Professionalizing Teaching

Professionalizing Teaching

Categories: Uncategorized

Five Paradigms Missing From Teaching

NNSTOY has identified five paradigms existing in other professions, but missing in our own.  NNSTOY Executive Director Katherine Bassett recently produced a series of five blog pieces to members, each outlining a specific paradigm.  We believe that in order to professionalize teaching, we need to embrace these structures that help to define other professions.  The blog pieces are compiled below.

November 14:  Guiding Principles

As you know, I have been engaging is a series of conversations with colleagues in education policy and membership organizations, about NNSTOY and our goals.  In describing those goals – positioning teachers to have a voice in policy making and implementation, and, advocating for differentiated staffing models for teaching to promote retention and student achievement, the conversation has sometimes shifted to one of the structures that seems to be lacking in teaching – guiding principles.

Industry has systematically created measures for determining effective performance through Generally Accepted Accounting Principles or GAAP.  These guiding documents are often referred to in other professions as Professional Principles, Ethical Principals, or Guiding Principles.  One definition of GAAP analysis is the accounting rules used to prepare and standardize the reporting of financial statements, such as balance sheets, income statements and cashflow statements, for publicly traded companies and many private companies in the United States (Stephanie Paul, LegalZoom)  https://www.legalzoom.com/articles/article_content/article14076.html

Paul goes on to explain that GAAP is determined through measurement and disclosure principles and that it provides a consistent measure of accountability by which companies’ performance can be judged.  GAAP principles vary by profession but they all focus on standardizing a means of holding a company – or a profession - accountable for its performance.

Given this definition – essentially, using a set of measures to determine expectations and measure existing performance against those expectations to determine where an entity is and is not meeting expectations - should the teaching profession not have such a set of principles in place, developed by practitioners for practitioners?  In fact, could there not be three sets of principles - equally important areas of study followed by action:  GAAP for individual teacher effectiveness, for school leader effectiveness, and for school performance?

In looking at over thirty sets of such documents for career fields as diverse as accounting, medicine, plumbing, event planning, and real estate, it is a distinctive characteristic that these sets of principles are typically developed by practitioners in the field for practitioners.  The resulting documents are used by practitioners as one means of accountability for adherence to professional dictates that govern the profession.  In other words, these principles are used to hold the profession accountable to itself.  These are not standards but principles; the difference is that standards typically focus on specified content while principles define behavior.  We have no set of principles to which we hold ourselves accountable as professionals in education.

In addition to having established guiding principles, many other professions have governing bodies that oversee these principles, as well as the operationalizing of them.  These bodies are responsible for establishing procedures for dealing with professionals – members – who do not uphold the principles.  Think of the American Medical Association for physicians, the American Bar Association for lawyers, the United States Personal Chefs Association; I could go on.

In raising the point with policy experts, wonks, and others that education lacks these foundational principles, there has initially been a moment of genuine surprise.  Surprise that education does not have these in place, and that this point has not been raised more emphatically in the past.  And then, the conversation typically turns to the nitty-gritty issues of how would they be put in place, by whom, and who would oversee them.  It is this last point that is typically the sticking point.

In my experience thus far, there is little disagreement, once the lack of their existence is recognized, that education should have guiding principles.  There is not much argument that these should be developed by educators, for educators.  Where there is argument, it often dissipates when the point is pushed, “if the U.S. government were going to pass legislation mandating operating theatre procedures, who is it most likely ask to help define professional standards?  Policy makers?  Business people?  Or physicians?”  This seems to help bring the conversation around to recognizing that educators are the experts who should define professional practice for the education field.

No, the sticking point is usually around who would oversee and implement these principles, a governing body for the profession.  The conversation often turns to who should not – not the unions (not their function), not the professional associations (they represent specific segments of the educator population), not the states (again, not their domain).  Should a governing body be formed to serve this function, like the American Dental Association, for example?

