Impact of Online Professional Development or Teacher Quality and Student Achievement in Fifth Grade Mathematics

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Nebraska, Lincoln]On: 10 October 2014, At: 09:11Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH,UK

    Journal of Research onTechnology in EducationPublication details, including instructions for authorsand subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/ujrt20

    Impact of Online ProfessionalDevelopment or TeacherQuality and StudentAchievement in Fifth GradeMathematicsSheralyn Dasha, Raquel Magidin de Kramera, Laura M.ODwyera, Jessica Mastersa & Michael Russellaa Boston CollegePublished online: 21 Feb 2014.

    To cite this article: Sheralyn Dash, Raquel Magidin de Kramer, Laura M.ODwyer, Jessica Masters & Michael Russell (2012) Impact of Online ProfessionalDevelopment or Teacher Quality and Student Achievement in Fifth GradeMathematics, Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 45:1, 1-26, DOI:10.1080/15391523.2012.10782595

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  • Abstract

    Impact of Online Professional Development on Teacher Quality and Student Achievement in Fifth Grade Mathematics

    JRTE I Vol. 45, No. 1, pp. 1-261 2012 ISTE I iste.org/jrt8

    Impact of Online Professional Development on Teacher Quality and Student Achievement in

    Fifth Grade Mathematics

    Sheralyn Dash Raquel Magidin de Kramer

    Laura M. O'Dwyer Jessica Masters Michael Russell

    Boston College

    Despite the ever-increasing number of online professional development ( OPD) programs, relatively few studies have been conducted to examine the efficacy of such programs for teachers and students. This manuscript presents findings from an impact study of OPD courses in fractions, algebraic thinking, and measurement on 79 fifth grade teachers' pedagogical content knowledge and pedagogical practices as well as their students' mathematics achievement. The OPD courses were offered one course per semester for three semesters, and each course comprised 1 week of orientation and 6 weeks of course con-tent. Overall, teachers participated in more than approximately 70 hours of OPD. The research findings showed that teachers who had been randomly assigned to the experimental group had significantly greater gains in scores for pedagogical content knowledge and pedagogical practices than teachers in the control group. Nevertheless, the positive changes in teacher outcomes did not translate to any meaningful differences in students' mathematics achieve-ment. (Keywords: teacher quality, online professional development, elemen-tary education, mathematics achievement)

    The single thing that determines how well a child does in math is ... an outstanding math teacher.

    -President Barack Obama (Burt-Murray, Robertson, & Gordy, 2010)

    I t has been well established in the research literature that highly quali-fied and highly effective teachers are key to students' academic success (Darling-Hammond & Berry, 2006; Geringer, 2003; Lasley, Siedentop, & Yinger, 2006). In a review of John Hattie's seminal work, Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement, Terhart

    Volume 45 Number 1 I Journal of Research on Technology in Education I 1

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  • Dash, Magidin de Kramer, O'Dwyer, Masters, & Russell

    (2011) critically analyzed Hattie's (2009) claim that the "teacher" factor was the most significant school predictor of students' academic achievement, particularly in the area of mathematics. Despite criticism of some of Batte's methods, Terhart (2011) determined that teachers do matter, as only certai::l teachers with certain practices are highly effective. Indeed teacher quality has been cited as the single most important school factor that explains stu-dent achievement (Hanushek, 2007; Haskins & Loeb, 2007; Haycock, 2003; Gordon, Kane, & Staiger, 2006). Still, more than two decades after the publi-cation A Nation at Risk (U.S. Department of Education, 1983), challenges re-garding teacher quality continue to be both poignant and relevant (Petenon, 2003; U.S. Department of Education, 2008). Specifically, the National Com-mission on Excellence in Education highlighted severe shortages of teachers in the areas of mathematics and science in the 1983 publication A Nation at Risk. Moreover, the report indicated that half of the newly employed mathematics teachers were not actually qualified to teach the subject. Some argue that little has changed in the years following the report and educat:lon outcomes have shown little improvement since 1970 (Peterson, 2003). Fur-thermore, there is little evidence to indicate that the highly qualified teaC.1er provisions of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act have led to significant increases in teacher efficacy or to increases in teachers' knowledge in sub;ect areas such as mathematics (U.S. Department of Education, 2008).

    Professional development for teachers has been deemed the necessary ap-proach to improving teacher quality, meaning teachers' pedagogical cont~nt knowledge and pedagogical practices. Essentially, professional developm~nt has been adopted as a policy solution to improving the number of highly qualified teachers as well as helping all students to achieve high academk standards (Colbert, Brown, Choi, & Thomas, 2008). Guided by the mandate that all students should be taught by highly qualified teachers, the NCLB Act stipulates that any local educational agency that receives Title I, Part A, funds must provide their teachers with high-quality professional develop-ment (Public Law 107-110-JAN .8, 2002). Support for this policy is based on the premise that teacher knowledge and classroom practices mediate the effects of professional development on student achievement, provided the professional development is conducted within the context of high standards, challenging curricula, systemwide accountability, and high-stakes assess-ments (Yoon, Duncan, Lee, Scarloss, & Shapley, 2007).

