Indicator 7

Teachers’ participation in STEM-specific professional development activities

Indicator 7 is concerned with teachers’ participation in professional development activities targeted for one of the STEM fields or STEM in general.

Related DCL Awards (1): Mandinach & Orland


Priority: Medium

The Monitoring Progress committee did not identify Indicator 7 as a high priority. In addition, some experts interviewed about this indicator regarded it as a relatively low-priority indicator because participation in professional development (PD) is generally not a significant predictor of student achievement except when the PD is closely tied to a content-specific instructional intervention. Other experts, however, disagreed, believing there was enough information about the aspects of PD that impact instructional practices to heighten the priority of this indicator

Operational Definition

Indicator 7 is defined as in-service teachers’ participation in formal or informal activities designed to enhance their ability to deliver effective instruction in one or more of the STEM subject areas. Note that informal activities such as mentoring programs or communities of learners around STEM instruction would be included in this definition; general training or mentoring on becoming a better teacher in general would not. Indicator 7 deals with quantitative rather than qualitative aspects of professional development. Clearly, the quality of professional development is important and research clarifying the quality dimensions of STEM PD that relate to better student outcomes may provide a basis for future extension of Indicator 7 to incorporate those dimensions.

The research literature suggests several attributes that appear to be associated with more effective professional development (e.g., Darling-Hammond et al., 2009; Desimone, 2009; Garret et al., 2001; Penuel et al., 2007) including: PD that is ongoing, includes more than one teacher per school, and is tightly aligned with curriculum. The research literature suggests several attributes that appear to be associated with more effective professional development (e.g., Darling-Hammond et al., 2009; Desimone, 2009; Garret et al., 2001; Penuel et al., 2007): PD that is ongoing, includes more than one teacher per school, and is tightly aligned with curriculum. In the short term, a proposed operational definition is whether a teacher participated in STEM (inclusive of just science, just math, etc.) professional development in the past year and if so, for how much time. In the long term, the operational definition should also reflects whether that professional development included any of the known best practice characteristics as determined by Garret et al. (2001). Prior survey items on STEM PD were not framed with the new standards and their emphasis on practices and crosscutting concepts in mind. It has been suggested that instructional approaches and therefore PD approaches might vary across grade levels.

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