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A System for Collaborative Professional Development and Assessment in Teaching: Action Research for Technology Integration (ARTI)
Author: Cathy Cavanaugh, Microsoft Worldwide Education | April 15th, 2014

Primary and secondary teachers choose their profession because they want to change lives, knowing that the work is demanding. The expectation of teacher professional development programs is that they contribute to student learning while reducing the demands on teachers. Such a balance requires professional development approaches that are job-embedded, continual, sustainable, and focused on student learning. In countries with high daily teaching hours, this balance is especially important. For example, out of 32 OECD countries, teachers in 9 countries spend at least 80% of each school day teaching (OECD, 2012). Time spent in professional development, especially collaborative professional development, is one of the most effective differentiators of high performing schools (Jensen, Hunter, Sonnemann & Cooper, 2014).

Designing and developing a job-embedded, collaborative, learning-focused, scalable, sustainable professional development system was among the goals of a US federally-funded K-12 project in one of the country’s largest and most diverse states. Teacher inquiry, or action research, was growing as an approach used by individual teachers and school-based teams for improving practice. The five basic steps of an action research project are: identification of a question, description of the context, data collection, analysis, and the creation of findings to guide practice.

By creating a cloud-based collaborative action research community, we could support teachers and schools who wanted such professional development but might lack the local capacity to begin. The system was called ARTI, Action Research for Technology Integration, because it was a central professional learning community within a statewide 1:1 implementation. Thus the ARTI system offered thousands of teachers and schools (1) an online scaffold for inquiry into their technology integration practices, (2) a mechanism to synthesize action research information from multiple teachers, and (3) a mechanism to capture evidence of student learning within technology integrated classrooms.

Each step in the ARTI system provided teachers with simple navigation mirroring the action research process, suggested timelines, clear instructions about the information being requested, a location to provide the necessary information, pointers to reading about each step, and an example to serve as a scaffold. In addition to the cloud ARTI system resources, participating teachers had access to a mentor well-versed in the process of action research and technology integration. The mentors provided guidance on the action research approach. Today’s version of ARTI enables teachers to share their findings in a central database: http://fcit.usf.edu/matrix/arti

During the time that the ARTI system has been in use, teachers have reported noticeable or substantial improvements in student performance, in some cases exceeding the teachers’ expectations. The majority of teachers reported increases in conditions that support learning: enjoyment, motivation, engagement, on-task behavior, and positive school experience. Teachers commonly reported long-term impacts that the process of inquiry has caused in his or her professional life, including commitments to continue using, investigating, and learning to teach with technology; taking on leadership actions including sharing their successes with colleagues either informally or through presentations and other formal venues; and becoming advocates for technology for students.

Full descriptions of the ARTI system and its impacts on teaching are posted in the Research tab at http://etc.usf.edu/fde/index.php, and articles on the research have been published in education journals:

Dawson, K., Cavanaugh, C., & Ritzhaupt, A. D. (2012), "ARTI: An online tool to support teacher action research for technology integration", In C. Hartshorne, T. Heafner, & T. Petty (Eds.), Teacher education programs and online learning tools: Innovations in teacher preparation (pp. 375-391). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

Ritzhaupt, A. D., Dawson, K., & Cavanaugh, C. (2012), "An investigation of factors influencing student use of technology in K-12 classrooms using path analysis", Journal of Educational Computing Research 46(3) 229 – 254.

Cavanaugh, C., Dawson, K., & Ritzhaupt, A. D. (2011), "An evaluation of the conditions, processes and consequences of laptop computing in K-12 classrooms", Journal of Educational Computing Research 45(3) 359-378.

Acknowledgements: The research and development on the ARTI system were conducted by the author, Dr Kara Dawson and Dr Albert Ritzhaupt of the University of Florida, and funded by the US Department of Education. The ARTI system was designed and developed at the Florida Center for Instructional Technology.


Jensen, B., Hunter, J., Sonnemann, J. and Cooper, S. (2014), Making time for great teaching, Grattan Institute.

OECD. (2012). Education at a Glance 2012: OECD Indicators. OECD Publishing.

Dr. Cathy Cavanaugh is Director of Teaching and Learning in Worldwide Education at Microsoft Corporation, working with education leaders and organizations around the world. Cathy's research and publications focus on technology-empowered teaching and learning in virtual schools, online and blended learning, teacher development, mobile learning, and integration of devices into schools. Her work has been recognized for its impact with international awards.

Cathy held faculty and leadership appointments in US universities and a college in the Middle East, and was a Fulbright Senior Scholar advancing e-learning in Nepal. She also directed professional development centers in the US, and was a classroom teacher in the US and Caribbean. Her education includes a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction, a Master of Education, and a Bachelor of Education.

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