some form of professional development and you’re itching to get out the door. Someone walks by and hands you that green evaluation form right at the end. You know, the one you have to complete in order to get clock hours? In my experience, there are usually some additional questions about how the training went so that the facilitator can glean feedback on how they did. I remember jotting down some notes as fast as I could (while still being legible) so that I could jet out the door.
I’ve participated in a spectrum of professional learning sessions. From big international technology conferences to small local ESD workshops and in-house training on a specific topic. I feel like I’ve “been around the block” and done everything from PLCs and book studies to school tours and big conferences. Needless to say, I feel tremendously blessed to have been given these opportunities to explore, learn, and grow in my own skills as an educator. But how do we know if these professional learning opportunities actually made an impact? How do we measure teacher growth, the impact on student learning, or overall school-wide improvement?
ISTE Coaching Standard 5 states that coaches “Evaluate the impact of professional learning and continually make improvements in order to meet the school-wide vision for using technology for high-impact teaching and learning.”
So my big question: “How do we evaluate the impact of professional learning?”
As I highlighted in a previous blog, Righting the Ship, one of our biggest problems with professional development (PD) is that we cram too many different topics into our annual schedule and then can only follow up on one or two of them. If that! This would be like teaching a math lesson to our students and moving on before we checked for understanding. Did our students acquire the knowledge and skills they need to be successful? We need to ask the same thing of our teachers. After completing PD, there should be more than just a half sheet evaluation on how the session went. So this week I chose to dive in deep on best practices in evaluating professional learning.
There are several well-known theories on how to evaluate the effectiveness of training. Perhaps the most famous in the education realm is Guskey’s Five Levels of Professional Development Evaluation. Guskey proposed that there were 5 domains that needed to be evaluated when weighing the success of a particular training. Below is a summary of each domain and suggested tools for collecting data.
Guskey also had a Theory of Teacher Change. He believed that teachers needed to first see the power of the new teaching method to really believe it was effective and continue to apply it (Hanover Research, 2015). Therefore, teachers must be given the time to reflect and evaluate student learning outcomes. Then they can see the impact of their training and continue to make changes where needed to improve student learning.
PD is a complex beast. It can take many forms, whether attending workshops, participating in study groups, curriculum development, peer coaching, and so on. “But regardless of its form, professional development should be a purposeful endeavor. Through evaluation, you can determine whether these activities are achieving their purposes” (Guskey, 2002). As coaches, we cannot stop after the training, say a little prayer, and hope that we hit our mark. We owe it to ourselves and our students to follow through with Guskey’s five steps to determine if the training worked. Even if we are working alongside teachers who have individual goals and are doing more of a personalized PD structure, we can train and empower them to collect and analyze student data to take charge of their own continuous improvement cycle. Professional Learning should be an iterative cycle, where we take time to evaluate the impact on teachers, school-wide improvement, and most importantly student learning.
Guskey, Thomas. (2002, March). Does It Make a Difference? Evaluating Professional Development. ASCD, 59(6), 45-51. http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar02/vol59/num06/Does-It-Make-a-Difference%C2%A2-Evaluating-Professional-Development.aspx
Guskey, Thomas. (2016, February). Gauge Impact With 5 Levels of Data. Learning Forward, 37(1). https://tguskey.com/wp-content/uploads/Professional-Learning-1-Gauge-Impact-with-Five-Levels-of-Data.pdf
Hanover Research. (2015, November). Best Practices In Evaluating Teacher Professional Development. Hanover Research. https://www.rsdmo.org/community/committees/professionaldevelopment/Lists/Meetings/Attachments/61/Best%20Practices%20in%20Evaluating%20Teacher%20Professional%20Development%20(1).pdf
ISTE Standards for Coaches (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches