Educational Psychology Review

, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 457–481 | Cite as

Teacher Professional Development and Student Literacy Growth: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

  • Badriah BasmaEmail author
  • Robert Savage


This systematic review explores the impact of teacher professional development (PD) on student reading achievement. The first part of the literature evaluates all available existing systematic reviews and meta-analyses of PD intervention studies. No quality reviews of PD and reading specifically (distinct from ‘attainment’) were found. There was a little overlap of studies in existing reviews. The second part of the systematic review focuses on the most recent intervention studies exploring PD and student reading achievement. The results of a meta-analysis of all high-quality studies are presented in the third part of the paper. This analysis showed no strong evidence of publication bias and an effect size for PD on student literacy of g = 0.225. This effect was moderated by the number of hours of PD whereby studies with fewer than 30 h of PD was significant for student reading outcomes (g = 0.367, p < 0.001) but more than 30 PD hours was not significant (g = 0.143, p > .05). Following a Weight of Evidence assessment, analysis showed that nearly all high-quality articles involved shorter PD. Weight of Evidence was a significant moderator, (g = 0.408, p < 0.001 for high-quality studies, g = 0.077, p > 0.5, n.s., for medium quality studies). Our review suggests that only high-quality studies of short teacher PD currently provide evidence of impact on student’s reading achievement.


Systematic review Meta-analysis Teacher professional development Reading 


Compliance with Ethical Standards


There was no external funding for this study.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare they have no conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

For this type of study formal consent is not required. This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors


