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Professional Learning and Development Research Alliance

Overview

Evidence suggests that school districts invest significant resources in teacher professional learning and development (PLD). Given this substantial investment, districts need to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions to improve instruction. Yet many district officials report they find it difficult to evaluate their PLD efforts effectively and rigorously. The Professional Learning and Development Research Alliance supports district leaders from across the region in making evidence-based decisions regarding the selection, adaptation, scale up, and/or discontinuation of PLD programs and interventions.


Goals

  • Build the capacity of district leaders to evaluate their teacher PLD efforts.
  • Support district leaders in improving their data collection and analysis to inform decisions about the content, format, audience, and timing of PLD opportunities.
  • Conduct research in response to district leaders’ questions that explore relationships between PLD and teacher and student outcomes.

Leads

Candice BocalaCandice Bocala
Senior Research Associate
REL Northeast & Islands
cbocala@wested.org



Nicole BreslowNicole Breslow
Associate Project Director
REL Northeast & Islands
nbreslow@edc.org


Projects

Coaching Project: Building Capacity for Data Use: Boston Public Schools
REL Northeast & Islands partnered with Boston Public Schools (BPS) to inventory the data the district currently collects related to the short-, medium-, and long-term goals of its mentoring program for beginning teachers; determine the quality and reliability of these data; and identify any additional data that may be needed to support the development of a program evaluation. The project includes coaching on the development of a data collection strategy that BPS implemented in the 2017/18 school year.


Coaching Project: Building the Capacity of State Education Agencies to Provide Guidance to Districts Regarding Professional Learning
This project enhanced the capacity of State Title II Directors in New York and Rhode Island to identify and review appropriate research related to professional learning activities in three areas: (1) instructional content coaching in English Language Arts and mathematics, (2) leadership training, and (3) professional learning communities. The project also built the capacity of the Title II Directors to provide guidance to local districts on how to use the research findings, and to develop and conduct their own research reviews on different topics in the future.

Research Study: Connecticut Teacher Education and Mentoring Program (TEAM): Fidelity of Implementation and Teacher Retention
REL Northeast & Islands is partnering with the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) to investigate the extent to which a statewide beginning teacher induction program, called TEAM (Teacher Education and Mentoring Program), is implemented with fidelity to the program elements required by state legislation. Examples of these program elements include the number of contact hours between mentors and beginning teachers and the number of TEAM modules completed each year. Researchers are also investigating whether the fidelity of TEAM implementation is associated with retention of beginning teachers. The state intends to use information from the study to improve fidelity by providing assistance to the districts or schools. Learn more.

Research-based Tool: Practitioner Brief on Understanding the Link between Fidelity of Implementation and Professional Development Outcomes
Alliance members have expressed a need for practitioner-friendly resources that support district leaders in evaluating their professional development (PD) activities. To address this need, REL Northeast & Islands is working with alliance members to develop a practitioner-focused brief that will introduce district leaders and others involved in PD management to key concepts related to PD evaluation, with a special focus on implementation fidelity and the role it plays in evaluating teacher and student outcomes. The brief will explain common evaluation tools, such as logic models; offer suggestions for effective data collection and analysis; and include templates that practitioners can use in their own contexts. Learn more.

Webinar: Micro-credentialing and Teacher Professional Learning (October 17, 2018)
As district leaders seek new and improved ways to advance educator professional development, many are considering incorporating micro-credentials into their districts’ professional learning systems or are in the early stages of piloting them. This webinar provides evidence-based information on micro-credentials and how best to use them to support teacher learning. The webinar also presents lessons learned from early adopters about the design and implementation of these programs. View event details.

Webinar: Using Cost Analysis to Inform Decisions About Professional Learning (January 11, 2018)
This webinar explores cost analysis methods in educational decision making and how districts can use these methods to select programs or inform resource allocation for professional learning programs. Drawing from resources such as a recently published REL report, “The Critical Importance of Costs for Education Decisions,” and CostOut, an online toolkit funded by IES, Dr. Fiona Hollands, Associate Director of the Center for Benefit-Cost Studies of Education at Columbia University, discusses why cost analysis is important, the types of cost metrics that are useful for decision making, and four methods for cost analysis. Two district leaders from Maine share a professional learning intervention they are considering, and Dr. Hollands uses the scenario to demonstrate how cost estimates can be combined with other information to answer different types of policy and practice questions. View event details.

Webinar Series: Planning for High-Quality Evaluation of Professional Learning
This three-part training series focuses on planning for and executing high-quality program evaluations of educator professional learning and development. Session 1 (October 11, 2017) covers the basics necessary to plan a good program evaluation, such as creating a logic model. Session 2 (November 16, 2017) focuses on the connection between evaluation questions and data collection methods, and planning for data collection during evaluation. Session 3 (January 25, 2018) explores data analysis and how districts can use the results of an evaluation to inform decisions. View event details.

Members

Name Title Organization State/Territory
Caitlin Ahern Professional Learning Coordinator Lexington Public Schools Massachusetts
Anita Bernhardt Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment York School Department Maine
Celeste Bowler Assistant Superintendent East Providence School Department Rhode Island
Colleen Callahan Director of Professional Issues
Member
Rhode Island Federation of Teachers
Rhode Island Board of Education
Rhode Island
Gladys Cruz District Superintendent Questar III Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) New York
Francine Grannell K–12 Humanities Curriculum Coordinator Skaneateles Central School District New York
Scott Harrison Executive Director, Central Aroostook Council on Education University of Maine at Presque Isle Maine
Cheryl Kirkpatrick Director of Personnel & Professional Learning Chelmsford Public Schools Massachusetts
Deborah Richards Director, Division of Student Services Capital Region Education Council (CREC) Connecticut
Valerie Sullivan Director of Curriculum and Instruction Lamoille South Supervisory Union Vermont
Shakera Walker Director of Teacher Development, Office of the Chief of Schools Boston Public Schools Massachusetts