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Collaborative Practices to Empower Teacher Teams

Banner displaying blog title: "Collaborative Practices to Empower Teacher Teams".

Collaboration is one of the most highly sought skills that both college and employers are looking for in candidates. According to a survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, teamwork is one of the top 3 attributes.

In our school buildings and classrooms, creating a culture of collaboration is highly beneficial for both adults and students alike. Yet, while we know the importance of building a purposeful time for teams to meet, how do we do so with intentional habits that keep the focus on the most important thing: student learning?

Let’s consider what ASCD author Elisa Macdonald offers as 3 Habits to make Teacher Teams More Impactful
Habit #1: Build a Collective Reading/Viewing Habit as reading and discussing with colleagues adds a dimension of learning that can't be achieved alone.
  1. Start small with short, engaging texts such as a cartoon, quote or inspirational excerpt from a podcast before working up to longer text.
  2. Structure the Conversation in a way that promotes discussion with or without a protocol in place. Utilize a good prompt.
  3. Ground conversation in text and utilize questions such as “Where in the text did you see that? What did you read that prompted you to share that? What does the text say about this?”

  • Is there a collective reading habit built-in for your teacher teams, buildings, and district? 
  • What are 1-2 actions to take to begin incorporating this as part of the team structure?
  • How could this habit support instruction and impact student learning?
Habit #2: Develop a Peer Observation Habit to allow teams to be in and out of each other’s classrooms on a regular basis.
  • Set a specific purpose for each observation. Be clear about what people should be looking for and connect it to what your team is studying.
  • Decide what to observe. It can be a whole lesson or even observe just a portion of a lesson.
  • Decide a means for collecting data. Your purpose for observing should guide what you will collect and support the debrief conversation.
  • Choose an observation method. Ever considered a dry run? This allows teachers to teach without students present and still allow for feedback.

One Idea: Pineapple Charts
Read how the authors at TCEA and Cult of Pedagogy both discuss Pineapple Charts as a way for teachers to volunteer times for colleagues to check out their classrooms!

  • Do teams have an opportunity to visit each other?
  • How could you structure opportunities to support this collaborative practice?
Habit #3: Looking at student work together
What might be a habit we adopt to ensure we are effectively collaborating while examining student work together and to ensure we meet the needs of all team members?

Elisa MacDonald recommends choosing work that follows an ARC:
Authentic work samples that represent an authentic concern or dilemma for all team members
Relevant to all members of the team and their individual goals and connect to all students 
Current samples so that there is immediate opportunity to reflect and implement next steps for students
One Idea: 
Consider giving some choice and autonomy within each team, while still expecting each to use the framework of ARC. The ARC framework could be added as an essential question to be utilized during meetings or utilized as protocol for groups to ensure effective collaboration and engagement in the work.
  • What protocols do you find most effective for team conversations as they look at student work?
  • Do teams have voice and choice on the structures in place as they work together?
Ultimately, no matter which habits you find most effective for supporting teacher teams, it is important that we remember to keep the focus, conversations, and intention on the real reason for this important work: student learning!

Looking for a thought-partner on these Collaborative Habits or others for your teacher teams? Feel free to reach out to Stephanie Warner, Facilitator of Curriculum and Instructional Support at the ESC. [email protected]