Collaboration with colleagues can spell success for teachers and their students

Arts & Creativity

ANN ARBOR—As the national debate about how to improve teacher quality continues, new research led by the University of Michigan shows that teacher involvement in quality collaborations with colleagues can lead to improved teacher and student performance.
The study by Matthew Ronfeldt, assistant professor at the U-M School of Education, and colleagues from U-M and Vanderbilt University represents the first district-level view of collaborations and their relationship to achievement. The study not only looks at what kind of collaborations teachers find helpful, but it determines which ones most lead to student success.
“There is growing consensus that differences in teacher quality exist and that these differences matter for student achievement,” Ronfeldt said. “Many policy efforts today assume quality is fixed or inborn, and focus on increasing the supply of ‘best and brightest’ into the profession to replace ‘bad apples.’ However, growing research evidence suggests that a teacher’s quality is not fixed and depends a great deal upon school working environment and climate, and the quality of colleagues around her.”
The researchers used surveys and administrative data to study more than 9,000 teachers in 336 schools to determine the amount and quality of collaborative efforts among teachers in the Miami-Dade County Public School System, the 4th-largest district in the country.
They found that 85 percent of teachers in the district were part of instructional teams, and that participation improved both the teachers’ perceptions of the value of teams, and the quality of instruction. Almost 90 percent of teachers reported that collaboration in instructional teams was helpful or very helpful.
There were three general areas of collaboration: instructional strategies and curriculum; instructional approaches to groups or specific students, regarding classroom work, student discipline and class management; and approaches to assessment, including review of state test results.
Previous research has tied collaboration among teachers with achievement but those studies focused on the amount or extensiveness …

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