Penuel, W. R., & Gallagher, L. P. (2008). Comparing three approaches to preparing teachers to teach for deep understanding in Earth science: Short-term impacts on teachers and teaching practice. Menlo Park, CA: SRI International.
It is widely believed that teachers need high-quality curriculum materials to improve teaching and learning. Professional development designs differ, however, in whether they emphasize preparing teachers to use expert-designed curricula or preparing teachers with the tools needed to design and implement high-quality science units themselves. Evidence exists for the effectiveness of providing teachers with training in how to implement expert-designed curricula (Bredderman, 1983; Shymansky, Hedges, & Woodworth, 1990; Weinstein, Boulanger, & Walberg, 1982) and for providing teachers with professional development aimed at preparing teachers to design instruction and assessments (Black & Harrison, 2001; Shepard, 1997; Sneider, Adams, Ibanez, Templeton, & Porter, 1996). No studies, however, have compared explicitly these different approaches to preparing teachers to plan and enact instruction in science. This study used an experimental design to compare the efficacy of three different approaches to professional development for preparing teachers to implement curriculum units aimed at teaching for deep conceptual understanding. All three approaches were organized around the principles of Understanding by Design (Wiggins & McTighe, 1998), a highly specified process for curriculum development that focuses on teaching for and assessing conceptual understanding. In the Investigating Earth Systems condition, teachers learned how to adopt an expert-designed investigation-based curriculum unit; in the Earth Science by Design condition, teachers learned how to design high quality curriculum units; and in the Hybrid condition, teachers learned how to adapt the IES curriculum materials using a principled 3 approach to curriculum design. In a Control condition, teachers received no special professional development, but were expected to teach to the same standards as teachers in the other three conditions.