The attitude of professional privacy is most prevalent among teachers. When it comes to their performance in the classroom, most teachers tend to restrict themselves.
This hinders their growth and awareness and keeps them restricted to their conventional
teaching practices and ideas. It needs to be realized that professional development hugely depends upon effective teacher collaboration. Formal and informal collaborations help teachers learn a lot from each other and to get the most out of them teachers should seek each other, ask for advices and share how they work, they should spend time, help each other and build relationships. They should observe as many teachers as possible to see how they teach or learn and seek out the ones they’d like to emulate. They should ask questions regarding student data, instruction, discipline, etc., and must be prepared to share their own knowledge.
There can be a lot of strategies that schools can adopt to invite their teachers to collaborate with one another. Here are some strategies pertaining to real-life practices adopted by a few notable schools to help promote teacher collaboration:
Video tape and discuss lessons: This strategy is used by the Malcolm Price Laboratory School, Cedar Falls, Iowa. Each teacher in the school videotaped himself while teaching a lesson, and shared these videos in small focus groups. The groups watched the lesson and provided the teacher with feedback. This gave the teachers time to have constructive conversations about the quality of instruction, teacher assignments, and student work. Consequently, these discussions led to changes in instruction and student assessments to make everyone realize that the collaborative feedback from other teachers, who know the complexities of teaching, is one of the best ways to improve instruction.
Make the most of interactions in Staffrooms: This was encouraged by St. Andrew’s Scots School, Buenos Aires, Argentina. The staffroom is always the most appropriate place in a school for spontaneous interactions and sharing. Here, teachers find it comfortable to connect with each other, and the conversations they have often get them interested in what is being done in other classes, what teaching practices are being followed and how much progress the students are making. The school encouraged staffroom interactions widely which increased the popularity of informal observations. This also encourages teachers to be a part of other teacher’s classrooms and observe their teaching which is a direct result of their becoming interested in the discussions they have in the staffrooms about the teaching strategies. Teachers who are experts in different areas should not shy away from sharing their knowledge because it not only benefits other teachers, but also students.
Encourage PLCs: The concept of PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) was encouraged by Oakwood City School District, Dayton, Ohio. The teachers and administrators of this school identify its PLCs as the best opportunity for collaboration that it has yet offered. PLCs are made voluntary and are formed by collaborative groups of educators who come together regularly to learn about and focus on particular topics. The goal of PLCs should be to help teachers put what they learn into action, and to provide a comfortable environment where teachers are free to take professional risks. Some recent PLCs that were formed in the school are; Unleashing the Digital Artist in Each of Us (K–12 teachers), Comprehension and Collaboration (K–6 teachers), Helping Students Become Better Editors of Their Own Writing (4–7 English/language arts teachers).
Also, a university that considers PLCs to be vital to facilitate teacher collaboration is the Southern Arkansas University, Magnolia, Arkansas. It thinks that PLCs work best for moving toward a culture of collaboration. The first step in creating an effective learning community is to develop a shared vision, mission, and goal. If all teachers buy in, the collaboration will be meaningful, providing more effective learning experiences for students. These communities can be developed with the help of a variety of resources such as websites, books, blogs, and videos that provide sample materials and information. Every step involved in the development of a PLC, is a step towards meaningful teacher collaboration.
Collaboration should be regular and scheduled: Bloomer Elementary School, Council Bluffs, Iowa uses a range of strategies to invite teacher collaboration. It has designated model classrooms for Literature and Math, in which a coach works closely with the classroom teacher to help the teacher implement new curriculum and strategies and provide support and feedback. It has scheduled weekly grade-level meetings during the school day in which teachers collaborate, set up observations, and provide feedback to one another. It has early release every Monday so teachers can take part in professional development and spend much of this time working together to analyze student data, discuss lessons, and plan instruction. It also holds monthly intervention meetings in which classroom teachers and support staff meet to collaborate on the intervention work they are providing for specific students.
I hope these practices encourage you to promote teacher collaboration and you can adopt them in your own schools, colleges or universities to add a significant element to the professional development of teachers. Please share more such practices, strategies and ways to promote teacher collaboration. Make suggestions in the Comment Box.