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Professional development programs and their effects on student achievement: A systematic review of evidence

This paper presents a systematic review of the literature on the e ffects of professional development programs for teachers on students achievements. The systematic review shows similar results if we use a restrictive set of inclusion criteria (including 12 papers) as when we relax the criterion related to the thoroughness of the methodology (including 21 papers).
In both samples we find that professional development interventions are more likely to lead to positive (and significant) effects when Math rather than Reading Comprehension is used as the outcome measure. Similar differences are found when professional development programs are implemented in rural rather than urban areas, when they are implemented in developing rather than developed countries, and in elementary rather than in middle (secondary) schools. As expected a positive relation is observed between the length of the training and the probability of having positive and significant results. This might be related to what the literature describes as the need of having intensive interventions to get the desired result of the training. Regarding the focus of the program, we observe more positive outcomes for professional development programs if the emphasis is on teaching techniques (pedagogy) rather than subject content. Moreover if we differentiate by the subjects involved (Math or Reading) we find different results: teaching techniques, usually in the form in-service training, seems to have better results on Reading and subject content training has more effect on Math.
Even though there is little information about the design and specific characteristics of these kinds of interventions, empirical evidence gives us insight about the recommended length, subject, training focus and grade of professional development programs for teachers for improvement of students achievement.
Keywords: Professional development; teachers; student achievement


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