In two conversations last week, with really smart people who I know and respect, it came down to there not needing to be such an enforcing body.  One proposal was that there might be a body to oversee the principles and issue a certification, so to speak, that the individual had signed a document committing to adhere to these principles.  The signing of that document might be requirement for licensure in the individual states.

I usually ask why teaching, education, is so different from other professions in not needing this governing body.  Are we not deemed capable of governing ourselves, holding ourselves accountable?

The answer that I received from both really smart people, was that teaching is a public profession.  Unlike almost any other profession – except government workers – educators truly are public employees.  A third genuinely brilliant person, whom I respect tremendously, responded that teaching is the only profession actually written into the Constitution and that makes it different.  Honestly, I had never thought of that.

One pundit (I am using this word positively) speculated that if we did have guiding principles for the profession, we would likely see a reduction in the amount of attention focused by numerous outside agencies on holding us accountable to numerous sets of standards.  The vacuum into which they have rushed would be filled.

This might be reason enough in and of itself, to see such guiding principles established – by educators, for educators.  This is a project that I would like to see NNSTOY lead, in partnership with other education organizations, using a research-based methodology, and best practices for development of such documents.

If there were a set of guiding principles for teaching, it would likely include a set of ethical standards around professional behavior with students, parents, and colleagues.  But it should include more than this.  What are some of the other domains that such a document would define?  Professional learning?  Collegiality?  Participation and attendance?

This is a conversation that I would love to see STOYs engage in, through Facebook, or other mechanisms over time.  I am reminded of a saying that a friend loves:  “if not we, then who?”  In this instance, it has been proven that if not we, many will jump into the vacuum and dictate for us to what we should be held accountable.


November 22:  Continuums of professional practice

Last week, I shared some thoughts on a structure that our profession lacks, Guiding Principles.  In the work that I’ve done with wonderful collaborators over the past few years, I’ve identified five such structures that teaching lacks and most other professions have.  Today, I’d like to talk about another of these, continuums of professional practice (career pathways).

Taking a look at other professions reveals, in almost every case, the existence of structured career stages involving professional development and levels of professional expertise. Continuums allow a practitioner to grow and develop, plan career trajectories, and advance in their careers.  Such continuums are useful in:

  • Assessing progress in the development of skills.
  • Helping to define a desired level of competence within a profession.
  • Supporting progress in the development of skills, by understanding the learning needs and styles of learning at different levels of skill acquisition.
  • Helping to determine when a learner is ready to teach others.

The research base around expertise includes information on:

  • Acquisition of expertise:  The role of intelligence in building expertise (Source: Schmidt, F.L., & Hunter, J.E. (1998)
  • The role of deliberate practice (Ericsson et al. [1993] Psych Review, p. 363) and the ‘ten year rule’ (music (Sosniak, 1985), mathematics (Gustin, 1985), tennis (Monsaas, 1985), swimming (Kalinowski, 1985), long-distance running (Wallingford, 1975), evaluation of livestock (Phelps & Shanteau, 1978), diagnosis of X-rays (Lesgold, 1984), medical diagnosis (Patel & Groen, 1991), scientific publications (Lehman, 1953), etc.

In 2006, Dreyfus and Dreyfus defined the acquisition of skill with this diagram:

Using this work, researchers went on to define characteristics of practice at each of these stages, using expertise as a basis for these definitions.  This model has been played out against the teaching profession with the following assumptions:


  • Student teachers; many first year teachers
  • Rational
  • Inflexible – do everything by the book
  • Conform to whatever rules they were told to follow

Advanced beginners

  • Many 2nd and 3rd year teachers
  • Experience begins to guide behavior
  • Start to learn when to ignore rules and use their own experience to make decisions
  • Have difficulty prioritizing responsibilities

Competent practice

  • Many 3rd, 4th, and 5th year teachers
  • More in control of events, relying more on own experience than on what they were taught will work
  • Learn how to prioritize responsibilities
  • Become emotionally attached and responsible for what happens in the classroom

Proficient practice

  • Small number of teachers after 5th year
  • Develop teaching intuition
  • Think about classroom events holistically
  • Read patterns in classroom behavior

Expert practice

  • Very small number of teachers beyond 6th year
  • Develop tacit knowledge about teaching

–      Unspoken rules about the teaching process that come from experience

  • Teach “fluidly”; don’t have to think about teaching

–      Like a race car driver being “one” with the car

  • Can be analytical when problems occur
  • Innovative

Oxford professor Bent Flyvbjerg proposes a 6th stage, innovative practice.

