Teachers need time to collaborate with one another, reports The Washington Post, but they rarely receive it, especially during times of budget shortfalls. Collaborating in groups helps teachers share ideas, increases student achievement, creates a positive campus climate and increases community involvement. Collaboration is not just for teachers, though, as students also can benefit from learning together in small groups.
When teachers work together to plan lessons and activities, they benefit from hearing new and fresh ideas from their colleagues that they can bring into their own classrooms. In these professional learning communities, teachers can share what works and does not work in their classrooms. In some cases, teachers may even be able to visit other classrooms to observe different teaching styles and classroom management systems.
Teachers also could collaborate to create interdisciplinary lessons. These types of lessons span more than one subject at a time. For example, an English teacher could have students study the novel "The Grapes of Wrath" while students were learning about the Great Depression during their history class. According to the College Board, this type of teaching enhances student creativity, increases achievement and allows students to hone their critical thinking and communication skills.
When teachers have time to share ideas with each other, the result is better teaching and more learning. Sparks Middle School in California made changes in order to assist low-performing students, and one of those changes was the addition of more than six hours of teacher-collaboration time. They now boast the highest standardized test scores in algebra in the district, with more than 60 percent of students passing the test. Seventy percent of their students scored proficient in science, compared to the statewide average of only 54 percent. Their teachers credit the success to collaboration.
Creates a Positive Culture
Collaboration does not have to be kept within the confines of the school walls, as educators, administrators, parents and students can work together to improve schools. Schools can collaborate with parents and students in some decisions, such as creating a dress code, in order to create a culture where people feel their ideas are valued. A Yale study examined literature on how to create a positive school climate, and collaborative decision making, parental involvement and school-community relations all topped the list.
Collaborating with classmates can have positive results for students too. When students participate in collaborative learning groups, achievement increases. Dr. Spencer Kagan, a respected educational researcher and author, claims there are more than 500 studies that show evidence of increased achievement for all types of students when they work together in small groups to solve a problem or reach a common goal. Students also get the opportunity to learn about diversity, how to work with others and be part of a team.
- Pacific Standard: Teacher Collaboration Gives Schools Better Results
- The Washington Post: What Teachers Need and Reformers Ignore -- Time to Collaborate
- Kagaon Online: Cooperative Learning -- Seventeen Pros and Seventeen Cons Plus Ten Tips for Success
- National Association of School Psychologists: Positive School Climate -- Information for Educators
- AP Central College Board: Toolkit For Interdisciplinary Learning, Teaching and Assessment
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