Teachers, coaches, and other school staff need time to collaborate with and learn from their colleagues to best address their students’ needs, build useful connections, and find overlap in content and teaching approaches. But it can be difficult for schools to allocate time for teachers to get together, whether for co-teaching, common planning time, or for developing formal Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). While PLCs can provide forums for meaningful discussion and action on instructional practices, developing or identifying structured engagement protocols for teacher collaboration takes time, effort, and facilitation to start and maintain. Further, districts may grapple with how to engage teachers who do not see the value in collaborating with their colleagues, or who don’t see eye to eye on how to best teach a particular standard or topic.
Educators responded they experience this challenge often
Educators responded their schools have made progress on this challenge
Ideas from the Field
- Districts are working to support Professional Learning Communities so that educators can have meaningful discussions related to instruction and achievement, review student data together, and collaboratively develop curricula.
- Many districts are prioritizing common planning and collaboration opportunities, building collaborative time into school schedules. For example, one district added 40 minutes to the school day, but didn’t extend any student time; every day from 7:30 to 8:10 is set aside for teams of teachers to meet in “colleagueship,” with different task groups and PLCs for educators participate in.
- Other districts provide virtual ways for educators to connect outside of the school building, from virtual learning cohorts to educator-led Twitter chats about teaching and learning.
- One district has implemented staff-led PD, with breakout sessions designed and facilitated by teachers. Teachers enjoy these authentic opportunities for peer-to-peer learning, so participation rates are high.
Related Innovation Portfolios
Solving big challenges through small teacher working groupsCreating professional development experiences that actually work- Arcadia Unified School District
Teacher video study groups (VSGs) help foster student agency and academic identityCommunities of Practice, or Network Improvement Communities, facilitate deep personal and peer reflection around video clips filmed informally by teachers- Sunnyside Unified School District
In the Words of District Staff
“We provide a lot of support for professional learning communities (PLCs), and making sure that our teachers are having meaningful discussions related to instruction and achievement on a weekly basis. And that has been a real challenge for us. The vast majority of PLCs are going well now, but it took us a long time to get there.”
“I think when you walk in your classroom, you're on your own island, to an extent...You could have four teachers all teach the exact same thing, but they're going to teach it in different ways. They've got different sets of kids, and different questions are going to be asked, so there are too many variables happening all at once to get everybody on the exact same page to get the exact same results. But I think that's the goal.”
Collaboration: Closing the Effective Teaching Gap - This report from the Center for Teaching Quality shares findings from a major national survey of teacher leaders to better understand the role that participation in teacher leadership networks plays in supporting and retaining effective teachers in high-need urban schools.
Time for Teachers - From the National Center on Time & Learning, this resource examines schools around the country that have taken advantage of expanded school schedules to provide teachers with more time to collaborate with colleagues, analyze student data, create new lesson plans, and develop new skills.
CTQ Library - From the Center for Teaching Quality, research that helps inform innovative best practices and personalized teacher education.
Educator Innovator - From National Writing Project, Educator Innovator provides an online hub for educators and organizations who value open learning and whose interests and spirits exemplify Connected Learning.