Why are acquisition of expertise and career ladders important for teaching?  A review of some studies on retention shows us that there are some common characteristics as to the reasons why teachers leave our profession, regardless of where they are in terms of experience and years of service.  In looking at Susan Moore Johnson’s research of beginning teachers, they tell us that one of the things they need is support and professional opportunities that include leadership, as well as differentiated pay structures that allow for acquisition of expertise.  Richard Ingersoll’s studies of why experienced teachers leave the profession note that reasons given include a lack of support and lack of teacher input into decision making.  Finally, Ellen Behrstock’s research on Generation Y teachers tells us that these millennial teachers are looking for leadership opportunities from day one; if they don’t have these, many will leave.

In addition, we find that the research around expertise tells us that it takes ten years to acquire expertise in any profession; coupled with the data that tells us that our retention rate for new teachers is hovering somewhere around 40%, and it is clear that we have a problem.  If we cannot retain almost half of our teachers for five years, let alone ten, how will we develop cadres of expert teachers?

We are currently ‘advancing’ teachers in many districts by the number of years in which they have served and the level of degree that they have attained.  Yet, Marguerite Roza’s research tells us that attaining a Master’s degree – except in Mathematics – may not result in more effective teaching.  And, number of years served does not guarantee better teaching; there is no guarantee that a teacher with ten years’ experience will have acquired expertise.

NNSTOY’s hypothesis is that by establishing continuums of professional practice in teaching, we will positively impact:

  • Teacher retention:  Generation Y teachers in particular tell us that without such career advancement opportunities, their likelihood of staying in the profession is lessened. (Behrstock).
  • Teacher satisfaction:  exit interviews with both beginning and more mature teachers tells us that a lack of support, and lack of opportunities to advance, contribute to them leaving the profession (Moore Johnson).
  • Principal stress:  by providing advanced career roles for teachers, including distributed leadership models, some of the load on principals – a job that Danielson calls ‘impossible’ – will be lessened by incorporation of teacher leaders into areas like evaluation, observation, creation of professional growth plans, curriculum planning, and others.

We are in the process of working with the Center for Educator Effectiveness at Pearson to conduct a literature review of continuum models in other professions as well as those that exist in teaching; and, undertaking case studies to examine some of the models that exist in teaching.  Our intention is to define recommendations for what teaching continuums might look like, and to pilot and field test such continuums in schools.

NNSTOY is not alone in its interest in continuums.  The Accomplished California Teachers group has just published a paper on this topic:  https://accomplishedcaliforniateachers.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/act-promoting-quality-teaching-compensation-career-pathways-fullreport.pdf.  Art Wise, former NCATE President, long an advocate for teacher continuums, continues his work and published this update in Ed Week recently, urging us to break free of the four-walled classroom with one teacher for 25 student model:  https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/01/25/18wise_ep.h31.html?tkn=XMTFG9nfQSdAjCvjOBRee8X0Jv5O2AxEd6sq&cmp=clp-edweek.  And, Molly Lasagna, Jane Coggshall, and Sabrina Laine, AIR researchers published a paper on differentiated staffing models based on career pathways for teachers and are working to update that study:  https://www.air.org/files/InnovationsInStaffing.pdf.

We are in conversation with a number of other organizations also interested in this topic and will keep you updated as work progresses.  The bottom line is that, in order to develop a solid pipeline of excellent prospective teachers, and to keep our effective teachers in our classrooms, we need to establish 21st century systems offering teachers leadership opportunities while maintaining their teacher roles, differentiated staffing structures based on teacher role, and recognition that teachers, like other professionals, grow, develop, and advance in our careers.


