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Summary of Research on the Effectiveness of Math Professional Development Approaches

Abstract

"This study used a systematic process modeled after the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) study review process to answer the question: What does the causal research say are effective math professional development interventions for K-12 teachers aimed at improving student achievement? The study identified and screened 910 research studies in a comprehensive literature search for effectiveness studies of math professional development approaches. (See appendix A for details of the search, screening, and review process.) Of these 910 studies, 643 examined professional development approaches related to math in grades K-12 and were conducted in the United States. Of the 643 studies, 32 focused primarily on math professional development provided to teachers and used a research design for examining effectiveness (see appendix B for a list of the 32 studies). Five of those were determined to have met WWC evidence standards (version 2.1) either with or without reservations (appendix C). And of those five, only two found positive effects on students' math proficiency. Thus, there is very limited causal evidence to guide districts and schools in selecting a math professional development approach or to support developers' claims about their approaches. The limited research on effectiveness means that schools and districts cannot use evidence of effectiveness alone to narrow their choice. Instead, they must use their best judgment until more causal evidence becomes available."

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