Teacher Collaboration Guide: Strategies, Statistics & Benefits

Teacher Collaboration Guide: Strategies, Statistics & Benefits
Imed Bouchrika by Imed Bouchrika
Chief Data Scientist & Head of Content

Teacher collaboration involves teachers working together to lead, instruct, and mentor students with the goal of improving student learning and achievement. Sharing ideas would have been easy under the old setup where teachers attend school on-site and attend classes face-to-face. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced schools to shut down, with upper secondary schools garnering an average of 101 days of school closures (OECD, 2021). Furthermore, while recent online education statistics indicate that online learning filled the void left by pandemic-related closures, it is not without its downsides.

In this article, one can learn about teacher collaboration and how to approach it in 2021. Key teacher collaboration statistics provide data points about the environments that can either foster or hinder collaboration. Meanwhile, strategies give concrete steps on how to effectively practice collaboration while offering the benefits one can expect from such practices, along with roadblocks to collaboration that teachers must overcome in light of the pandemic.

Teacher Collaboration Table of Contents

  1. Key Teacher Collaboration Statistics
  2. Strategies for Teacher Collaboration
  3. Benefits of Teacher Collaboration
  4. Potential Challenges for Teacher Collaboration in 2021

Key Teacher Collaboration Statistics

Educators from all around the world struggled with hybrid and remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As schools slowly get back to onsite learning, teachers and staff must strive to make up for the time that students were isolated in their homes. With this, there is now more emphasis on collaboration, safety, and support. In fact, in a survey by Promethean (n.d.), 40% of educators said that enhancing communication and collaboration is their number one technology priority. Moreover, 50% of teachers in the same survey said that setting student learning targets is a collaborative project.

In order for teachers to realize the benefits of collaboration, however, they must work around the common issues that prevent them from working with others. One such hindrance is time. In a survey, it was found that only 31% of teachers have enough time to collaborate with teachers. Moreover, 4% said that they never met with other teachers to discuss instructional practice. On the other hand, 43% said that they met with other teachers weekly or more often (Promethean, n.d.).

Source: Promethean, 2021

Strategies for Teacher Collaboration

There are many ways to collaborate with other teachers that ensure the outcomes are desirable for the teachers involved as well as the students. Below are some tips for teacher collaboration and how to approach it in 2021.

Share best practices in teaching and learning.

Teachers can help their colleagues grow by sharing their expertise. It builds confidence for the one sharing his or her knowledge on specific expertise while helping the recipient learn from a different perspective.

Sharing successful teaching processes involves the following steps:

  • Define the problem. Identify the problem, its causes, and define what success looks like. Success should be defined in attitudes or behaviors that are measurable.
  • Determine who should share their expertise. Identify the teachers in your organization who are already showing behaviors associated with your desired outcome. The basis for identifying them must also be using clear, data-driven metrics.
  • Discover best practices. Identify the strategies that successful teachers are using in their classes. Video recordings of classroom sessions where these teaching strategies are used can be helpful in analyzing the success of such strategies.
  • Design the intervention program. Organizations must decide on a methodology that lets them replicate successful practices in their own classrooms. For example, they can also record videos of their teaching sessions to identify strengths, points for improvement, and other ways to adapt model instruction to their own classroom settings.
  • Discern the effectiveness of the intervention. The progress of the teaching intervention should be measured by analytical tools that collect quantitative and qualitative data.
  • Disseminate the results. Organizations must make the intervention program accessible to a wide audience so it can be replicated. For videos of teacher instructions, schools can create a repository of the materials so they can be accessible to those who want to improve their teaching strategies.

Carve out common planning time with co-teachers.

According to OECD data, the average teacher in the United States is expected to work 2,000 hours per year (OECD, 2020). Teachers in the U.S. spend about half of their time in the classroom at all levels. Thus, it is a challenge for teachers to balance teaching-related tasks with administrative ones.

