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MAKING SPACE: The Value of Teacher Collaboration

Abstract

"In "Making Space: The Value of Teacher Collaboration," we documented the collaborative practices of five high-performing Boston schools that serve a range of grade levels and student populations. Across schools we found evidence of several important structures and cultural practices that support collaboration:

  • All teachers participate in multiple teams. Each team is guided by specific, distinct goals linked to the school's strategic plan.

  • School leaders gradually release responsibility to teacher leaders. As teachers assume leadership roles for the team's work, school leaders shift into a support role.

  • Teams serve as an important vehicle for two-way communication. Teacher leaders serve as connective tissue between small teams and school-wide committees, ensuring that all groups contribute to common goals.

  • Leaders invest in developing a team culture. Leaders create and protect meeting time in the schedule, set expectations for how that time will be used, provide protocols and common language, and model norms for productive conversation. School leaders also invest in cultivating trusting relationships with staff.

  • Teachers also work together informally to develop their practice. Teachers frequently seek out peers for advice on classroom challenges. Some schools are attempting to formalize this type of peer-to-peer consultation.

  • Leaders consider school culture with each new hire. They seek new staff who are ready to work in a collaborative environment, the key ingredient of which is responsiveness to feedback, and they include other teachers in hiring decisions whenever possible.

Across study schools, educators report that these collaborative practices have enabled them to increase academic rigor, use data to inform instruction and interventions, and better meet students' academic and non-academic needs--all factors that directly contribute to student achievement."

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