I'm delighted to report that the work of my friend and colleague, Dr. Tom Stewart of Austin Peay State University, exploring the effects of an on-going formative assessment initiative on teacher learning, has been published in the peer-reviewed international research journal, Qualitative Research in Education.
The article, "Deep Impact: How a Job-Embedded Formative Assessment Professional Development Model Affected Teacher Practice," represented key findings from Tom's dissertation study while a doctoral student in WKU's EdD program. I was priveleged to serve as Tom's methodologist, and the model described in his study reflects a professional development framework he and I have utilized numerous times in our consulting with P-12 schools and districts.
The study describes Tom's efforts as a district administrator to help teachers learn to effectively use formative assessment strategies. Recognizing the limitations of "one-and-done" professional learning experiences, Tom designed a series of multiple after school PD sessions (called the Formative Assessment Academy) with a core group of volunteer teachers. In each session, teachers explored research on formative assessment and learned new strategies. They also committed to practicing at least one formative assessment strategy between sessions, and brought examples of student work and their reflections, which they shared with other teachers during each workshop.
Interviews with participating teachers, non-participating teachers, and administrators indicated that teacher confidence in the use of formative assessment rapidly increased, even for those who did not get direct benefit from the Academy. Teachers cited the opportunity to practice strategies repeatedly and share with others as a key component of the initiative's success.
This study suggests a professional development format that parellels the best features of meaningful professional learning communities. Marzano, Frontier, and Livingston (2011) cite opportunities to practice and discuss expert teaching strategies as a fundamental condition for fostering improvements in teaching skills. And this study further extends the research literature on the power of formative assessment as a tool for teaching and learning.
School and district leaders should consider teacher learning frameworks like the Formative Assessment Academy for all professional development initiatives.
Read the full text of the article here.