Study: Teacher Collaboration Improves Performance, Learning


A massive study has found that teachers get better at what they do when they work together with other teachers.

This simple conclusion has come from research into how teachers collaborate with one another and why. Michael Hart, writing for THE Journal, says that a team of University of Michigan and Vanderbilt University professors, led by Assistant Professor Matthew Ronfeldt of Michigan, surveyed 9,000 teachers at 336 schools in the Miami-Dade County Public School System. About 90% said working in instructional teams was helpful in improving student learning.

“Growing research evidence suggests that a teacher’s quality is not fixed and depends a great deal upon a school’s working environment and climate, and the quality of colleagues around her,” said Ronfeldt.

Teachers were asked to explain how the collaboration impacted certain parts of their professional endeavors, such as assessments, instruction, and student behavior. A majority of the teachers said collaboration in every aspect of their teaching was helpful and added that it had the greatest results in dealing with assessment.

Vanderbilt Associate Professor Jason Grissom said, “Focusing on building teacher teams and providing meaningful ways for teachers to work together on the tough challenges they encounter can lead to substantively important achievement gains.”

Along with the surveys, administrative data was used to ascertain the amount and the quality of collaboration among the Miami-Dade County Public School System, the 4th largest district in the nation. The findings concluded that 85% of teachers were part of instructional teams, according to Laural Thomas Gnagey of the Science X network. Teachers also shared that participation improved their perceptions of the value of teams and the quality of their instruction.

The areas of collaboration included in the survey were instructional strategies and curriculum; instructional approaches to groups or specific students regarding classroom work, student discipline, and class management; and approaches to assessment, which included review of state test results.

“Ours is the first study, to our knowledge, to develop measures for the quality of collaboration about different instructional domains and attempt to disentangle the relative impacts of collaboration around different topics,” Ronfeldt said.

In other words, this was the first study to look at different kinds of collaboration and the impact each type has on specific indicators of achievement, writes Nicole Gorman for Education World.

“For example, the team found that high-quality collaboration about assessment, rather than about students or instructional strategies/curriculum, were better predictors of student math achievement gains. However, better quality collaboration across a range of instructional domains, rather than about a single domain, was most predictive of better student achievement,” the article said.

The study showed that the quality of instruction for teachers involved in collaboration improved as well. Renfeldt added that there seems to be an agreement that differences in teacher quality exist and are fixed or inborn. The answer for many is to increase the number of the brightest and best and get rid of the bad apples, reports WWJ-TV Detroit. This research should encourage school districts to give collaboration of teachers in the classroom a try.

As Mattie Stepanek, American poet and young hero, said:

Unity is strength… when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.