Five Levels of Professional Development Evaluation

Guskey (1998) discusses five levels of professional development evaluation that are helpful in determining the overall success of the activity. The levels are hierarchical, ranging from simple to complex.

The first level of assessment is to gauge the participants' reactions, usually through questionnaires following a session. Did the teachers think their time was well spent? Were the activities meaningful? Did teachers think the activities will be useful in practice?

The second level for assessment examines participants' learning; it measures the knowledge, skills, and perhaps the new attitudes teachers have acquired as a result of the professional development activities, not just the subjective indications of impact. This type of assessment could be a pencil and paper exercise (otherwise known as a test), a simulation or skill demonstration, oral or written personal reflections, portfolio evaluation, or similar activities. Whatever technique used, the measures must reflect the goals for that activity, meeting specific criteria outlined before the professional development experience begins. This level of assessment also must be structured to reveal any unintended learning, or results that were not anticipated.

The third assessment level comes after an appropriate length of time has passed. This more complicated type of assessment analyzes organizational support for the skills gained in professional development. Was individual change encouraged and supported? Was administrative support public and overt? Were problems addressed quickly and efficiently? Were sufficient resources made available, including time for sharing and reflection? Were successes recognized and shared? Getting the data this type of analysis requires may involve analyzing district or school records or the minutes of follow-up meetings, questionnaires, or structured interviews.

At the fourth level, participants' use of new knowledge and skills is assessed by asking whether they are using what they learned and using it well. This type of assessment requires indicators that reveal both the degree and quality of use. It can rely on questionnaires or structured interviews, oral or written personal reflections, or examination of journals or portfolios, but the best method is probably direct observation or observation via video or audiotape. Such measures should be ongoing at several time intervals.

The fifth level addresses student learning outcomes that are the end result of the professional development activity. Did students show improvement in academic, behavior, or other areas? Did the students benefit from the activity? Were there any unintended results?

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