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.
In the Words of District Leaders
“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. I’d say the vast majority of PLCs are going well now, but it took us a long time to get there.”
“One of the issues that I see moving forward is that we have individuals who do not want to collaborate, do not want to share. That’s been an interesting kind of a road block…the assumption that every teacher wants to work with other teachers, or that every teacher sees a need to collaborate with someone else, is not the case.”
Ideas from the Field
- Some districts offer tuition reimbursement or stipends for teachers to pursue training or coursework at local institutions of higher education.
- Micro-credentialing is another approach used by a number of districts that allows teachers to select an area they want to develop in. This can mean virtual/augmented reality, growth mindset, or even teaching with Minecraft; tailoring PD to teachers’ individuals goals and interests is both nuanced and largely limitless.
- In traditional professional development structures, many districts are providing educators with at least some choice when it comes to selecting sessions, as well as allowing them to contribute ideas towards areas of interest/future sessions.
Check out the following research-based resources for more information about supporting educator collaboration:
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-needs 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 students 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.
Share Best Practices vs. Share Process/Failures – This “Problem of Practice” from The Learning Accelerator identifies how practitioners can best learn from one another and how to catalogue and share that learning throughout the district.