Professional Development Research: Consensus, Crossroads, and Challenges

Published in:
Educational Researcher
December 2013
vol. 42 no. 9

Heather C. Hill, Harvard University School of Education
Mary Beisiegal, Oregon State University
Robin Jacob, University of Michigan


Commentaries regarding appropriate methods for researching professional development have been a frequent topic in recent issues of Educational Researcher as well as other venues. In this article, the authors extend this discussion by observing that randomized trials of specific professional development programs have not enhanced our knowledge of effective program characteristics, leaving practitioners without guidance with regard to best practices. In response, the authors propose that scholars should execute more rigorous comparisons of professional development designs at the initial stages of program development and use information derived from these studies to build a professional knowledge base. The authors illustrate with examples of both a proposed study and reviews of evidence on key questions in the literature.