SiteofWeek080410According to a new report, 21st-century teaching and learning can only occur if teachers and school staff work together as a collaborative team; simple adjustments to antiquated school policies and structures that are already in place won’t help. The report, titled “Team Up for 21st Century Teaching and Learning: What Research and Practice Reveal about Professional Learning,” was conducted by the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF), with support the Pearson Foundation. The publication gives school policy leaders and educators an extensive review of research and case studies on innovative teaching practices currently implemented by top-performing schools. According to Hanna Doerr, NCTAF program leader and editor of the report, the research was undertaken as a reaction to the Obama administration’s mission to have every student college and career ready, and to close the achievement gap for low-income students. “Making these goals happen will require changes that go beyond tinkering with today’s school designs,” explains the brief. “The most critical redesign will be that of the teaching profession—the work of teachers and the way schools are staffed.” The publication highlights five research articles and four case studies that show innovative professional learning communities in practice. Though each article and case study is unique and takes into account many differing factors, NCTAF says there are key principles of effective professional learning communities that can be seen within all of the accounts, including shared values and goals; collective responsibility; authentic assessment; self-directed reflection; stable school settings; and strong leadership and support. “Overall, the studies show us that when teachers are given the time and tools to collaborate, they become life-long learners, their instructional practice improves, and they are ultimately able to increase student achievement far beyond what any of them could accomplish alone,” says the report. http://www.nctaf.org/TeamUp.htm

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Jeff Festa