Supporting Large Scale Change in Science Education: Understanding Professional Development and Adoption Variation Related to the Revised Advanced Placement Curriculum (PD-RAP)

This proposal leverages the re-design of the Advanced Placement (AP) curricula currently under way to study the impact of teacher professional development on student achievement in a natural experiment at scale. In addition to supporting the improvement of professional development of AP teachers by the College Board, the findings contribute to a better understanding of the relationship between professional development and student achievement more generally.

Full Description: 

This proposal leverages the re-design of the Advanced Placement (AP) curricula currently under way to study the impact of teacher professional development on student achievement in a natural experiment at scale. Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Boston, Harvard University, the University of Michigan, and the Education Development Center, Inc are conducting a quasi-experimental research study to examine the professional development experienced by AP Biology, Chemistry and Physics teachers to determines 1) the relationship between teacher and school characteristics and the professional development patterns that teachers choose; 2) the relationship between the professional development patterns that various types of teachers choose and their students' outcomes; and 3) the challenges encountered in delivering various forms of professional development at this level of scale. In addition to supporting the improvement of professional development of AP teachers by the College Board, the findings contribute to a better understanding of the relationship between professional development and student achievement more generally.

This study uses the existing context of the AP Course Audit by which all teachers of AP courses submit a syllabus, descriptions of laboratory investigations, and information regarding contact hours and the background of teachers, including the professional development programs accessed. The teachers who submit audits will be surveyed using the Stages of Concern Questionnaire together with other items to determine their perceptions of the AP Science redesign. The experiences of over 20,000 teachers are examined over the course of the study. Teachers who participate in AP professional development conducted by the College Board and the Active AP online Teacher Community (APoTC) will be surveyed about their professional development experiences. Case studies of 40 using interview, elaborated survey items, and artifacts from their teaching provide information about the quality of the teacher implementation of the AP course. Scores on the AP exams of all of the students will be linked to the teachers and the relationships among those scores and teacher professional development experiences analyzed using multi-level regression analyses.

The findings from this study have considerable importance for those individuals who provide professional development for science teachers. The results will inform the College Board and others who provide professional development directly to AP science teachers about how that support needs to change in order to more effectively support teachers. Improving the support that AP teachers receive has the potential to improve the learning experiences of the students who participate in those classes. In addition, this study will provide information about issues and challenges to providing professional development at scale to a wider audience of professional development providers. As the Next Generation Science Standards come online, this information will be useful to policy makers and practitioners.