Learning from Peers on a Large Scale

Teachers in High-Poverty Schools Find Value in Results of National Educator Surveys

by Elizabeth D. Steiner, William R. Johnston

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Research Question

  1. How useful would data on how other teachers responded to a national survey be for teachers in reflecting upon and thinking about how to improve their teaching practice?

Teachers in the United States are encouraged to continuously improve their teaching practice, and one method of doing so is learning from peers. Learning from peers can take many forms, such as pursuing formal or informal collaboration, accessing research results through professional networks, or seeking guidance from peers about interventions and instructional strategies. Many opportunities for peer-to-peer learning occur through one-on-one or small-group interactions. Larger-scale opportunities for learning, such as conferences and online communities, may be useful channels for building peer connections, but are unlikely to provide teachers with systematic information about what their peers are doing nationally. Researchers know little about the extent to which teachers would find national survey data about their peers' teaching practice useful, as little research exists on which topics might be perceived as useful for reflection and improvement. In addition, researchers do not know how school characteristics affect teachers' perceptions of the usefulness of such information. Nationally representative data from the RAND Corporation's web-based American Teacher Panel survey provide insight into the degree to which teachers believe national survey data would be useful for thinking about how they could improve their practice and the extent to which their perceptions vary by school characteristics.

Key Findings

Teachers are interested in survey data, especially in high-poverty schools

  • More than 80 percent of teachers reported that survey data about social and emotional learning, interventions to support student outcomes, curriculum, and supporting students with high-incidence disabilities would be useful.
  • Teachers in higher-poverty schools were significantly more likely to report that national survey data on many topics would be somewhat or very useful for improving their instruction than teachers in lower-poverty schools.

Recommendation

  • Researchers who collect and analyze national survey data, as well as funders and policymakers who use and disseminate such data, should consider making the results — particularly if they address any of the topics included in the American Teacher Panel — available directly to teachers.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was conducted by RAND Education and Labor and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. For this document, different permissions for re-use apply. Please refer to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation section on our permissions page.

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