    The Wenglinsky (2000) report, How Teaching Matters: Bringing the Classroom Back into Discussions of Teacher Quality, documents the positive effects of teacher professional development. Specifically, Wenglinsky (2000) provided evidence that students whose teachers had received professional development in working with special populations outperformed their peers on mathematics assessments by more than a full grade leveL Moreover, students whose teachers had received professional development in higher-order thinking skills outperformed their peers on mathematics assessments

    2 I Journal of Research on Technology in Education I Volume 45 Number 1

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  • lmp::tct of Online Professional Development

    by 40% of a grade level (Wenglinsky, 2000). Further evidence in the research literature indicates that teachers who receive substantial professional devel-opm,ent (an average of 49 hours) can boost their students' academic achieve-Dent by approximately 21 percentile points (Yoon, Duncan, Lee, Scarloss, & Stapley, 2007). According to Yoon et al. (2007), professional development is most effective if it is characterized by coherence, active learning, suffi-dent duration, collective participation, a focus on content knowledge, and a reform rather than traditional approach.

    Despite these guidelines, the U.S. Department of Education (2007) :rublication "State and Local Implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act Volume II- Teacher Quality Under NCLB: Interim Report" indicates tiat few teachers receive content-focused professional development for a sufficient duration. Specifically, although alm.::>st all elementary teachers re-ported participating in content-focused professional development related to teaching mathematics, only 8% of those teachers had received more than 24 hours of professional development on instructional strategies in mathemat-ics (U.S. Department of Education, 2007). The unavailability of professional development opportunities that directly address teachers' individual needs and the rigid schedule associated with traditional professional development programs are some of the obstacles that many teachers face (Kleiman, 2004). Traditional professional development is often offered at times and locations that are not feasible for many teachers, and the reality of having to meet the demands of both work and family life require professional development that can be delivered anytime, anywhere (V:::-asidas & Zembylas, 2004).

    Online professional development has been championed as the "anytime, anywhere" option that provides flexibility by allowing participants, irrespec-tive of location, to manage educational pursuits with work and personal responsibilities (Davis, 2009; Stanford-Bower,s, 2008). Born out of a need for professional development that fits with the busy schedules of teachers, on-line professional development provides access as well as ongoing support to important resources that might not otherwise be affordable or even available locally (Dede, Breit, Ketelhut, McCloskey, & \Vhitehouse, 2005). The advent of online courses makes it feasible to connect teachers across schools, dis-tricts, and even states, thereby fostering professional learning communities and broadening the professional learning opportunities available to teachers (Russell, Carey, Kleiman, & Venable, 2009). Additionally, online professional development can be offered in various furms: Distance learning classrooms enable individuals to participate in a class via video conferencing with the goal of making the online experience as close as possible to an in-class expe-rience; an online course can be conduced completely through asynchronous interactions, negating the need for all the participants of a course to be avail-a-:Jle at the same time and allowing participants to complete course require-ments according to their individual schedule; and self-paced online courses allow each participant to work through a series of resources and activities

    Volume 45 Number 1 I Journal of Research on Technology in Education 1 3

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  • Dash, Magidin de Kramer, O'Dwyer, Masters, & Russell

    at his or her own pace (Russell et al., 2009). Ultimately, online professional development provides the potential means of meeting the ambitious goals of N CLB regarding teacher quality, whereby large numbers of teachers can be provided with high-quality training in mathematical content and pedagogy (Ginsburg, Gray, & Levin, 2004).

    The advantages associated with online professional development have been linked with a dramatic increase in such programs nationally (Carey, Kleiman, Russell, Venable, & Louie, 2008). However, this increase in the number of online professional development programs has been coupled with increased concerns regarding the efficacy of online professional develop-ment as a strategy to improve educational outcomes (Carey et al., 2008). In a review of 40 online professional development sites for teachers of mathemat-ics, Ginsburg, Gray, and Levin (2004) found no independent evidence of program effectiveness. Moreover, the ultimate worth of any teacher profes-sional development initiative is often gauged by whether there is evidence of an impact on teacher practices and student learning (Lawless & Pellegrino, 2007). Previous research studies have documented evidence regarding vari-ous designs and methods of delivering online professional development. However, there is currently a void in the research literature regarding the effects of online professional development on teacher quality and student achievement (Ginsburg, Gray, & Levin, 2004; Lawless & Pellegrino, 2007; Whitehouse, Breit, McCloskey, Ketelhut, & Dede, 2006).

    Research Purpose The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of online professional development in mathematics on fifth grade teachers' pedagogical content knowledge and pedagogical practices as well as their students' mathematics achievement.

    We conducted this study as part of a larger research study associated with a specific online professional development program. The online professional development program is a federally funded 1 0-state collaborative that was founded on the premise that many teachers do not have ready access to high-quality professional development. Thus, the program seeks to create an effective and sustainable model of online professional development for teachers in each of the 10 participating states by removing schedule and location barriers and offering teachers the opportunity to pursue profes-sional development courses online. The ultimate program goal is to improve teachers' pedagogical content knowledge and instructional practices as well as students' academic achievement. As an important part of the initiative, we conducted four concurrent experimental studies in fourth grade English Ian-guage arts (ELA), fifth grade mathematics, seventh grade ELA, and eighth grade mathematics (O'Dwyer, Masters, Dash, Magidin De Kramer, Humez, & Russell, 2010). The focus of this paper is the fifth grade mathematics ran-domized controlled trial.

    4 I Journal of Research on Technology in Education I Volume 45 Number I

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