Evaluating NIF Teachers’ Institutes: Using the Perceptions of Social Studies Teachers to Assess the Efficacy of their Training Open Access
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Evaluating NIF Teachers’ Institutes:Using the Perceptions of Social Studies Teachers to Assess the Efficacy of their TrainingThe purpose of this study is to evaluate the Birmingham Teachers’ Institutes by assessing the perceptions of teachers on the efficacy of their training. Birmingham is an interesting case study because it directly addresses the relevance and use of otherwise expensive professional development programs that have been theoretically touted as essential to successful implementation of new and innovative curricula. Previous studies that have assessed the efficacy of such professional development programs have used multiple research methods including assessing how teachers view the relevance of professional development to their own work by analyzing teacher perceptions of their professional development programs.This study takes a case study approach to the research, where the interest is in understanding the teachers’ experience in participating in the Teachers’ Institutes to determine how they addressed the key characteristics of successful professional development programs noted above, and what effects the Teachers’ Institute had on teacher practice in the classroom. This study also takes on aspects of a phenomenological analysis, since what is being observed are the behaviors and mind-sets of participants.In order to answer the research questions, this study utilizes both quantitative and qualitative research methods. One primary set of raw data will be used with participating teachers:  a questionnaire or survey. In addition, one secondary set of raw data was used:  personal reflections submitted by teachers, the sponsoring institution (David Mathews Center for Civic Life), and the program administrator (Sparks Consulting, Inc.), which were written as part of a joint research project with the Charles F. Kettering Foundation.The study’s results provided evidence that: Teachers greatly perceived the Teachers’ Institute was instrumental in providing them with new knowledge and skills; detailed thought and attention were given to personal factors, organizational factors, content- and context-related factors, and communication networks (all the key components to successful professional development programs); pedagogical change did occur and it was widely recognized (e.g. teachers reported more efficacy in: running deliberative forums; addressing issues with students; and classroom preparation and curriculum use); and all teachers perceived they had a very basic level of support from school leaders.