* References denoted with an asterisk are included in the meta-analysis

  1. Altman, D. G. (1996). Better reporting of randomized controlled trials: the CONSORT statement. BMJ (Clinical Research Edition), 313, 570–571. doi: 10.1136/bmj.313.7057.570.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. *Amendum, S. J. (2014). Embedded professional development and classroom-based early reading intervention: early diagnostic reading intervention through coaching. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 30, 348–377. doi: 10.1080/10573569.2013.819181.
  3. Amendum, S. J., & Fitzgerald, J. (2013). Does structure of content delivery or degree of professional development support matter for student reading growth in high-poverty settings? Journal of Literacy Research, 45, 465–502. doi: 10.1177/1086296x13504157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baker, S., & Smith, S. (1999). Starting off on the right foot: the influence of four principles of professional development in improving literacy instruction in two kindergarten programs. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 14, 239–253. doi: 10.1207/sldrp1404_5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Clarke, D., & Hollingsworth, H. (2002). Elaborating a model of teacher professional growth. Teaching and Teacher Education, 18, 947–967. doi: 10.1016/s0742-051x(02)00053-7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Clay, M. M. (1985). The early detection of reading difficulties (3rd ed.). Portsmouth: Heinemann Educational Books Inc..Google Scholar
  7. Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Hillsdale: L. Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  8. Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2013). Research methods in education (7th ed.). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  9. *Cordingley, P., Bell, M., Isham, C., Evans, D., & Firth, A. (2007). What do specialists do in CPD programmes for which there is evidence of positive outcomes for pupils and teachers. London: Eppi-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education.Google Scholar
  10. *Duffy, G. G., Roehler, L. R., Meloth, M. S., Vavrus, L. G., Book, C., Putnam, J., & Wesselman, R. (1986). The relationship between explicit verbal explanations during reading skill instruction and student awareness and achievement: a study of reading teacher effects. Reading Research Quarterly, 21, 237–252. doi: 10.2307/747707.
  11. *Fine, J. C., & Kossack, S. W. (2002). The effect of using rubric-embedded cognitive coaching strategies to initiate learning conversations. Journal of Reading Education, 27, 31–37.Google Scholar
  12. *Garet, M. S., Cronen, S., Eaton, M., Kurki, A., Ludwig, M., Jones, W., Sztejnberg, L. (2008). The impact of two professional development interventions on early reading instruction and achievement. NCEE 2008-4030. National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance. Retrieved from:
  13. *Gersten, R., Dimino, J., Jayanthi, M., Kim, J. S., & Santoro, L. E. (2010). Teacher study group impact of the professional development model on reading instruction and student outcomes in first grade classrooms. American Educational Research Journal, 47, 694–739. doi: 10.3102/0002831209361208.
  14. Gulamhussein, A. (2013). Teaching the teachers: effective professional development in an era of high stakes accountability. Retrieved from:
  15. Guskey, T. R., & Yoon, K. S. (2009). What works in professional development. Phi Delta Kappan, 90, 495–500. doi: 10.1177/003172170909000709.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Harrison, D. (1980). Meta-analysis of selected studies of staff development (Unpublished Ph.D.). University of Florida, FL.Google Scholar
  17. Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: a synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  18. Hattie, J. (2015). What doesn’t work in education: the politics of distraction. Retrieved from:
  19. Hollis, S., & Campbell, F. (1999). What is meant by intention to treat analysis? Survey of published randomised controlled trials. British Medical Journal, 319, 670–674. doi: 10.1136/bmj.319.7211.670.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Joslin, B. (1980). In-service teacher education: a meta-analysis of the research (unpublished doctoral dissertation). Minnesota: University of Minnesota.Google Scholar
  21. *Klingner, J. K., Vaughn, S., Arguelles, M. E., Hughes, M. T., & Leftwich, S. A. (2004). Collaborative strategic reading “real-world” lessons from classroom teachers. Remedial and Special Education, 25, 291–302. doi: 10.1177/07419325040250050301.
  22. Landerl, K., Fussenegger, B., Moll, K., & Willburger, E. (2009). Dyslexia and dyscalculia: two learning disorders with different cognitive profiles. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 103, 309–324. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2009.03.006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lipsey, M. W., Puzio, K., Yun, C., Hebert, M. A., Steinka-Fry, K., Cole, M. W., & Busick, M. D. (2012). Translating the statistical representation of the effects of education interventions into more readily interpretable forms. National Center for Special Education Research.Google Scholar
  24. *McCutchen, D., Abbott, R. D., Green, L. B., Beretvas, S. N., Cox, S., Potter, N. S., & Gray, A. L. (2002). Beginning literacy links among teacher knowledge, teacher practice, and student learning. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 35, 69–86. doi: 10.1177/002221940203500106.
  25. *McGill-Franzen, A., Allington, R. L., Yokoi, L., & Brooks, G. (1999). Putting books in the classroom seems necessary but not sufficient. The Journal of Educational Research, 93, 67–74. doi: 10.1080/00220679909597631.
  26. Moher, D., Schulz, K. F., & Altman, D. G. (2001). The CONSORT statement: revised recommendations for improving the quality of reports of parallel group randomized trials. BMC Medical Research Methodology, 1, 2–7. doi: 10.1186/1471-2288-1-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Odden, A., Archibald, S., Fermanich, M., & Gallagher, A. H. (2002). A cost framework for professional development. Journal of Educational Finance, 28, 51–74.Google Scholar
