Exploring Teachers' Informal Learning for Policy on Professional Development

by Joel K. Shapiro

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This dissertation explores teachers informal learning experiences. It examines a group of inquiry science teachers, generating hypotheses about the nature of their informal learning experiences, the resultant learning, how those experiences affect their professional lives, and the implications for education policy. It also provides an example of how to operationalize informal learning measures within an evaluation of a particular professional development program. The author conducted interviews with 20 teachers and used the interview results to develop an informal learning survey that was completed by 39 teachers. Results indicate that many teachers believe they do engage in valuable informal learning experiences. This learning has the potential to influence the effectiveness of teachers formal learning experiences, what teachers do in their classrooms, and possibly students learning. Results of this dissertation and of follow-up research can lead to increased effectiveness of teacher training programs by suggesting better design and more efficient program administration by states and districts. They can also provide the basis for improved research on teacher training effectiveness and help guide states and districts teacher-recruiting efforts by identifying adults who have already acquired specific teaching-relevant knowledge and skills.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Why Study Teachers' Informal Learning

  • Chapter Two

    Teacher Interviews

  • Chapter Three

    Developing a Survey of Informal Learning Experiences

  • Chapter Four

    Survey Results and Analysis

  • Chapter Five

    Using Informal Learning Measures in a PD Program Evaluation

  • Chapter Six

    Future Research and Policy Recommendations

  • Appendix A

    The Interview Protocol

  • Appendix B

    The Survey

  • Chapter C

    Survey Response Data

  • Chapter D

    Classroom Practices

Research conducted by

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Dissertation series. Pardee RAND dissertations are produced by graduate fellows of the Pardee RAND Graduate School, the world's leading producer of Ph.D.'s in policy analysis. The dissertations are supervised, reviewed, and approved by a Pardee RAND faculty committee overseeing each dissertation.

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