Study: Teacher training rarely helps

Improving teachers’ effectiveness is the “paramount challenge” facing our schools, writes Robert Pianta in Teaching Children Well, a report for the Center for American Progress. But most professional development has little or no impact. Districts waste thousands of dollars per teach each year on one-day, one-time workshops that teach “awareness” rather than specific skills, Pianta writes. Trainers promote “models that have little basis in what is known about effective instruction, curriculum, or classroom interactions.”

The report looks at “new evidence-supported approaches to professional development that have promise for closing not only the evidence gap, but the achievement gap as well.”

MyTeachingPartner, or MTP . . . uses a standardized method of online, individualized coaching and a library of highly focused video clips showing effective teachers in action that are tightly coupled with a standardized metric for observing teacher practice in the classroom, called the Classroom Assessment Scoring System, or CLASS.

CLASS and MTP . . .  include models for observing teachers’ instruction in mathematics lessons that are useful in modeling feedback about instruction in the upper grades. There are now professional-development tools that show promise for improving instruction and children’s math skills in preschool.

In early literacy, there are now videos to provide teachers feedback with demonstrable gains for students’ skills as well as statewide models that connect individualized feedback, coursework, and assessment of students’ school-readiness skills in a program of teacher professional development.

In addition, John Tyler’s paper on Designing High-Quality Evaluation Systems for High School Teachers also was released.

About Joanne


  1. The only worthwhile one-day workshops are the ones that extend beyond that day. The topic should be chosen because it meets a need and there should be follow-up throughout the year. Ideally, it’s revisited at regular faculty meetings.

  2. May I offer that the reason that teacher effectiveness training “doesn’t work” because the problem is the lousy curriculum.

  3. “Professional development” workshops are essential for administrators to keep up the appearance that they have solutions and teachers have problems.

    As a veteran history teacher, I KNOW that my time would be much better spent if I were allowed to skip the stupid workshops. I would use that time to read more deeply in my content area, refine lessons and units, write more extensive comments on student papers, etc. But who’s listening to teachers like me? LIke my colleagues, I schlep into these tedious sessions and dutifully allow my time to be wasted.

    I can conceive of useful professional development: workshops put on by experts in my particular course –7th grade world history. I’d love insights into teaching about the Great Schism. But such professional development seems not to exist for some reason.