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High-Quality Collaboration Benefits Teachers And Students

By Learning Forward
October 2015
What The Study Says Using sophisticated statistical analyses, researchers examined individual teacher-level and school-level collaboration to understand the nature and effects of teacher-to-teacher collaboration in instructional teams. When teachers engage in high-quality collaboration that they perceive as extensive and helpful, there is both an individual and collective benefit. High-quality collaboration in general and about assessment in particular among teachers is associated with increases in their students’ achievement, their performance, and their peers’ students’ achievement. Study Description The research study examined teacher collaboration practices in 336 Miami-Dade Public Schools between 2010 and 2012 and involved over 9,000 teachers. Researchers used teacher surveys to collect descriptive data about teachers’ collaboration practices. Through statistical analyses using district- and school-level data about teacher characteristics, teacher value-added test results, school

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Authors

Joellen Killion

Joellen Killion (joellen.killion@learningforward.org) is senior advisor to Learning Forward. In each issue of JSD, Killion explores a recent research study to help practitioners understand the impact of particular professional learning practices on student outcomes.

At a glance

The quality of teacher collaboration positively influences teacher performance and student achievement.

The study

Ronfeldt, M., Farmer, S., McQueen, K., & Grissom, J. (2015). Teacher collaboration in instructional teams and student achievement. American Educational Research Journal, 52(3), 475-514.

What This Means For Practitioners 

Because many school and school system leaders and policymakers advocate and support teacher collaboration as a means to improve student achievement, this study is significant to understand more deeply how the nature and extent of collaboration, teacher characteristics, and school characteristics interact to affect student achievement. The results of this research study support the continuation of teacher collaboration that is focused, sustained, and perceived as helpful as a productive approach to increasing student success and teacher performance.

The study illuminates the importance of the Standards for Professional Learning (Learning Forward, 2011) within the practice of and conditions for teacher collaboration. The Learning Communities standard speaks to the impact of collective responsibility for student success, continuous improvement, and shared accountability. Sustained teacher collaboration about instructional strategies, curriculum, students, and assessment, as well as general collaboration is the primary vehicle for continuous improvement of teacher practice, for sharing accountability, and collective responsibility.

The Leadership standard addresses the role of leaders in advocating professional learning, creating support system and structures for continuous improvement, and developing capacity to lead and learn. Florida’s standards for professional development specify that teachers are expected to participate actively in learning communities. Teacher collaboration requires leaders who are able to cultivate the capacity to collaborate about instruction, curriculum, students, and assessments, create and support instructional teams to maintain engagement in high-quality collaboration, and serve as an advocate of teacher collaboration.

While not specifically addressed in the study, it was evident that Resources such as time, staff, and materials were available for sustained teacher collaboration.

The Data standard addresses the use of educator, student, and system data to plan, monitor, and evaluate the impact of professional learning. The district invested in developing a data system that links educator and student data for multiple purposes.

Teacher collaboration is a powerful Learning Design. This standard emphasizes using active engagement, appropriate learning designs, and application of theories and research on learning. Teacher collaboration is grounded in the social interaction theory of learning and aligns with research on communities of practice, relevance to practice, and collective practice.

The Implementation standard stresses sustained support, constructive feedback, and application of change research. This study’s focus on teacher collaboration over a two-year period and its examination of the nature and extent of teacher collaboration substantiate the role of teacher-to-teacher continuous learning.

The Outcomes standard emphasizes the alignment of teacher performance and student outcomes as the content focus of professional learning and strong coherence among what students learn, what teachers learn, and school and school system goals. In this study, teacher collaboration focused on teachers’ core responsibilities — instruction, curriculum, assessment, and student success.

Teacher collaboration, when practiced with a focus on instructional strategies, curriculum, and assessment particularly, has benefits for both teachers and students. Results are even more promising when the collaboration is extensive and perceived by teachers as helpful. Collaboration among teachers even influences the results of teachers who do not experience directly the same high-quality collaboration. Researchers conclude, “Student achievement gains are greater in schools with stronger collaborative environments and in classrooms of teachers who are stronger collaborators” (p. 512).

Reference

Learning Forward. (2011). Standards for Professional Learning. Oxford, OH: Author.


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Learning Forward is the only professional association devoted exclusively to those who work in educator professional development. We help our members plan, implement, and measure high-quality professional learning so they can achieve success with their systems, schools, and students.


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