Intentionally Fostering Teacher Collaboration

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By Jeni Langfeldt

Teacher collaboration matters and principal behaviors are critical in fostering an environment that is conducive to collaboration. Read to learn more about ways principals can intentionally foster CTE and positively impact teacher collaboration.

A growing body of research demonstrates the many benefits of collaborative teaching for both teachers and students. When teachers work together, they can share best practices, brainstorm new ideas, and support each other professionally. This collaboration can lead to increased satisfaction with their jobs and decreased teacher turnover. In addition, students also benefit from collaborative teaching methods. Studies have shown that students who are taught in collaborative settings have higher test scores and improved social skills.

Recognizing that collaborative environments set teachers, both new and experienced, up for greater success, principals should be intentional about fostering them. They can do this by providing opportunities for teachers to work together, offering professional development on collaborative teaching methods, and creating a school culture that values and supports collaboration.

When principals create an environment that encourages collaboration among teachers, everyone benefits. Students receive a better education, and teachers have the support they need to be successful. However, fostering collaboration among teachers requires changing how schools have historically operated.

Principals: Leading Change Agents

Principals serve as the leading change agent in their building and as such, they are key players in making these changes a lasting reality. The role of a building principal is a significant one, and as the educational landscape continues to evolve, so too must the ways in which principals lead their schools.

When a principal does their job well, they provide “a stable, predictable, and supportive foundation for a high-performing school” (Blase, Blase, & Phillips, 2010, p. xxviii). Leaders are responsible for results and they guide a team to achieve those results (Scott, K., 2017). Therefore, it is the duty of principals to set high expectations for all and create a high-performance culture within their building. 

Collective Teacher Efficacy

One way principals can maximize their impact on teachers and student outcomes is by intentionally fostering and building collective teacher efficacy. “Collective teacher efficacy refers to educators’ shared beliefs that through their combined efforts they can positively influence student outcomes, including those of students who are disengaged, unmotivated, and/or disadvantaged” (Donohoo, 2018, p. 324). John Hattie and his team (2017) found that collective teacher efficacy (CTE) has the largest effect size on student achievement out of over 250 influences. Hattie’s team determined that the effect size of CTE is d = 1.57. That is substantial!

When teachers work together and have a shared belief in their ability to positively influence student outcomes, they are more likely to take risks, try new things, and persevere when challenges arise. In order for CTE to develop, teachers must feel supported by their administrators. This means that principals need to provide opportunities for collaboration and offer guidance when needed.

Even when school leaders understand the importance of CTE, they may not always be intentional about fostering it. However, there are several ways that principals can intentionally foster collective teacher efficacy and positively impact teacher collaboration.

Principals should:

  • Provide opportunities for teachers to work together
  • Offer guidance and deliver professional development that focuses on collaboration and teamwork
  • Foster a collaborative culture by modeling collaboration
  • Reward and recognize teachers for working together to improve student outcomes

Opportunities for Collaboration

One way to foster collaboration is by giving teachers time during the day to work together. When teachers have dedicated time to collaborate, they can plan lessons, develop high-quality instructional materials, examine student evidence, and provide feedback to one another. This time should be protected so that teachers are not interrupted by other duties or obligations.

Guidance for Collaboration

In addition to providing opportunities for collaboration, principals also need to offer guidance. This means being available to answer questions, and offering suggestions when needed. It is also important to provide resources that teachers can use to support their collaborative efforts.

Additionally, principals should curate and/or bring in experts to deliver high-quality professional development that focuses on collaboration and teamwork. This PD should be specific to the needs of the teachers in the building. Furthermore, it should be timely and it should be delivered in a way that is engaging and interactive.

Modeling Collaboration

As a school leader, you are in a unique position to set the tone for your building. When you prioritize collaboration among your staff, they will follow your lead. You can create an environment that is conducive to collaboration by being an active participant in collaborative efforts. This means that principals should work collaboratively with their own teams and with other school leaders. When principals model collaboration, they send a strong message to their staff about the importance of working together.

Recognize and Reward Collaboration

When teachers work together to improve student outcomes, they should be recognized and rewarded for their efforts. This sends a clear message that you value collaboration and believe it is an important part of your school’s culture.

Some ideas for recognizing and rewarding teachers who work together to improve student outcomes include:

  • Giving teachers and teams a shout-out at a faculty meeting
  • Writing a personal note of thanks
  • Inviting them to share their story with the larger school community
  • Allowing them to lead a professional development session on collaboration

In Conclusion

In schools where the culture is characterized as having a high sense of collective efficacy, students achieve at higher levels (Waters & Cameron, 2007). By working together, teachers can create a more positive and effective learning environment for their students. As such it is vital that principals are intentional about fostering collaboration among their staff. By providing opportunities for collaboration, offering guidance and professional development focused on collaboration, modeling collaboration, and recognizing and rewarding collaboration, principals can create an environment that is conducive to collective teacher efficacy. This will lead to higher levels of student achievement.

References

Blase, J., Blase, J., & Phillps, D. Y. (2010). Handbook of school improvement: How high-performing principals create high-performing schools. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Donohoo, J. (2018). Collective teacher efficacy research: Productive patterns of behavior and other positive consequences. J Educ Change, 19, 323-345.

Hattie, J. (2017). Visible Learning Plus [Chart]. Retrieved from https://visible-learning.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/VLPULS-252-Influences-Hattie-ranking-DEC-2017.pdf

Langfeldt, Jennifer. “Principals’ Empowering Leadership Behaviors and Collective Teacher Efficacy: What’s the Relationship?” University of Nebraska at Omaha, Proquest, 2021, pp. 1–131. 

Waters, T., & Cameron, G. (2007). A review of the impact of school leadership on student outcomes. Educational Administration Quarterly, 43(5), 676-705. doi:10.1177/0013161X07304950

Scott, K. (2017). Radical Candor: Be a kick-ass boss without losing your humanity. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.

Waters, T., & Cameron, G. (2007). Balanced leadership framework: Connecting vision with action. Denver, CO: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning.

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