Assets for and constraints on collaboration
Every school and district has strengths and weaknesses when it comes to supporting teacher collaboration. This discussion can help you think through these issues for your school or district.
A) What is the climate in your school?
- What is your current school climate? What is the current climate in the district?
- How well do teachers get along with one another?
- How safe do teachers feel in speaking up when they have a problem or idea?
- How well does the school deal with differences of race, gender, language or culture? Do teachers of all backgrounds and identities feel comfortable and included?
- How receptive are principals to teachers’ feedback and criticism? How receptive are teachers to principals’ feedback and criticism?
What can research tell us about the resources teachers need to collaborate?
Dedicated time for teachers to work together is crucial to collaboration.15 Certain simple forms of collaboration such as sharing lesson plans may happen without physical contact and may take very little time. But time and spaces are required for sustained, ongoing discussions of lesson designs, student learning processes, subject-area issues, multidisciplinary connections and pedagogical challenges. Unfortunately, time for collaboration is not always reflected in teachers’ formal schedules or paid time.16
Does your school’s schedule create sufficient time for teachers to work together?
B) What do you need to make collaboration work?
- What are your school’s greatest assets for working more collaboratively? Assets can include physical attributes such as meeting spaces and communication technology, resources such as professional development time, or the human capital of your teacher colleagues or administrators such as strong facilitation and implementation skills.
- What are your school’s greatest obstacles when it comes to working more collaboratively? How can you address these challenges in a positive way?
- Are there financial costs that will need to be covered if teachers work more collaboratively? How can they be covered?
- Is there sufficient time for teachers to work together? Does time need to be set aside, or might collaboration become a built-in part of already scheduled activities?
- Who in your school might be a resource you can tap to assist with making the most of working collaboratively?
- Who is left out, talked over or otherwise marginalized when teachers collaborate? Do teachers differ in how they adapt to and operate in collaborative settings by years of experience, gender, race, sexual orientation or other variables?
- In unionized districts, how can relationships between teachers’ unions and administrators help or hinder efforts to make teachers’ work more collaborative?
- How will parents respond to efforts to foster a more collaborative teacher workplace? How should they be engaged, and who should engage them?
Next: Discussion 4
15 Mary Anne Raywid, “Finding Time for Collaboration,” Educational Leadership 51, no. 1 (1993): 30; United States Department of Education, "A Blueprint for Reform: The Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act" (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, 2010), 3, 7; Richard DuFour, “What Is a ‘Professional Learning Community’?” Educational Leadership 61, no. 8 (2004): 4, 5; Matthew A. Kraft, John P. Papay, Susan Moore Johnson et al., “Educating Amid Uncertainty: The Organizational Supports Teachers Need to Serve Students in High-Poverty, Urban Schools,” Educational Administration Quarterly 51, no. 5 (2015): 767–68.
16 David Piercey, “Why Don’t Teachers Collaborate? A Leadership Conundrum,” Phi Delta Kappan 92, no. 1 (2010): 4; L. Brook E. Sawyer and Sara E. Rimm- Kaufman, “Teacher Collaboration in the Context of the Responsive Classroom Approach,” Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice 13, no. 3 (2007): 228.