Graduation Year

2016

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Adult, Career and Higher Education

Major Professor

Waynne B. James, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Edward C. Fletcher, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jeffrey D. Kromrey, Ph.D.

Committee Member

William H. Young, Ed.D.

Keywords

Formal Learning, Informal Learning, Inservice Training, Mathematics Teachers, Professional Learning, Teacher Professional Development

Abstract

Although there has been a substantial amount of research on the topic of teacher professional development, few studies adequately captured the types and frequency of formal and informal professional learning teachers undertake to improve as educators. The purpose of this study was to examine the types of activities middle and high school mathematics teachers engaged in to improve their abilities as educators, analyzed by the participants’ school setting, years of teaching experience, level of education, degree major, certificate type, and their school’s Title I status.

Teachers from two large school districts in Florida participated. The Teachers’ Opportunity to Learn (TOTL) survey was used to collect the data. The TOTL measured the professional learning activities of teachers based on seven learning categories: (a) workshops, (b) teacher collaboration, (c) university courses, (d) conferences, (e) mentoring/coaching, (f) informal communication, and (g) individual learning activities. Teachers were solicited to participate two times; which generated 245 responses for analysis.

The results of this study indicated that teachers devoted an extensive amount of time on professional development, with the majority of time spent on informal learning activities. Every participant in the study engaged in at least one professional development activity; most engaged in four or more activities. The activity with the highest amount of participation (99.2%) and greatest amount of time spent (36.62 hours per month) was individual learning activities. Other notable areas of participation were professional development programming, teacher collaboration, and informal communication. When the activities were analyzed by demographic variable, 16 comparisons were found to be statistically significant. Mentoring/coaching activities produced more significant results than any other activity in the study. Analyses also confirmed that the professional learning practices of new teachers were significantly different from their more experienced peers.

The findings from this study could serve as the impetus for programmatic changes and policy reform within the education community. School districts could benefit by creating professional development programs that support teacher collaboration, informal communication, and self-directed learning. State education departments could encourage these endeavors by redirecting funding and redesigning certification systems to recognize these non-traditional individualized activities.

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