Given that teacher professional development is a part of teachers’ professional lives and given that billions of dollars have been invested in teacher professional development, this dissertation advocates for research that studies teacher learning and the conditions under which they learn, as an equally important component of studying the impact of professional development on students’ test scores, achievement, and/or learning.
The Pathway Project, a research-based literacy professional development program, served as the study context. The Pathway Project provides teachers with tools to use in their practice to support students in reading and writing using a cognitive strategies approach (Olson & Land, 2007). Using data in the form of observational protocols, survey measures, teacher focus groups, and field notes, as well as, qualitative analytic methods, I investigated: (1) how teachers appropriated Pathway tools for their practice; (2) teachers’ perceptions about their participation in the Pathway Project and subsequent impact on student perceptions and learning; and (3) how the Pathway Project design impacted opportunities for teachers’ learning.
My findings are centralized around the role tools play in teachers’ enactment of the Pathway Project, teachers’ perceptions, and the design of professional development. Data analysis revealed that teachers appropriated the tools in a variety of ways. The teachers responded positively to tools that were easy or moderately easy to implement and they were more willing to use these tools and often used them soon after they were introduced. I also found that the teachers perceived the Pathway Project as a valuable experience and mainly spoke of the ease of implementation of Pathway tools to help their students read and write more analytically. Importantly, they found assessment tools to be more difficult to navigate. Their students also had positive perceptions, noting that they did more writing, worked harder, and scored significantly better on an on-demand writing assessment. Finally, the design of the Pathway Project professional development program afforded teachers numerous opportunities to grow as professionals, yet they were limited in their opportunities to enact and collaboratively reflect on their practice. Implications for the design of literacy professional development will be presented.