By Teachers, For Teachers
One of the many new skills that students are required to learn in 21st century education is the ability to collaborate with others. While this is an important skill for students to master, research is now showing that those in the teaching profession are not modeling this skill very much. In fact, National Findings from the American Teacher Panel found that during a typical month, 44 percent of teachers will never visit a fellow teacher’s classroom to get teaching ideas or offer feedback. They also found that around 30 percent of those in the teaching profession said that they rarely meet with their colleagues to share instructional content. Here we’ll take a look at the findings and recommendations from the American Teacher Panel on teacher collaboration, as well as give you a few tips on how you can work better when you collaborate with your colleagues.
Teacher collaboration is an essential component in the success of not only educators, but their students as well. When teachers collaborate, they learn from one another which in turn can be beneficial to their students. The conclusion from a research project, The Prevalence of Collaboration Among American Teachers, found that while more than half of teachers have opportunities to collaborate, time constraints often prevent them from doing so. They also found that teacher-peer observation was the least common form of collaboration, but when they did receive feedback from peer observation, it would benefit them better if it was more frequent. Overall, the study found that collaboration is an important component of instructional improvement in teachers, but it’s not happening as much as it should be in American schools.
The teacher collaboration report offered a handful of recommendations. First, they suggest that educational agencies, as well as school leaders, should provide more opportunities for collaboration. Second, it’s suggested to increase the time available for teachers to participate in collaborative activities, peer observation and planning time, as well as guided collaboration. Lastly, they recommend that administrators see teacher collaboration as part of an educator’s role, and policymakers must explore what hinders teacher collaboration in a means to improve it.
When teachers do find the time to collaborate with their colleagues, wonderful things can happen, like they can learn a thing or two. For instance, research has shown that it can help raise student achievement as well. Here are a few tips to help you connect with your colleagues.
The key to gaining the benefits of collaboration is to make the time for it. If your school district doesn’t give you extra time to collaborate, then use your planning time. When you communicate with your fellow teachers, it makes it easier to plan and create higher quality lesson plans for your students.
It can be challenging to find the time to collaborate with your colleagues, so you need to be flexible, not only with when you can plan to get together, but with the ideas that may be shared. Ideas may arise that you may not like, and you will need to go able to just go with it. With the constant changes in curriculum, you need to be able to roll with the punches. If you are the kind of person that has a hard time with this, then you will not do well with working with others. Be prepared for the unexpected, and be flexible when working with colleagues.
Everybody has their own teaching styles, as well as opinions on how they should teach. When collaborating with others, try to create a solid foundation and learn to respect every teacher you work with as well as their opinion. Try and recognize that everyone has their own skills and limitations and respect them for they are.
One of the best parts of collaboration is the division of labor. If you’re an elementary school teacher and take on just a few subjects, then collaboration will allow you to share the workload with another teacher. If you’re a middle school teacher, then you’ll most likely team teach one or two subjects and still are able to share the workload with your team. Just make sure that you plan together to share your workload in the best way that all team members seem fit.
Successful teacher collaborations happen when you make the time, and are flexible and respectful. Teachers are able to learn so much more when they get the opportunity to work together.
Do you collaborate with your colleagues in the teaching profession? If so, what is your favorite part of it? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section below, we’d love to hear from you on this topic.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.