Cover: How Do Teachers Spend Professional Learning Time, and Does It Connect to Classroom Practice?

How Do Teachers Spend Professional Learning Time, and Does It Connect to Classroom Practice?

Findings from the 2022 American Instructional Resources Survey

Published Jun 21, 2023

by George Zuo, Sy Doan, Julia H. Kaufman

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Research Questions

  1. What types of PL do teachers engage in?
  2. How do teachers spend their time during their PL experiences?
  3. How do teachers benefit from their PL experiences?
  4. How does PL connect to instructional efficacy as measured by teacher-reported classroom practices and student achievement?

In this report, the authors use data from the American Instructional Resources Survey (AIRS) fielded in spring 2022 to kindergarten through 12th grade (K–12) math, English language arts, and science teachers to describe teachers' professional learning (PL) activities, with an emphasis on how much PL time was spent on various topics and activities. Although the AIRS largely focuses on using, adapting, and creating instructional materials, the 2022 AIRS also asked teachers how PL time was spent on various topics, including classroom management and supporting student mental health. This allows for the description of a broader variety of teacher PL activity. The authors also examine the extent to which teacher participation in PL translates to instructional efficacy, as measured by teacher reports of standards-aligned classroom practices and estimates of student achievement relative to grade level.

Key Findings

  • Collaborative learning was the most frequent form of PL for teachers and often the form of PL that teachers thought was most beneficial.
  • Reviewing student assessment data and discussing how to use and adapt instructional materials were the primary uses of PL time. More than 40 percent of teachers indicated that they spend at least one-quarter of their collaborative learning time on student assessment data or using or adapting instructional materials.
  • Few teachers reported having extensive access to expertise on subject-area materials or content through their PL. Access to expertise was a substantial predictor of whether teachers considered the PL they participated in to be beneficial to their teaching and student learning.
  • Teachers who reported frequent participation in PL generally reported higher levels of standards-aligned classroom practices than those who did not frequently participate, although there were notable differences by subject and by the mode of PL.
  • After controlling for teacher and classroom characteristics, teachers' participation in PL did not appear to strongly correlate with self-reported measures of student achievement.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation and conducted by RAND Education and Labor.

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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