November 29:  Actionable feedback

Today, I’d like to talk about a third of the five possible structures present in other professions and missing from teaching:  actionable feedback.

In examining human capital management (that phrase that I so dislike) in other fields of work, most contain processes and organizational structures for consistently evaluating the job performance of employees and providing opportunities for managers and their staff to engage in professional exchanges about the performance.  In addition, most provide some form of feedback to the employee by the manager, that is given in order for the staff member to identify areas in which performance needs to strengthen or improve, as well as to outline career advancement opportunities based on performance strengths.  This is called actionable feedback, or feedback that leads to actions by the employee, with input from the manager.

You can find many definitions of feedback loops online; all refer to a process that involves an effect related to a cause or set of causal circumstances; most also include references to a process through which feedback results in improvement.  Feedback loops can have positive or negative results; as a manager, the focus is on keeping results positive.

There is a field of research around feedback loops; I am far from being an expert in this area and won’t pretend otherwise, but examining the research can be quite interesting, particularly when juxtaposed against what we typically find in teaching.   There are various models and images of feedback loops:  you can access some of these here.  https://www.google.com/search?q=feedback+loops+images&hl=en&tbo=u&tbm=isch&source=univ&sa=X&ei=Pp23ULK0J8PA0QHS3oDABg&ved=0CCsQsAQ&biw=1138&bih=497

For me, this whole process became increasingly important and interesting as my career in corporate progressed after I left the K12 classroom.  I was struck by the vast difference between the way in which I was evaluated, and career guidance offered to me, as a teacher and the same as a professional in an organization.  I will try to summarize these two very different processes below.

As a teacher

I taught in a middle school, grades four to eight, with about 65 teachers, a principal, and an assistant principal.  Our contract called for tenured teachers to be evaluated twice annually and non-tenured teachers to undergo this process four times a year.  The system of evaluation used involved a checklist that, as a union negotiator, I had had input into developing.  The checklist outlined various performance areas as well as more concrete aspects of my teaching, like the order and organization of the library, and my classroom management skills – in other words, how my students behaved.

The basic process was this:

  • Principal and assistant principal divided the staff into two groups, with each evaluating one group that year
  • My evaluator informed me when he (both were men) was likely to come to my class to observe
  • Evaluator came to class and stayed for the period; received any handouts used that day in class
  • Evaluator used the union-approved checklist to document my performance
  • Within two weeks after the observation, I received a copy of the checklist and a request to either sign and return it, or to schedule an appointment to discuss it
  • If signed and returned, we were done; if I requested an appointment, we met and discussed the checklist results (not the performance) typically. No career guidance was provided and no suggestions were made as to where I might go to learn how to improve my performance in designated areas

Any professional learning opportunities that I engaged in during the year were not required to be tied to my evaluation.  The only opportunity that I had to provide any details about my class or content taught was in the post-evaluation review that occurred if I requested it.  My evaluations were overwhelmingly positive, and there was little in the way of where or how to develop my practice further.

I often found myself hungry for information about where and how I could shape my own growth as a teacher; many of my colleagues felt the same way.  We did things like form study groups for courses that we took as a cohort.  We scheduled and attended some professional learning sessions together (we were required to complete a set number of hours of PD annually)

As a staff member in a corporate environment

In the corporate environment, I was assigned a manager who was responsible for my performance reviews, professional growth, career advancement.  While my management structure changed during re-organizations, I knew who my manager was, this was consistent, and there was an actual ‘reporting line’ so that I was a member of a ‘family’ of employees reporting up to the same senior officers.

As a manager myself, my staff existed in a similar structure.  I was absolutely held accountable as a manager for the professional development of my staff; there were processes that my staff and I engaged in and documented to provide evidence of this annually.  I was also held accountable for the career advancement of my staff.  If a manager’s staff never advanced, questions were asked and you better have had evidence to support your managerial decisions.

