Professional Development for Science Teachers

This resource is an article in the April 2013 issue of Science. It is available through subscription (personal or library).

The author offers an overview of the call for improving science education in the United States, and the role that the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) play in accomplishing this endeavor, through the critical lens and agenda of research on science teacher professional development (PD).

It offers several key messages regarding the large-scale PD needed to help current teachers acquire the knowledge and skills called for in the NGSS, considering the shifts that these  require beyond the traditional content knowledge, pedagogy, or curriculum materials’ PD offered in the past and the varied cultures of reform in schools.

A section on pressing challenges addresses equity issues, offering use of technologies and social media for more scalable PD and access for all teachers.

Content Comments 

This resource offers a valuable lens for this collection on professional development. A review of the existing research agenda on science PD, it highlights five characteristics of effective PD, in addition to five "best practices" nominated by researchers, detailing the types of studies that are presently examining the effectiveness of "best practices" and the challenges that researchers face given the realities of school dynamics. This article also emphasizes the mismatch that exists between existing scientific practices' PD and student achievement measures, in addition to the types of transference that take place in the classroom, depending upon the features of practices that teachers experience during PD. Of interest is the lack of clarity among researchers about theories of the underlying mechanisms involved in teacher learning. Educators, administrators, researchers, and policymakers will find this thought-provoking resource of value.