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What is the Importance of Teacher Collaboration in Professional Development?

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“If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.” ~ Booker T Washington

When a teacher steps into the classroom, they do so as the only adult in a room full of younger students. Because they stand alone at the head of the classroom, it’s easy to believe that teaching is not a collaborative endeavor – but that’s not the case.

At Alludo, we believe that teaching is at its best in a collaborative environment where teachers support one another, share ideas, provide feedback, and work together to achieve school and district initiatives as well as individual goals.

So, with that in mind, let’s talk about why teacher collaboration in professional learning is important, what it means to be a collaborative teacher, and how teacher collaboration can deliver the best outcomes for students.


Table of Contents

  1. What Does It Mean to Be a Collaborative Teacher?
  2. Why is Teacher Collaboration Important?
    1. Collaboration Encourages Teachers to Brainstorm Creative Ideas
    2. Collaboration Teaches Teachers About Themselves
    3. Teacher Collaboration Drives Student Collaboration
    4. Collaboration Increases Teacher Retention
  3. Does Teacher Collaboration Improve Student Achievement?
  4. Alludo's Take
  5. Boost Teacher Collaboration in PD in Your District

What Does It Mean to Be a Collaborative Teacher

What is a collaborative teacher and how does collaborative teaching work? Simply stated, collaborative teaching is a system where two or more teachers work together to teach and mentor the same group of students. It may also be referred to as team teaching or cooperative teaching and it provides ongoing feedback and support to teachers.

There are five types of collaborative teaching, as follows:

  1. Simultaneous teaching. This form of collaborative teaching uses two teachers to split a classroom in half. Each teacher instructs students on the same material at the same time. Because the teachers are responsible for a small number of students, they are better able to provide one-on-one support as it is needed.
  2. Instructional stations. Each teacher in a collaborative environment is responsible for an instructional station. Students rotate between stations, getting one-on-one help and instructions in a way that wouldn’t be possible in a traditional classroom.
  3. Teach and reteach. In this model, one teacher leads a class and teaches students while the other observes. The observer is responsible for reviewing the material taught and evaluating student grasp of the material with quizzes and exams.
  4. Lead, observe, assist. Similar to the previous model, this one has one teacher lead a class while the other observes and makes notes about which students are struggling or where the lesson could be improved. They share their observations with the lead teacher. In a collaborative environment, both teachers would take turns as leader and observer.
  5. Supplemental teaching. In supplemental teaching, classes are divided into a large group and a small group. One teacher leads each group and each group is given different instructions and goals. This method can be helpful because the students in the small group can get additional help if they need it.

types of collaborative teaching

Schools and teachers can choose which model is most likely to lead to the desired results.

Why is Teacher Collaboration Important?

Now that you know what collaborative teaching is and five ways that it can be used for the benefit of students and teachers, let’s review the reasons that teacher collaboration in education is important and some of the specific ways it can benefit everybody in the classroom.

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Collaboration Encourages Teachers to Brainstorm Creative Ideas

When teachers work on their own, they may struggle to find time to think creatively about the challenges they face in the classroom. Collaborative teaching encourages brainstorming, creativity, and innovation in several ways.

Creativity can flourish in a group setting. When teachers collaborate with trusted colleagues, they are likely to feel safe sharing ideas that may seem unusual or even silly. The group provides an environment where teachers can refine ideas and figure out how to put them to work for the benefit of their students.

Having more than one teacher (and more than one creative mind) in the classroom also allows for more impartial observation that can inspire innovation. A teacher who’s preoccupied with getting through a lesson plan may not have the opportunity to observe individual students. In a collaborative classroom, observing teachers can focus on students, offer ideas, and build a framework for creativity. From there, peer-to-peer collaboration can take a new idea and transform it into a concrete and creative lesson plan or rubric that students will love.

Collaboration Teaches Teachers About Themselves

Collaborative teaching is also collaborative learning because any teacher in a collaborative group will learn from the others. As each teacher leads classes, receives constructive feedback, and observes their fellow teachers and offers feedback to them, they learn about themselves as teachers and gain insights about how they can better connect with students.

