Teacher collaboration—when it’s good, it’s very, very good, but when it’s bad, it’s horrid.

Many educators believe that implementation of the Common Core Standards offers an unprecedented opportunity for teacher collaboration.

What do educators already know about the benefits and pitfalls of teacher collaboration?

Marsha, a science teacher from Kansas, posed this question to colleagues on the Center for Teaching Quality’s Teacher Leaders Network discussion board.  

Drawing on their own successful (and miserable) experiences, teachers identified key attributes of effective teacher collaboration:

Clarity of Purpose

Top-down mandates for teacher collaboration often fail. But systemic teacher collaboration is not necessarily impossible—just tricky to design. And clarity of purpose is critical.

Some teachers noted that there are times—like when data shows students are struggling with a certain subject area—when mandated teacher collaboration can work, as long as everyone understands its purpose.

Anne, a former state teacher of the year, described how she’d seen a school district achieve remarkable results after one middle school principal formed “small learning teams of teachers to accomplish a specific purpose.” Their goal? Improving reading instruction.

The teams cut across all instructional staff and had training in how to collaborate successfully. They studied about reading strategies together; designed, implemented, and assessed lessons; and made adjustments. All teams exchanged “big ideas” with each other regularly. The process spread from school to school—and the district saw impressive achievement gains.

“So I actually don’t think professional learning communities have to be made up of volunteers who see the value of teacher collaboration at first,” Anne said. “Sometimes teacher collaboration has to be mandated in order to ratchet up teacher learning in areas of student need. But if it is mandated, there must be training in the ‘how to’ and a culture of positive support, coupled with time, recognition, and incentives.”

CONTINUE READING this article on teacher collaboration at Education Week 

Pat Wyman

 Pat Wyman is the founder of HowToLearn.com and a best selling author. 

She teaches at California State University, East Bay and is known as America’s Most Trusted Learning Expert. She helps children and adults solve learning problems with her Amazing Grades Study Skills System and is an expert in learning styles. 

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