One of the ways to be an effective educator is to allot common planning time with other teachers in one’s schedule. This gives them the opportunity to meet and collaborate with other teachers on classroom instruction and decision-making. This involves groups of educators reflecting on methods of instruction, modifying it, and implementing changes in their classes to help students learn better.

Different school administrators implement common planning time in various ways. One method is to implement a common planning time once a week. Others shorten class hours on certain days to give time for teachers to meet or set aside full days for collaborative work. Whichever way organizations choose to implement it, teacher collaboration can achieve the desired results if done intentionally. The findings from a paper titled “School Factors That Promote Teacher Collaboration: Results from the Tennessee Instructional Partnership Initiative” published in the American Journal of Education is instructive of this point. It states that “collaboration partnerships are a space where teachers will learn to improve their instructional practice. The design of collaborative teacher partnerships and collaborative time should be designed in intentional ways that may support instructional improvement. For instance, organizing collaborative pairs among teachers who share teaching experiences, teachers who share a common planning time, and/or teachers who have identified instructional skills for improvement can potentially produce collaboration partnerships that engage teachers in effective and beneficial PD (professional development) (Carrol, Patrick, & Goldring, 2021)”

Teacher Collaboration 1

Provide teachers with emotional support.

The pandemic has disrupted the emotional well-being of teachers. In a survey conducted by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, anxiety was the most frequently mentioned emotion among the 5,000 respondent teachers in the U.S. (Cipriano & Brackett, 2020). The study found that the stressful emotions felt by teachers were associated with fear of contracting COVID-19 and balancing their family’s needs while working full-time from home.

To effectively support educators’ well-being, schools can create an emotional intelligence charter. This involves identifying how teachers want to feel as faculty members or staff. They can then share concrete ideas on how to support each other to attain that feeling. For example, to create the feeling that teachers’ personal space is respected even while in a work-from-home arrangement, the school can set up a policy not to send or respond to work-related inquiries or requests after office hours.

Benefits of Teacher Collaboration

Teacher collaboration can open up doors for personal and professional development and can benefit students and teachers alike.

A paper titled “Can Teacher Collaboration Improve Students’ Academic Achievement in Junior Secondary Mathematics?” published in the Asian Journal of University Education defined some concrete facts on how does teacher collaboration benefit students. Researchers compared the performance in a math exam of selected secondary school students in Nigeria when they were taught by a teacher that collaborated with others versus a teacher who did not. Results of the study revealed that “a teachers’ group (collaborated and isolated) had a significant effect on students’ achievement in mathematics. Multiple classification analysis showed that students whose teacher engaged in collaborative activities performed better than those taught by a teacher that did not engage in collaboration (isolated teacher). (Saka, 2021)”

This example aside, other benefits that teacher collaboration has to offer are:

  1. It helps one brainstorm creative ideas. Brainstorming in a group allows participants to focus on a topic and contribute to the free flow of ideas. It helps generate various ideas while learning to accept and respect individual differences. It also encourages them to come out of their comfort zones by sharing their ideas as well as expand their knowledge by building on other people’s ideas. With the help of peer-to-peer collaboration, teachers can come up with unique ideas for their lesson plans that they have never thought of before.
  2. It provides an avenue for professional growth. Through the power of collaboration, teachers can get the help of other teachers who have acquired mastery over the skills they are trying to build. They can observe each other and debrief each other as they look for ways to improve their craft. Those taking part in the collaborative process can also self-reflect on who they are as teachers and learners. Interaction, dialogue, feedback, and exchange of ideas help teachers build good working relations with their peers.
  3. Teacher collaboration leads to improved student outcomes. Not only other teachers but students can also benefit from teachers collaborating with each other. Teachers become more effective when they work with others to improve their lesson plans, which can translate to more engaging classroom sessions.

Teacher Collaboration 2

Potential Challenges for Teacher Collaboration in 2021

The most pressing challenges to teacher collaboration today are the health-related stressors brought about by the pandemic. A survey of over 3,000 early childhood workers, including educators, found that 53% of New York State workers felt that the pandemic had little to moderate impact on their physical health. On the other hand, 55% said they felt little to moderate impact on their emotional health and well-being. Furthermore, 54% of New York State workers said that they felt little to moderately isolated while 26% said that they felt greatly affected by feelings of isolation (Tarrant & Nagasawa, 2020).