Evaluation typically occurred this way:

  • Manager and employee annually set objectives cascaded from the manager to the employee; these were agreed to and signed off on by both
  • Manager and employee met every two weeks if not weekly; during these meetings, employee provided information about progress towards annual objectives, asked for assistance in areas where issues were encountered, and provided evidence of work completed and next steps.  Employees also suggested new projects, ideas, etc. to help advance goals.  These meetings were either thirty or sixty minutes in length, dependent upon need.  Feedback was a key part of these meetings, positive feedback as well as feedback to help identify sticking points and how to move past them
  • Quarterly, manager and employee met for formal evaluation.  They reviewed the annual objectives, and if changes needed to be made due to changes in corporate goals, this was done.  The employee provided evidence of progress towards goals prior to this meeting; together, this evidence was reviewed and feedback was given to help employee move forward
  • Annual review:  this was a very complex process in which they employee and manager discussed the annual performance and came to agreement on the evidence that proved progress towards goals
    • Goal progression was rated throughout the year – on target or off target –
    • In annual review, employee documented evidence of progress as well as areas in which progress was exceeded
    • Manager reviewed documentation and added comments to support, or disagree with, the employee evidence
    • Manager and employee met to discuss documented results and feedback
    • Employee e-signed results; manager e-signed results and provided summative feedback and comments in writing; employee could then disagree with these in writing and this became part of the record
    • Managers used these results in calibrating employee against employees in similar positions to determine annual raises

Throughout the year, I received feedback from my manager, and provided it to my employees.  This feedback was used to plan professional learning, career advancement, and to make needed corrections along the way.  This process was invaluable in providing assistance to the employee about performance and career growth.  It was essential for the manager and the company in capacity planning as well as individual advancement for employees.

Please note that in my corporate experience, feedback was not one-way, but bi-directional; employee and manager had frequent exchanges about practice and progress. Depending on the  manager, the employee had the opportunity to provide feedback to the manager as well.

Think about how this might play out in teaching.  What if we had differentiated staffing structures, utilizing teacher leaders, who played a role in aiding administrators in meaningful evaluation of staff.  Teacher leaders could conduct model lessons and then observe colleagues in practice, offering feedback for growth and development.  What if we had differentiated staffing structures like those suggested by Art Wise and Molly Lasagna (see last week’s blog) with multiple teachers in one classroom, observing and learning from one another.  The opportunities for feedback and self-correction, acknowledgement of strengths, and career advancement could be so rich.

My own belief, after having lived in both systems, is that this kind of feedback is invaluable.  I grew constantly – and was constantly challenged to grow still more – as a result of this process in my corporate career; in my teaching career, that encouragement came from within myself and there was no place to which I could advance, formally.  For teaching not to utilize these processes holds us back as professionals and as a profession, in my view.  Actionable feedback is one of the structure that I believe needs to be implemented in order for us to advance as a profession.  Fortunately, a number of the evaluation systems’ models that we are seeing emerge do include this process, and will, hopefully, stay true to it as implementation occurs.


December 7:  Distributed leadership

This week, I’d like to examine a fourth of the five structures that NNSTOY has identified as missing from the teaching profession, distributed leadership.  The concept of distributed leadership has been in play in the industrial workplace for decades, in various forms.  In a distributed leadership model, decision-making is shared amongst leadership teams rather than being a strictly top-down approach.

One simple description of distributed leadership comes from Alma Harris and James Spillane who state that “distributed leadership perspective recognises that there are multiple leaders (Spillane et al., 2004) and that leadership activities are widely shared within and between organisations (Harris, 2007) and that leadership focuses on interactions rather than actions of leaders.”


