In August 2008, Humanities Texas conducted the first comprehensive survey of the teachers who attended its summer teacher institutes, seeking to learn more about these programs’ long-term influence upon participants and their students. The survey results were overwhelmingly positive, confirming that teachers find these programs highly rewarding, both personally and professionally.
The survey final report, which includes a complete summary and discussion of its findings, is available for download.
In the survey, teachers reported that the institutes allowed them to learn about new scholarship relevant to the subjects that they teach. Indeed, more than 93 percent of the respondents reported that the institute had significantly increased their subject-area knowledge. 87 percent said it had enhanced their ability to prepare their students to meet state academic standards. And 92 percent responded that it will have a lasting and positive effect on their teaching.
"It was like going back to a great college classroom learning experience," wrote one. Another echoed, "I felt like I was back in college and was inspired to work even harder to pass that love of history on to my kids." A number of participants emphasized that the institutes had provided them with greater mastery over subjects in which they did not have extensive training or experience. One teacher wrote, "I now teach Texas History, but only for the first time this year. I definitely feel more prepared for the subject due to the institute." Another noted, "I just felt more like a real history teacher when I left."
Teachers also emphasized the positive impact that the institutes have on their students' learning. Many explained that after returning home, the changes they made to their curricula and teaching practices improved their students' level of achievement. One teacher wrote that the institute helped her "foster more direct student involvement and more autonomous learning" in her classroom.
Some participants added that their institute experience also helped to improve the tone of their classroom. "I was a more enthusiastic teacher," one explained, "and in turn my students were more enthusiastic about the content." Another wrote, "I learned so much that was carried over into my classroom and helped me to teach with more enthusiasm."
The survey revealed that a large majority of the participants perceived the institutes to be especially rewarding, useful, and rigorous in comparison with other training programs available in Texas. Noting that most of the professional development programs in the humanities focus on pedagogical strategies, teachers appreciated Humanities Texas's emphasis on subject-area content and the examination of primary sources (e.g., historical documents, photographs, and works of art).
Indeed, several teachers noted that the institute they attended was the best professional development program that they had ever experienced. The institute was "the very best I have attended & I have attended MANY over the years," wrote one seasoned teacher. Another responded, "I could not believe I was getting trained by such top-notch professors and staff! Most people would pay thousands of dollars for the opportunity!" One teacher described the program as "light-years better than anything offered by the district!"
Finally, the survey revealed that participation in a Humanities Texas institute influenced teachers’ subsequent professional development efforts—such as participating in other professional development programs, applying for fellowships and grants related to their work, and pursuing further graduate training. One teacher noted, "As a result of attending this institute, I now look for similar activities for professional development. No longer do I just depend on our ESC [Educational Service Center]."
In one of the survey's most dramatic findings, 40 percent of the respondents noted that their institute participation had played a role in their decision to continue teaching; more than a quarter of these teachers were within their first five years of service.
Humanities Texas finds these results extremely encouraging. The survey clearly indicates that the teachers who participated in these institutes over the past five years feel that the programs have had an important, long-term positive effect on their teaching and professional development, as well as their students' learning experience. The uniformly high ratings provide compelling evidence for the program's effectiveness and importance; the teachers' comments offer specific insight into the program's unique strengths.
Humanities Texas looks forward to serving even more Texas teachers in the future by expanding the number and topical range of its teacher institutes while maintaining their high quality.
Please direct questions about this survey or Humanities Texas teacher institutes to Eric Lupfer, Director of Grants and Education, at 512.440.1991 or firstname.lastname@example.org.