Observation of Other Teachers Training
Many experts assert that high-quality professional development should enhance student learning, but data for undertaking the requisite analysis are sparse. Almost all teachers participate in some form of professional development over the course of a year, most for the equivalent of a day or less. Teachers who spend more time in professional development activities are more likely to self-report improvements in classroom teaching as the result of these activities than are those who spend less time. Although several reports have asserted that teachers will perform better if they are given opportunities to sharpen their skills and keep abreast of advances in their fields (Henke, Chen, and Geis 2000; National Commission on Teaching and Americas Future 1996), there has been no comprehensive assessment of the availability of such learning opportunities and the effects of those opportunities on teachers and students (Mullens et al. 1996; Smylie 1996.) This section reviews participation in three types of professional development activities by mathematics and science teachers in 1999/2000:
- activities focused on indepth study of their content areas,
- activities focused on methods of teaching, and
- activities focused on the use of computers for teaching.
The amount of time teachers spent in these activities and whether they found them useful are also reviewed.
Observation of Other Teachers Teaching
Some research suggests that the experience of teachers observing other teachers can contribute to the sharing of good practices. TIMSS-R asked the mathematics and science teachers of U.S. 8th-grade students during the 1998/99 academic year about the number of class periods they observed other teachers during the past year and the number of periods other teachers observed them during the past year (NCES 2000f.) In general, the mathematics teachers of U.S. 8th-grade students rarely participated in observational activities. On average, U.S. 8th-grade students were taught by mathematics teachers who spent one class period during the 1998/99 academic year observing other teachers and who were observed by other teachers during two class periods. There were no differences in the average number of class periods that mathematics teachers observed other teachers or were observed by other teachers based on years of teaching experience.
The science teachers of U.S. 8th-grade students also rarely participated in observational activities. On average, U.S. 8th graders were taught by science teachers who observed other teachers for one class period during the 1998/99 academic year and who were observed by other teachers for one class period. However, the situation was different for U.S. 8th-grade students whose science teachers had the fewest years of experience (05 years): their teachers spent approximately three periods observing other teachers, a greater number of periods than science teachers with more years of experience (NCES 2000f.)