What Makes Teacher Collaboration Work?

asi albertA  recent blog by the Albert Shaker Institute examines the inner workings of what is effective and what is not effective when it comes to teacher collaboration. The blog starts off with an attention-grabbing introduction:

You’ve probably attended meetings that were a waste of your time. Perhaps there was no agenda. Perhaps the facilitator of the meeting dominated the conversation. Perhaps people arrived late or the wrong people were in the room in the first place. Maybe the team ran in place and no one had any good ideas. Whatever the reason, it’s common for teamwork to feel ineffective. Good teamwork does not just “happen.” Organizational researchers study teams with a goal of understanding the conditions that foster effective meetings and, more broadly, effective collaboration (see here for a review).

Meetings can feel like a waste of time in schools, just like they can in other workplaces. Educational researchers and practitioners have long advocated that collaboration between teachers should be a cornerstone of efforts to improve instruction – indeed, teachers themselves often cite collaboration with colleagues as one of the key ways they learn. And yet, we know many teams flounder instead of flourish.

So why are some teams more productive than others?

The authors take a look at the research to compare how teacher collaborations work and do not come up with any definitive one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, they cite many promising sources of research into what makes collaboration effective and benefits student achievement. The authors cite Goddard, Goddard, Kim, & Miller (2015), a study which examines the relationship between leadership characteristics and effective collaboration. Their findings suggest that instructional leaders who are viewed by their teachers as effective are more likely to promote high quality collaboration, and, in turn, higher student achievement. In the authors’ own ongoing research, they examine how the teaching quality of a grade-level team hinders or supports the effect of collaboration on student learning. Their preliminary findings suggest that the effects of collaboration may vary depending on the instructional skills of participating teachers.

To read more about this intriguing topic, see http://www.shankerinstitute.org/blog/what-makes-teacher-collaboration-work