However, more businesses are recognizing that the concept of a single leader who has all the answers and provides a single-focused direction for a company in unproductive and fails to take advantage of talent.  In 1996, authors Bruce Pasternak and Albert Viscio noted the rise of more horizontally structured leadership models, taking advantage of leadership teams to better utilize talent within a company.  https://www.strategy-business.com/article/14974?gko=9ee07 We talked about this briefly in the message I sent out on continuums, with businesses in 2010s moving away from career ladders (top-down movement) to career lattices.  (Benko and Weisberg, Mass Career Customization.)

Pasternak and Viscio studied hundreds of companies’ leadership structures, as well as the research base, and noted that business was moving away from models of businesses built around assets to businesses built to leverage and develop assets – people – for leadership roles.

In the April 8, 2010 edition of the e-zine MIX (Management Innovation eXchange), author Terri Kelly states that, “It’s far better to rely upon a broad base of individuals and leaders who share a common set of values and feel personal ownership for the overall success of the organization. These responsible and empowered individuals will serve as much better watchdogs than any single, dominant leader or bureaucratic structure.”

Kelly goes on to point out that organizations that rely upon a single-leader model fail to capitalize on the capacity within their organizations; and ultimately, lose talent.  It seems that Generation Y teachers are not the only millenials who want leadership opportunities early and often.  She also talks about the corporate shift from valuing the contributions of a few, to valuing the contirbutions of many.  Most significantly, I thought, Kelly speaks to the role of the leader as that of empowering his/her staff to lead.   https://www.managementexchange.com/blog/no-more-heroes

If you choose to view this article, be sure to scroll down through the comments section; there are some good thoughts there.

In reading some of the research around this topic,  it appears that the benefits of distributed leadership in industry appear to be increased opportunity for career advancement, improved retention of promising staff, opportunity to shape leaders within the company rather than hiring without, increased collaboration, improved corporate culture, and more innovation.  If you are interested in reading more, another article that I found helpful was:

https://www.ipr.northwestern.edu/publications/papers/Spillane_DistribLead.pdf along with the Deloitte article https://www.deloitte.com/view/en_US/us/Insights/Browse-by-Content-Type/deloitte-review/35912ee3fad33210VgnVCM100000ba42f00aRCRD.htm

There are a number of papers on the concept of distributed leadership in schools as well.  The notion of implementing distributed leadership models in schools has been slower to catch on.  This is puzzling, given that the role of the school administrator is enormously demanding and it would seem that being able to rely on leadership teams to accomplish some of the work would be attractive.  Part of the issue is likely the daily school schedule, which allows typically for little time for collaboration or team meetings.

The report from the second International Summit on the Teaching Profession, released recently and shared with you in my November 16th message, notes that:  “for the teaching profession to succeed, teachers need to see themselves as autonomous not just subjects of management.  The report goes on to share that Canada, Singapore, and Finland are actively working to develop leadership talent within schools, and that programs now encourage distributed leadership models.


In their paper on distributed leadership in schools, authors x and x warn of some concerns in implementing such models.  These concerns include how leadership is distributed and to whom.  How are members of leadership  teams selected?  What are their qualifications?

A second concern is what is the charge of those teams brought together?  What will they actually do and how impactful are the decisions that they will make?

The authors conclude by noting that the way of getting under the skin of leadership practice, of seeing leadership practice differently and illuminating the possibilities for organisational transformation” and noting that it is worth the risks to enact such models.  https://www.distributedleadership.org/DLS/Publications_files/PUBLISHED%20Harris,%20Spillane.%20Distributed%20Leadership%20through%20the%20Looking%20Glass.pdf

I am not an expert in this topic and am committed to keeping these to two pages, so I will stop here by noting two additional pieces of research that focus on distributed leadership in schools that I have found useful.




December 12:  Collaborative Practice

For those of you who have wished that my messages were shorter, this is your week!  In detailing the fifth of the structures that other professions have in place and teaching lacks, sustained collaborative practice, I am at a disadvantage.  It is the structure about which I know the least, so have the least to share.  It would be great to hear from STOYs who do have a deep working knowledge of collaborative practice, in other fields or in teaching.

