Teaching is a field that offers numerous challenges - challenges that individual teachers often face alone due to the inherently isolating nature of teaching in one's own classroom. However, because teachers within a school likely face many of the same challenges, schools should be deliberate about enabling and supporting teacher collaboration in order to break down barriers, ensure knowledge, ideas, and skills are shared across the community, and develop a culture of collaborative professional learning.
When teachers have the opportunity to collaborate, they share learning practices and experiences, support one another in trying new strategies and teaching moves, partner in responding to student and classroom data, and work together to develop curriculum and implement new school initiatives. When teacher collaboration is formalized into a Professional Learning Community (PLC),teachers organize into groups focused on problem solving for one specific area of growth or need. Teacher collaboration, within a PLC or not, must be supported and facilitated by instructional leaders in order to avoid the harmful teacher isolation that school structure can create.
At BetterLesson, we believe that creating a culture of collaboration is a key practice in school success, and that there are actionable strategies and practices instructional leaders can use to successfully build and maintain a sustainable, collaborative community of educators.
Why it's important
Teacher collaboration is critical in ensuring that teachers work together to analyze and improve their classroom practice in order to achieve their collective purpose of increasing student growth. When teachers work collaboratively, they receive continuous job-embedded learning and professional development from their peers and colleagues that will lead to better results for their students, for their team, and for their school; As a result, their collective ability to help all students learn will rise.
What success looks like
When schools support teacher engagement in Collaborative Professional Learning:
School administrators support and develop teacher collaboration as well as assist in coordinating teams.
Teachers work together to establish transparent, attainable goals around student achievement, and support one another in improving their classroom practice to ensure students meet those goals.
Teams of teachers meet regularly with a clear and specific agenda focused on implementation of data-based, actionable, student-centered steps.
Teachers feel connected to their colleagues, the mission and goals of their school, and the collective responsibility for student success, and are comfortable openly sharing and discussing the strengths and growth areas of their practice.
Teachers have a voice in determining what professional development focuses on and are given adequate time and feedback to act on and implement what they learn.
All Things PLC. "All Things PLC, All in One Place." 2018.
DuFour, Richard. "What Is a Professional Learning Community?" Educational Leadership 61:8. 2004.
Killion, Joellen. "High-quality collaboration benefits teachers and students." The Learning Professional 36:5. 2015.
Duncombe, Rebecca and Armour, Kathleen M. "Collaborative Professional Learning: From Theory to Practice." Journal of In-Service Education 30:1. 2004.
Hirsh, Stephanie and Hord, Shirley M. "Leader and Learner." Principal Leadership. 2008.
Resources for Learning. "The State of Teacher Professional Learning: Results from a Nationwide Survey." National Education Association. 2016.