Educators can sometimes feel alone because they lead their classes alone. With collaborative teaching, every teacher in a group has the option to reap the benefits of peer support. It’s not always easy for any of us to see the areas where we need to improve, but effective teacher collaboration can lift all teachers in a school district by providing a new perspective on their practice and time in the classroom.

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Teacher Collaboration Drives Student Collaboration

Student achievement is the thing that matters most to teachers. It’s why they get into the profession in the first place and it’s why they stay even when things are challenging. One of the most important benefits of teacher collaboration is that it drives and encourages student collaboration, as well.

Educators who work together and reap the benefits of doing so are more likely to design collaborative activities that require students to work together as well. According to the NEA, successful collaboration builds high-level thinking skills while boosting students’ self-esteem and confidence. In other words, students who collaborate are able to grasp difficult concepts while improving their social skills.

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Collaboration Increases Teacher Retention

We’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about the ongoing teacher shortage in the United States and the damage it has done in school districts across the country. When we meet with school leaders, the issue of teacher retention is something that is top-of-mind for many of them and they’re eager to address the problem in any way they can.

Teachers who leave the profession often cite two reasons that can be addressed by collaborative teaching: heavy workloads and a lack of support. Teachers who work in collaborative groups share their work, making it less likely that they’ll feel overwhelmed by their respective workloads.

As we have already noted, collaborative teaching provides immediate and ongoing peer-to-peer support for teachers. With opportunities to share ideas, vent about their frustrations, and work together to help their students, teachers in collaborative settings are less likely to leave their jobs.

why is teacher collaboration important

Does Teacher Collaboration Improve Student Achievement?

If teacher collaboration isn’t currently in place in your school district, you may be wondering what impact, if any, it can have on student achievement.

Teacher collaboration has a positive influence on school communities, including everyone from administrators to students. We’ve already talked about how effective collaboration sparks innovation among teachers, so it should come as no surprise that a 2021 article in the Journal of Educational Psychology found that schools where teachers innovated saw a higher level of cognitive activation among students than those where innovation was not encouraged.

Likewise, a 2021 review in School Effectiveness and School Improvement examined the results of 18 studies on teacher collaboration and found that when teachers collaborated, school performance was improved. Specifically, it mentioned the importance of trust-based relationships and open communication as the reasons that innovation had a positive impact on student learning. 

According to the NEA, schools with the highest levels of collaboration see significant improvements in student achievement in both English Language Arts and Math. School districts who want to drive student success, increase average scores on standardized tests, and increase graduation rates can benefit from embracing teacher collaboration and fostering an environment where collaboration is encouraged.

teacher collaboration and student achievement

 

Alludo's Take

At Alludo, it’s our passion to create dynamic learning environments for school districts across the United States. While every district is unique, we believe that our platform can help any district embrace a spirit of collaboration and peer support among teachers.

We have built our platform using gamification to encourage teacher engagement and promote healthy competition. By rewarding teachers for their participation, we have seen our platform ignite the spirit of learning, transforming professional development from a chore to a priority. In fact, our school districts have engagement levels that average between 70% and 90%, with some even reaching 100% engagement.

Measure PD Effectiveness

With our new Message Boards feature, we have made it easy for teachers to connect with one another. Teacher-learners are using our platform to discuss microlearning activities, share ideas, and collaborate in student learning. School districts who want to encourage collaboration can use the Alludo platform as a jumping-off point.

Teachers can form Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) within a district or connect with teachers across the country for the benefit of their students.

Boost Teacher Collaboration in PD in Your District

Teacher collaboration is a key factor in improving schools and boosting student achievement and engagement. With the right system of professional development, teachers can pool their resources, share ideas, innovate, and be effective in the classroom. It’s up to assistant superintendents and administrators to provide teachers with the tools and support they need to embrace collaborative teaching.

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