Professional development that improves STEM outcomes

Phi Delta Happan

By Heather C. Hill, Kathleen Lynch, Kathryn E. Gonzalez, and Cynthia Pollard,

National survey data suggest that teachers of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) devote significant amounts of their professional learning time to studying state standards, analyzing instructional materials, deepening their understanding of content and student thinking about content, learning about assessment, and studying student data (Banilower et al., 2018). But do such activities actually lead to improved student academic outcomes?

To find out, we performed a meta-analysis, meaning a comprehensive search for and rigorous statistical analysis of existing research in this area. Overall, we found, the evidence suggests that the most effective programs focus on topics — including curriculum materials, academic content, and how students learn — that build knowledge teachers can directly use during instruction. We argue that such learning opportunities support teachers in making more informed in-the-moment instructional decisions.


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