The Long-Term Impacts of Short-Term Professional Development: Science Teachers and Evolution

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Background: Although a large body of work in science education has established the pervasive problem of science teachers' alternative conceptions about evolution, knowledge deficits, and anti-evolutionary attitudes, only a handful of interventions have explored the mitigation of these issues using professional development (PD) workshops, and not a single study to our knowledge has investigated if positive outcomes are sustained long after program completion. The central aim of our study was to investigate the long-term consequences of an intensive, short-term professional development program on teachers' knowledge of evolution, acceptance of evolution, and knowledge of the nature of science (NOS). Methods: Program efficacy was examined using a pre-post, delayed post-test design linked to quantitative measures of teacher knowledge, performance (explanatory competence), and acceptance using published instruments shown to generate reliable and valid inferences. Results: Our study is the first to report sustained large effect sizes for both knowledge of evolution, NOS, and acceptance change ~1.5 years after program completion. Concordant with other measures, teacher self-reports indicated that the PD program had lasting effects. Conclusions: Our study suggests that short-term PD built using specific research-based principles can have lasting impacts on teachers' evolutionary knowledge and acceptance. Because evidence of sustained knowledge and belief change is prerequisite to downstream classroom studies (e.g., impacts on student learning), retention of evolutionary knowledge improvements and acceptance change emerge as central, but previously unstudied, components of teacher evolution PD.

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Evolution: Education and Outreach



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