49 Hours

That's how much it might take to boost student achievement

Photo of Charles Shryock, IV
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This report synthesizes some intriguing research on professional development. Here's the passage that blows my mind: 

"Intensive professional development efforts that offered an average of 49 hours in a year boosted student achievement by approximately 21 percentile points. Other efforts that involved a limited amount of professional development (ranging from 5 to 14 hours in total) showed no statistically significant effect on student learning" (p. 9). 

The authors concede that the data set is limited (meta-analysis found only nine well-designed studies). But this should give pause to anyone who plans one-time-only PD experiences. How much can we really learn in an hour or two, if it's not connected to other experiences and has no follow-up? 

It gives me further confidence that PD needs to be ongoing and focused on practice. 

Check out the report for other insights: Darling-Hammond, L., Wei, R. C., Andree, A., Richardson, N., & Orphanos, S. (2009). Professional learning in the learning profession. Washington, DC: National Staff Development Council.

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Photo of Chris Good

Charles, these are really powerful statistics. They cast a very harsh light on PD or Continuing Education which only provides a cursory touch.

Many professions require a certain number of hours of miscellaneous continuing education credits each year - often fulfilled by sitting through a hodgepodge of 1 hrs sessions that provide limited insight into a particular topic. This report essentially calls that approach out as useless.

Imagine if all that effort and time were instead focused into a deep dive into one issue or topic that the learner were really interested in? Not all at once - but in small segments over the course of a year - building and reinforcing each time?

Photo of Charles Shryock, IV

Well said! I think we are on to something here. As a teacher, I often felt pulled in many directions, even within myself, and so I'm also wondering if having an extended focus would further benefit teacher satisfaction (while simultaneously increasing chances of success).