Collaboration is a touchstone for the work day in many fields.  In the corporate sector that I recently left, teaming was a key approach for getting work done.  There was recognition that individuals each had specific skills, knowledge, and abilities that could contribute to the whole in terms of work.  Whenever a new project, product, or process was to start, a first step was identifying the team that would work together to accomplish it.

The physical workspace in the corporate – and institutional – world is even being reconfigured in order to make collaboration more effective.  Typically, in a large corporate space, a combination of private, or semi-private, offices is combined with ‘pods’ or cubicles.  Traditionally, the higher up you are, the closer you are to those private offices.  This is changing.

A friend at a large teacher preparation institution has shared that her group is doing away with private offices and moving to shared space – big, open spaces with movable whiteboards and other tools and furnishings that lend themselves to being easily reconfigured for teaming.  At ETS, as a new office building is being constructed, the cubicles are on the outer rim, with many more of them, and the few private offices remaining are on the inner ring. (no windows for officers J)

Thinking back to what we learned about flattening of corporate organizations, with greater value placed on the knowledge, skills, abilities, and leadership capacity throughout the staff, these physical changes are in keeping with that reorganization of structure.

Looking at what has been written about collaboration, there is a strong focus on several key areas:

  • The need of Generation Y staff to work in a collaborative environment
  • Greater emphasis on teaming digitally, across towns, states, countries in order to get the best possible skillsets focused on a project
  • The freedom from physical boundaries that social media has introduced to the workplace – communicating across physical space, immediately, is much easier
  • Reducing competition – asking co-workers to function as a team demands less focus on individual achievement and more on team success
  • Culture shift to one of trust – it’s difficult to successfully work towards a common goal if there is not a culture of trust, belief that all are working for the betterment of the whole
  • Collaboration is a leadership issue and relationships with others are key in its success

One of the articles on collaboration in a corporate world that I accessed started with the question, and I paraphrase, can you envision a workplace in which everyone worked independently, where there was no team effort, and in which individuals were viewed as keepers of knowledge? While industrial research on collaboration tells us that team work improves output, unfortunately, in too many instances, many of us can imagine this; many of our schools are structured this way.

Teaching has long been called the isolated profession, and there is actually research around this paradigm. In too many schools, individual teachers still work behind closed classroom doors, and school schedules are still driven by the bus schedule.  There is little time for collaboration or for team planning, projects, act ion research, or other group initiatives.

Fortunately, this is beginning to change, but not in all schools, and not in many of the schools that most need to improve.  Changing our current structure will require cultural and systems shifts.

The National Council on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF) is currently conducting research into one model of collaboration that it is piloting with schools in Maryland and Oregon.  It will be important to follow this research project as it unfolds.  The professional learning communities approach is another promising model being implanted in a number of schools with success.  And, again, the Art Wise or Molly Lasagna vision of multiple teachers working together with a larger group of students, currently being implemented in a fashion by Public Impact in several schools, could be the ultimate collaborative model of teaching.

I was in a wonderful high school in Yarmouth, Maine last week as part of the digital teaching and learning study that we are undertaking with Digital Promise and Pearson.  In this school, the implementation of 1:1 laptops – every student has a laptop – has resulted in a level of collaboration that I have rarely seen in school.  Across grade levels, content areas, and age groups, faculty are collaborating with one another to find better ways to use laptops, stronger content for students to access, new ways of instructing with digital tools.  They are collaborating with students in new ways as well, with students viewed as partners in the learning process; teachers are open to being shown new things by their students.

The resulting culture and sense of community was striking, and extremely promising.  This was a staff working together to provide stronger services as a whole for students.

Ultimately, it is likely to take research that proves that restructuring school so that professionals can work collaboratively, as they are doing in Yarmouth, will increase student learning in order for collaborative models of practice in schools to truly catch on.

Some of the articles that I accessed in reading about collaboration in the workplace are:







© 2024 NNSTOY, All Rights Reserved
Website by David Taylor Design | NJ Website Design Company