A growing body of research shows that when teachers work more collaboratively, student outcomes can improve, teachers can be more satisfied in their jobs and teacher turnover can decrease.
With the school year in full swing, teachers, administrators and education leaders are once again fully entrenched in the day- to-day workings of ensuring students are receiving the skills and information they need to succeed. However, despite this earnest effort on their part, many teachers find themselves working in isolation, apart from other teachers, which ironically enough doesn’t maximize the likelihood that their efforts will be effective.
A growing body of research shows that when teachers work more collaboratively, student outcomes can improve, teachers can be more satisfied in their jobs and teacher turnover can decrease. Teacher Collaboration In Perspective, a joint project of Public Agenda and the Spencer Foundation, is designed to contribute to a better-informed dialogue about how teachers can work more collaboratively.
With more and more attention placed on teacher productivity from parents, government officials and other big name funders, including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, it’s becoming increasingly clear that this “egg crate” model — a compartmentalized and isolated working environment — is not optimal for student or teacher success. While collaboration is routine in professions such as scientific research, health care, architecture and the performing arts, most schools are not structured so that teachers can learn from one another, coordinate lessons, discuss data or share ideas.
Fostering collaboration among teachers requires changing how schools and teachers’ work are organized. When schools are organized like egg crates, important information about the challenges that teachers encounter, the problems that puzzle them, and the expertise they might offer their peers remains limited by the confines of the classroom. Working together may make it easier for teachers to identify and address problems in students’ progress, share information about individual students from grade to grade or develop curricula and approaches to teaching that are consistent and coherent across grades and subject areas. Schools that are more collaborative have been shown to have stronger student academic outcomes than schools that are less collaborative. Studies have found that:
- When it comes to specific approaches to fostering collaboration, there are different degrees of effectiveness in improving student achievement.
- Strong social connections among teachers may benefit students.
- Schools with lower teacher turnover tend to be more collaborative.
Overall, the goal is to ensure success for both students and teachers alike. The first step to guaranteeing this success, however, is a dialogue, where the needs and challenges of teachers are addressed and talked through so that important lessons can be gleaned from these conversations and, in turn, put into action. To learn how you can contribute to a better dialogue around student and teacher success visit in-perspective.org to access a suite of materials designed to facilitate effective conversations on teacher collaboration. Also, sign up for email updates for more information on teacher collaboration and other topics critical to increasing student success.