printable version of page Printer-friendly page

Research on Professional Development and Teacher Change: Implications for Adult Basic Education

Volume 7:  Chapter Seven
Cristine Smith and Marilyn Gillespie

In Chapter Seven, Cristine Smith and Marilyn Gillespie review the K–12 and adult education research on professional development and its effect on teacher change.  The K–12 research indicates that teachers are the single strongest factor in student achievement, although there is disagreement about why this is so:  Is it teachers’ background characteristics and education? Is it the teaching methodologies they use? Or is it the alignment of standards, curriculum and assessment that guide teachers?  Regardless, teacher preparation and training is critical to student achievement. However, the specific nature of adult basic education teachers work context—mostly part-time, with perhaps higher turnover, teaching multiple subjects without much formal preparation in teaching adults and without consistent access to paid preparation and professional development release time—makes it imperative that professional development for adult education teachers use evidence-based practice to ultimate effectiveness. 

The authors then review the two main models of professional development in K–12—traditional and job-embedded—and provide an overview of professional development within standards-based reform efforts.  Within each model, specific research studies point to principles of effective professional development that are linked to greater teacher change.  This is followed by a review of the individual teacher, program, and system factors that influence teacher change, including the relationship between teachers’ working conditions (paid prep time, professional development time, and a well-supported job) and teacher change as a result of professional development. 

Implications of the research for policy, practice, and research include: teachers’ need for greater access to professional development through well-funded state professional development systems; reducing the incidence of single-session workshops and statewide conferences in favor of longer-term, job-embedded professional development such as program-based study circles, mentoring, distance education, and inquiry projects focused on student learning; and research on the link between teachers’ working conditions, professional development models, and teacher quality in the adult basic education context.  The authors conclude that although we need more research to guide decision-making about how to support teachers’ preparation and retention, in the short-term, the field has viable options for improving the current quality of professional development, based on the research evidence.

 Chapter 8   arrow

Updated 7/27/07 :: Copyright © 2005 NCSALL