Professional development that promotes curriculum implementation

By Kerri Wingert - April 2014


Penuel, W. R., Fishman, B. J., Yamaguchi, R., & Gallagher, L. P. (2007). What makes professional development effective? Strategies that foster curriculum implementation. American Educational Research Journal, 44(4), 921–958. doi:10.3102/0002831207308221

Research Design 

Drawing on a survey of 454 teachers, Penuel, Fishman, Yamaguchi, and Gallagher found several components of professional development (PD) that predicted implementation of an earth science curriculum called GLOBE. They used survey research to extend and test hypotheses developed by Garet and colleagues (2001) to assess the effectiveness of large-scale PD. The survey, which had a 31% response rate, was administered to 1,497 teachers who had been trained by one of 28 PD providers. It asked questions about barriers to implementation, rate of implementation, context (grade level, school type, and so on), and the nature of the PD received.

The researchers entered these variables into a statistical model to determine which aspects of the PD predicted curriculum use. They compared survey data to interview responses, although interview data were not the basis of the findings for this paper.

The researchers determined two main factors that predicted curriculum implementation:

These factors are referred to as the “coherence” of the PD. That is, teachers who had the chance to think about how the curriculum could be adapted to their own context tended to implement the curriculum, as did those who gained earth science content knowledge as part of their PD. Both of these findings support previous research on teacher knowledge and curriculum implementation.

Theoretical Basis 

This practical work is grounded in research that seeks to answer questions about efficiency and quality in teacher training, especially as they relate to curriculum implementation.

Implications for Practice

The researchers are careful to acknowledge that correlation does not imply causation; that is, the fact that they found a statistical relationship does not mean that they have determined a surefire “recipe” for good PD.

That said, this paper addresses a key question about educational improvement: What factors of PD encourage teachers to adopt or adapt new curriculum? In this study, the coherence of curriculum-related PD correlated with implementation. This finding suggests that administrators and professional developers should consider how to make PD more relevant to teachers’ immediate contexts. From the start, they should consider teachers’ professional goals and local opportunities, as well as the constraints of the curriculum. Program developers should also consider ways to deepen the content knowledge of practitioners so they have more freedom to tailor instruction to their students.


Garet, M. S., Porter A. C., Desimone, L., Birman, B. F., & Yoon, K. S. (2001). What makes professional development effective? Results from a national sample of teachers. American Educational Research Journal, 38(4), 915–945.