Does Teacher Training/Professional Development Work?
High teacher quality is heavily correlated with improving student performance (Bau and Das, 2017). Unfortunately, in many developing nations, including rural China, many teachers lack the knowledge and skills to teach effectively, while others suffer themselves from weak cognitive skills (Bold et al. 2017).
How is China improving teaching quality?
In recognition of the importance of teacher quality, China has implemented a professional development program to help training teachers on content and pedagogy. Despite these aims, there isn’t enough evidence to prove that professional development programs are successful (Bruns and Luque, 2015).
This lack of studies makes it difficult for policymakers to effectively implement and improve professional development programs. Additionally, because these programs subtract resources and time from teachers and students, they can actually hurt student performance (Loyalka et al. 2019).
China’s National Teacher Training Program
Let's hone in on the issues and solutions to teacher training programs by taking a look at a specific example.
One recent measurement regarding China’s National Teacher Training Program, or NTTP, found that it had no significant impact on student achievement after one year, and projected that there would also be no impact in the long term (Loyalka et al. 2019). However, they did find that the effects of professional development programs did vary somewhat by the teachers’ qualification level.
Less qualified teachers did see a small, but marginally significant improvement in their students’ achievements. However, for more qualified teachers, there
was a larger negative impact, implying that the overall effect of outside of the classroom is more detrimental to student achievement than the positives of professional development.
In essence, this study suggests that China needs to take another look at its existing professional development programs. Despite its heavy monetary investment in rural education, the current NTTP fails to improve student outcomes, and may actually lower their achievement. This may be attributed to a lack of follow-up and resources to aid teachers in implementing new knowledge and skills.
While China has invested heavily in making education more accessible, it must now focus on improving the quality of that education, specifically in terms of teacher development programs like the NTTP. A revised NTTP may include a more detailed implementation plan, constant contact and follow-up, and a greater investment in classroom resources to aid teachers.
Overall, the Chinese government must redesign and invest further into the NTTP to help all teachers improve, subsequently addressing the students’ education and rural China’s prognosis as a whole.