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Thomas Guskey's 5 levels of professional development evaluation

Determining the best fit of a professional development event for your local context requires recognition, “collection and analysis of the five critical levels of information” (Guskey 2002). Each level is more complex than the level before.

“Success at an early level may be necessary for positive results at the next higher one; it’s clearly not sufficient.” Levels progress from formative (especially levels one and two) to summative evaluation (especially levels four and five).

The power of thinking in terms of the five evaluation levels is engaging teachers in the planning of professional development activities. Guskey describes the process for "working backwards" from Level 5 "the student learning outcomes that you want to achieve" and through each successive level to "what set of experiences will enable participants to acquire the needed knowledge and skills (Level 1)." The description of each level follows.

Level 1: Participant Reaction

  • Purpose: to gauge the participants’ reactions about information and basic human needs
  • Technique: usually a questionnaire
  • Key questions: Was your time well spent? Was the presenter knowledgeable?

Level 2: Participant Learning

  • Purpose: Examine participants’ level of attained learning
  • Technique: test, simulation, personal reflection, full-scale demonstration
  • Key question: Did participants learn what was intended?

Level 3: Organizational Support and Learning

  • Purpose: Analyze organizational support for skills gained in staff development.
  • Technique: minutes of district meetings, questionnaires, structured interviews or unobtrusive observations
  • Key questions: Were problems addressed quickly and efficiently? Were sufficient resources made available, including time for reflection?

Level 4: Participant Use of New Knowledge and Skills

  • Purpose:  determine whether participants are using what they learned and using it well
  • Technique:  questionnaires, structured interviews, oral or written personal reflections, examination of journals or portfolios, or direct observation
  • Key question:  Are participants implementing their skills and to what degree?

Level 5:  Student Learning Outcomes

  • Purpose: Analyze the correlating student learning objectives.
  • Technique: classroom grades, tests, direct observation
  • Key question: Did students show improvement in academic, behavior or other areas?

To read about Guskey's perspective on evaluation planning, detailed description of the five levels and planning guidelines, visit the National Staff Development Council web site's article, "Evaluation must become an integral part of staff development."

References and related links
Guskey, Thomas R. "Does it Make a Difference? Evaluating Professional Development." Educational Leadership v. 59, no. 6 (Mar. 2002) p. 45–51.

Guskey, Thomas R. "Apply Time With Wisdom." Journal of Staff Development v. 20, no. 2 (Spring 1999) p. 10–15.

North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL)  

Education Minnesota is an affiliate of the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers and AFL-CIO.

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