We develop a theoretical and empirical basis for the design of teacher professional development studies. We build on previous work by (a) developing estimates of intraclass correlation coefficients for teacher outcomes using two- and three-level data structures, (b) developing estimates of the variance explained by covariates, and (c) modifying the conventional optimal design framework to include differential covariate costs so as to capture the point at which the cost of collecting a covariate overtakes the reduction in variance it supplies. We illustrate the use of these estimates to explore the absolute and relative sensitivity of multilevel designs in teacher professional development studies. The results from these analyses are intended to guide researchers in making more-informed decisions about the tradeoffs and considerations involved in selecting study designs for assessing the impacts of professional development programs.
Kelcey, B., Phelps, G., Spybrook, J., Jones, N., & Zhang, J. (in press). Designing Large-scale Multisite and Cluster-randomized Studies of Professional Development. Journal of Experimental Education, 1-22