Over the last fifteen years, research has shown that there is a link between improvements in education and the professional development (PD) of school staff. Given the evidence of the key role played by proficiency in the language of instruction in academic persistence and success, PD could prove to be an instrument of choice for improving reading and writing interventions. With that in mind, we conducted a systematic study of a corpus of 50 studies on teacher PD with the aim of identifying the most effective continuing education models for literacy instruction.
The professional development should be managed like an ongoing and iterative learning process.
Two main conclusions emerged from our knowledge synthesis: First, although rigorous studies have succeeded in identifying the characteristics common to the most effective continuing education activities, a lack of data with regard to professional development prevents us from proving satisfactorily, on a large scale, the effectiveness of specific literacy teacher training models on student outcomes.
Second, despite the previous observation, teacher PD remains one of the best means an education system has at its disposal to improve the quality of instruction. Accordingly, if the results are not up to expectations, it is not the PD that should be called into question, but the continuing education content or process.
In order to have a positive impact on student learning, PD cannot be limited to providing teachers with a succession of occasional, fragmented, decontextualized training sessions without follow-up or guidance. To be effective, PD should instead be managed like an ongoing and iterative professional learning process and have objectives that are explicitly linked to student outcomes. In addition, it must be based on a collaborative approach that has the organizational support of an administration with strong pedagogical leadership.
Mario Richard, TÉLUQ
Deposit of the research report: March 2017