Disruptions brought about by the pandemic may also lessen the frequency with which teachers collaborate with each other. According to the OECD’s Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS), 61% of teachers say they discuss the learning development of students at least once a month. Meanwhile, 47% of teachers said they exchange learning materials (OECD, 2021). During the pandemic, collaborative activities may be limited for teachers working in challenging classroom environments, such as those that involve students from disadvantaged homes. In such schools, the most urgent concern for teachers is to address the lower levels of student achievement, an issue that has only been worsened by the pandemic.

Source: New York Early Childhood Professional Development Institute, CUNY, 2020

Reap the Rewards of Teacher Collaboration

The latest education statistics reveal the major impact of the pandemic on educational institutions. At a time when both students and teachers are still reeling from pandemic-related isolation, educational institutions should look more into the benefits that collaboration brings. Organizations looking into implementing teaching collaboration can deploy strategies, such as sharing best practices and providing emotional support. Once they do, they can enjoy the benefits of collaboration, which include generating creative ideas, professional growth for teachers, and improved student outcomes. Still, they must also be mindful of challenges to collaboration, like health stressors brought about by the pandemic and low-performing classroom environments.

 

References

  1. Brackett, M. and Cipriano, C. (2020, April 30). How to Support Teachers’ Emotional Needs Right Now. Greater Good Magazine. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_support_teachers_emotional_needs_right_now
  2. Carrol, K., Patrick, S.K., & Goldring, E. (2021). School Factors That Promote Teacher Collaboration: Results from the Tennessee Instructional Partnership Initiative. American Journal of Education. https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/full/10.1086/715002
  3. Gates, S. (2018, October 18). Benefits of Collaboration. NEA Today. https://www.nea.org/professional-excellence/student-engagement/tools-tips/benefits-collaboration
  4. Henderson, K. (2021, June 23). Benefits of and Strategies for Teacher Collaboration In & Outside of MTSS. Branching Minds. https://www.branchingminds.com/blog/teacher-collaboration-mtss
  5. Kalra, A. (2020, September 24). Teacher collaboration in challenging learning environments. OECD Education and Skills Today. https://oecdedutoday.com/teacher-collaboration-challenging-learning-environments/
  6. Merrit, E. (2016, December 1). Time for teacher learning, planning critical for school reform. Phi Delta Kappan. https://kappanonline.org/time-teacher-learning-planning-critical-school-reform/
  7. Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). (2021, September 16). The State of Global Education: 18 Months into the Pandemic. https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/education/the-state-of-global-education_1a23bb23-en
  8. Patzer, R. (2020, February 18). Sharing good practice: Strategies to encourage teacher collaboration. IRIS Connect. https://blog.irisconnect.com/uk/sharing-and-collaboration-in-schools
  9. Promethean. (n.d.). The State of Technology in Education 2021/22. Promethean. https://resourced.prometheanworld.com/gb/technology-education-industry-report/#schools-strategic-goals
  10. Saka, O.A. (2021). Can Teacher Collaboration Improve Students’ Academic Achievement in Junior Secondary Mathematics?. Asian Journal of University Education. https://doi.org/10.24191/ajue.v17i1.8727
  11. Sparks, S. (2019, September 10). Global Peers for Time Spent in School in OECD Study. EducationWeek. https://www.edweek.org/policy-politics/u-s-students-and-teachers-top-global-peers-for-time-spent-in-school-in-oecd-study/2019/09
  12. Tarrant, K. and Nagasawa, M. (2020, June 18). New York Early Care and Education Survey: Understanding the Impact of COVID-19 on New York Early Childhood System. New York Early Childhood Professional Development Institute. https://educate.bankstreet.edu/sc/2/
  13. University of New South Wales. (n.d.). Brainstorming. https://www.teaching.unsw.edu.au/brainstorming

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