  28. Olson, R. K., Keenan, J. M., Byrne, B., Samuelsson, S., Coventry, W. L., Corley, R., & Hulslander, J. (2011). Genetic and environmental influences on vocabulary and reading development. Scientific Studies of Reading, 15, 26–46. doi: 10.1080/10888438.2011.536128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. *Podhajski, B., Mather, N., Nathan, J., & Sammons, J. (2009). Professional development in scientifically based reading instruction teacher knowledge and reading outcomes. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42, 403–417. doi: 10.1177/0022219409338737.
  30. *Porche, M. V., Pallante, D. H., & Snow, C. E. (2012). Professional development for reading achievement. The Elementary School Journal, 112, 649–671.Google Scholar
  31. *Powell, D. R., Diamond, K. E., Burchinal, M. R., & Koehler, M. J. (2010). Effects of an early literacy professional development intervention on head start teachers and children. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102, 299–312. doi: 10.1037/a0017763.
  32. Savage, R. S., & Cloutier, E. (2017). Early reading interventions: the state of the practice, and some new directions in building causal theoretical models. In K. Cain, D. Compton, & R. Parrila (Eds.), Theories of reading development. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  33. Savage, R. S., Burgos, G., Wood, E., & Piquette, N. (2015). The simple view of reading as a framework for national literacy initiatives: a hierarchical model of pupil-level and classroom-level factors. British Educational Research Journal, 41, 820–844. doi: 10.1002/berj.3177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Saylor, L. L., & Johnson, C. C. (2014). The role of reflection in elementary mathematics and science teachers’ training and development: a meta-synthesis. School Science and Mathematics, 114, 30–39. doi: 10.1111/ssm.12049.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Slavin, R. E. (2008). Perspectives on evidence-based research in education—what works? Issues in synthesizing educational program evaluations. Educational Researcher, 37, 5–14. doi: 10.3102/0013189x08314117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. *Snow, P. C., Eadie, P. A., Connell, J., Dalheim, B., McCusker, H. J., & Munro, J. K. (2014). Oral language supports early literacy: a pilot cluster randomized trial in disadvantaged schools. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 16, 495–506. doi: 10.3109/17549507.2013.845691.
  37. Surrette, T. N., & Johnson, C. C. (2015). Assessing the ability of an online environment to facilitate the critical features of teacher professional development. School Science and Mathematics, 115, 260–270. doi: 10.1111/ssm.12132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. The Consortium for Policy Research on Education (1995). Professional development today. Retrieved from:
  39. *Timperley, H. S., & Phillips, G. (2003). Changing and sustaining teachers’ expectations through professional development in literacy. Teaching and Teacher Education, 19, 627–641. doi: 10.1016/s0742-051x(03)00058-1.
  40. Timperley, H., Wilson, A., Barrar, H., & Fung, I. (2007). Teacher professional learning and development: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration [BES]. Retrieved from:
  41. Torgerson, C. (2003). Systematic reviews. London: Continuum International Publishing Group.Google Scholar
  42. Torgerson, C., Brooks, G., & Hall, J. (2006). A systematic review of the research literature on the use of phonics in the teaching of reading and spelling. Nottingham: DfES Publications.Google Scholar
  43. U.S. Department of Education (2001). No child left behind. (Public Law 107–110). Retrieved July 22nd, 2016 from:
  44. *Vernon-Feagans, L., Gallagher, K., Ginsberg, M. C., Amendum, S., Kainz, K., Rose, J., & Burchinal, M. (2010). A diagnostic teaching intervention for classroom teachers: helping struggling readers in early elementary school. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 25, 183–193. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-5826.2010.00316.x.
  45. *Vernon-Feagans, L., Kainz, K., Amendum, S., Ginsberg, M., Wood, T., & Bock, A. (2012). Targeted reading intervention: a coaching model to help classroom teachers with struggling readers. Learning Disability Quarterly, 35, 102–114. doi: 10.1177/0731948711434048.
  46. *Vernon-Feagans, L., Kainz, K., Hedrick, A., Ginsberg, M., & Amendum, S. (2013). Live webcam coaching to help early elementary classroom teachers provide effective literacy instruction for struggling readers: the targeted reading intervention. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105, 1175–1187. doi: 10.1037/a0032143.
  47. *Vernon-Feagans, L., Bratsch-Hines, M., Varghese, C., Bean, A., & Hedrick, A. (2015). The targeted reading intervention: face-to-face vs. webcam literacy coaching of classroom teachers. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 30, 135–147. doi: 10.1111/ldrp.12062.
  48. Villegas-Reimers, E. (2003). Teacher professional development: an international review of the literature. Paris: International Institute for Educational Planning.Google Scholar
  49. Wade, R. K. (1985). What makes a difference in in-service teacher education? A meta-analysis of research. Educational Leadership, 42, 48–54.Google Scholar
  50. Wright, R. W., Brand, R. A., Dunn, W., & Spindler, K. P. (2007). How to write a systematic review. Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, 455, 23–29. doi: 10.1097/blo.0b013e31802c9098.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. *Yoon, K. S., Duncan, T., Lee, S. W.-Y., Scarloss, B., & Shapley, K. L. (2007). Reviewing the evidence on how teacher professional development affects student achievement. Issues & Answers. REL 2007-No. 033. Regional Educational Laboratory Southwest (NJ1).Google Scholar
  52. Yoon, K. S., Duncan, T., Lee, S. W.-Y., Scarloss, B., & Shapley, K. L. (2008). Reviewing the evidence on how teacher professional development affects student achievement: a systematic review. Regional Educational Laboratory Southwest (NJ1).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Educational and Counselling PsychologyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

Personalised recommendations