Teacher collaboration means different things in different schools. Activities include informal classroom observations, co-teaching models, common planning around instruction and curriculum, and data-driven discussions. However it’s defined, the prevalence of these types of collaboration vary widely across the country, according to a recent report from the RAND Corporation. The report, The Prevalence of Collaboration Among American Teachers, reveals results from a survey of 1,800 teachers and highlights some of the different obstacles that make it challenging to create more widespread opportunities.
Collaboration is essential to implementing a comprehensive personalized learning model with fidelity. (Our instructional coaches like to say it's like going from neighbors to roommates.) But RAND's researchers write that it's also about greater professional fulfillment, long-term development, and improved instructional practices that can positively affect student learning. To keep the conversation going, we've pulled out four insights and takeaways from the report.
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Is Collaboration Happening?
It’s not that collaboration isn’t happening. In fact, a very small number of teachers (4%) say they never meet with other teachers in school during the school year.
But it doesn’t seem to be a consistent part of the average teacher’s work — on a daily or even weekly basis.
Less than half of teachers say they met at least once a week to discuss instructional practices. Just over 25% of teachers say they meet more than once a week to review and discuss student assessment data or other student assignments.
Time isn’t the only obstacle preventing teachers from working together, but it’s a big one. The vast majority of teachers say they believed that time constraints keep them from collaborating with their peers. Other factors included a perceived lack of willingness and the inflexible nature of their daily schedule. Still, the researchers recommend as a first step that policymakers and education leaders should increase the time available for teachers to participate in collaborative activities.
“If more support and time were given to organized collaborative structures, such as teacher teams or professional learning communities, teacher collaborative could become a much more universal part of the profession.”
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Does The Type Of School Matter?
The researchers found that there isn’t any certain types school did not have a statistically significant association with the frequency of collaboration activities. But, teachers were more likely to find collaboration with colleagues to be helpful if they worked in low-poverty schools. The researcher offers one possible reason to explain the discrepancy:
“Collaboration activities taking place a high-poverty schools are driven by responses to policy mandates and are more focused on compliance than on instructional improvements.”
The More, The Better
Teachers are more likely to find feedback helpful when they received more of it. Seventy-two percent of teachers whose feedback came on at least a weekly basis found that is was “extremely helpful.” That fell to 36% when feedback came 2-3 times a month and 21% on a less-than-monthly basis. That’s not to say that any kind of feedback is good, but it does support other national studies that have identified frequency as a key indicator.
Other Collaborative Teaching Resources
Collaborative teaching is a necessary part of the Teach to One: Math model, so it’s a topic that we’re very interested in. Check out the resources below, or connect with us if you want to learn more about how collaborative teaching works in our personalized learning model.