Persistence of Teacher Change in Rural Schools: Assessing the Short- and Long-Term Impact of Professional Development on K-2 Science Instruction


Funding: National Science Foundation

Duration: Three years, beginning September 1, 2011

The extent to which teacher professional development can prompt long-term changes in classroom practices in science is unclear. Building on data from a professional development intervention for K-2 teachers in rural California that is nearing its end, UC Irvine and WestEd researchers will examine how long teacher changes resulting from professional development last once the intervention is over; which changes in teacher knowledge, skill, attitude, and instructional practice decay most quickly and which last longer; and which changes appear to be long-term or even permanent. The intervention to be studied, K-2 STARTS: Science & Technology Assistance for Rural Teachers and Small Districts, provided assistance to teachers in 16 rural and small districts with high populations of traditionally underserved students. Goals of the four-year program included increasing teachers’ content and pedagogical content knowledge in science, increasing teachers’ use of research-based strategies in science instruction, improving teacher capacity to use science resources, and increasing networking with other teachers.

This longitudinal research project will use a mixed-methods design and address the following questions:

  1. Will changes resulting from teacher participation in K-2 STARTS be sustained after the professional development activities end?
  2. Which changes persist over time, and which changes deteriorate most quickly?
  3. Will school and district resources and networks continue to provide adequate instructional support for teachers? 

The project will compare data collected before and during the four years of the professional development intervention with data to be collected for several years after the intervention ends. The research will be particularly valuable in examining sustainability of teacher change, identifying factors that promote and inhibit long-term changes in instructional practices in K-2 science, and highlighting areas of greatest need for science instruction and teacher professional development in rural settings.