Friday, June 17, 2011

Bausmith & Barry (2011) -- Revisiting PLCs

Bausmith, J.M. & Barry, C. (2011). Revisiting Professional Learning Communities to Increase College Readiness: The Importance of Pedagogical Content Knowledge. Educational Researcher, 40, 175-178.

In this essay, Bausmith & Barry revisit the evidence on PLCs and argue that although PLC structures are perhaps necessary for effective schools, they are likely insufficient for meeting the new expectations of the Common Core State Standards to increase college and workforce readiness rates. They later discuss one alternative strategy that may work with PLCs around creating a video library of teaching.

For over a decade, professional learning communities (PLCs) have been touted as an effective way to build upon the knowledge and skills of experienced teachers, yet much of the evidence base is derived from self-reports by practitioners. Although several generations of school reform (the standards movement, No Child Left Behind, and now the Common Core State Standards) have cited improving teacher effectiveness as key to improving student achievement, little change has occurred in the nature of professional development. This article argues that professional development generally, and PLCs in particular, would benefit from the insights gleaned from the extensive literature on teacher expertise that focuses on how well teachers understand the content they teach and how well they understand how students learn that content.

Haertel, G., & Means, B. (2000). Stronger designs for research on educational uses of technology

Haertel, G., & Means, B. (2000). Stronger designs for research on educational uses of technology: Conclusions and implications. SRI International: Menlo Park, CA.

This report is a synthesis of ten papers commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education and written by research methodology experts. The papers address the need for guidelines to steer a national research agenda focused on technology use in education emphasizing the effects on student learning and achievement. The authors report two common mistakes in technology evaluations. These are using scores from standardized tests that measure content unrelated to the intervention, and using measures of opinion, implementation, or consumer satisfaction in place of measures of student learning outcomes.

The report addresses the debate among educational researchers about the value of three general strategies for research designs: multiple contextualized evaluations, multi-level longitudinal research, and random-assignment experiments. Multiple contextualized evaluations that aggregate contextual findings across multiple settings explain how context influences the impact and the implementation of the technology-related intervention. Multi-level longitudinal research explains how district, school, classroom and student level phenomena affect short-term and long-term outcomes of technology-related interventions. Random-assignment experiments trace the effects of a given treatment to the observable differences in outcomes between the treatment group and the non-treatment group. Well-designed experiments and evaluations clarify if the treatment or intervention is responsible for the outcomes observed. The report explains the applicability of the three strategies for designing research studies to address a variety of questions about technology-related interventions. It contains six “exhibits” in the appendices that showcase a variety of ways to research and/or evaluate technology-related interventions including technology-based assessment, contextualized evaluation, quasi-experimental approach, formative evaluation and correlational analysis.

The report also calls for a national repository of instruments and outcome measures appropriate to studying technology-related interventions and for consortia of researchers who share and aggregate data from individual projects to inform educational technology policy and funding decisions on a national basis. Finally, it provides recommendations for a five-part national research agenda to include:
  • Information system for educational context measures.
  • 21st Century skills, indicators, and assessments.
  • Research on naturally occurring practices of technology use in schools.
  • Research on mature innovative teaching and learning with technology programs.
  • Research on technology and effective teacher professional development.
[Summary from ISTE CARET]