SUSTAINED PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: A CASE STUDY OF K-12 EDUCATORS' IMPLEMENTATION OF AN ESL PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM
Valdez-Zontek, Patricia J.
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The purpose of this case study was to establish the degree to which participants in a professional development program based on strategies for teaching English Language Learners and current research about effective professional development continued using the acquired knowledge and skills after the conclusion of the program. This case study examined the performance of teachers over a five-year period. This program involved a heterogeneous group of K-12 school districts in Washington State facing a growing number of ELL students and a small private university which, due to location and history, has had extensive experience with training ELL teachers. The study included both quantitative and qualitative data. Quantitative data from participant scores on the state endorsement test attested to the quality of the content, but, more significantly, an analysis of participant interviews using case study principles from Yin (1984, 1998) and Merriam (1998) provided qualitative data that were analyzed to address three possible outcomes of the program: whether participants actually (1) implemented the program knowledge and skills into their classroom practice, (2) continued to do so after program completion, and if so, (3) attributed that continued implementation to elements of the professional development program. The data analysis supported five themes from current research on effective faculty professional development programs for ELL teachers that were also used in designing this professional development program: (1) program sustainability; (2) collaboration between program participants; (3) partnerships formed with faculty, administrators, and community members outside of the program; (4) enhanced awareness of students' culture(s); and (5) opportunities to reflect on the relationships between program content and the classroom. An analysis of participant interviews determined the frequency with which sustainability and its component factors were mentioned and the relative importance participants placed on each. "Sustainability" itself proved the most commonly-discussed theme, but collaboration, cultural awareness, and reflection all met the threshold of significance commonly associated with case study methodology, while partnership lagged behind. Thus, while the analysis of quantitative and qualitative data indicated a successful, sustainable program, further improvements are possible. Nevertheless, this program can serve as a model for ELL professional development programs.