A majority of teachers say they don’t have sufficient time to collaborate with other teachers, according to a new report from the RAND Corporation.
Collaborative activities such as peer observation and co-planning meetings can give teachers the chance to engage in informal mentoring and informal PD relating to new instructional strategies.
But limited instructional support from principals, teacher isolation, and teacher autonomy as a norm hinder increased teacher collaobration. High-poverty schools seem to have particular trouble supporting professional learning for teachers, according to the report.
The dearth of opportunity for teacher collaboration is especially troubling when looking at high teacher turnover, especially turnover when teachers are in their first few years of teaching. Research shows that new teachers who have experienced teachers as mentors are more likely to remain in the teaching profession.
The report bases its findings on three components of teacher collaboration: the prevalence of opportunities, the frequency of collaboration activities, and the usefulness of collaboration experiences.
The findings and related recommendations could influence policy decisions and teacher collaboration opportunities.
Key findings about national teacher collaboration trends include:
1. Only 31 percent of teachers reported that they have sufficient time to collaborate with other teachers.
2. Teachers who reported having greater opportunities and time for collaboration consistently reported higher levels of collaboration activity, regardless of the type of collaboration in question.
3. Peer observation was the least common form of peer collaboration, with 44 percent of teachers reporting that they never observed another teacher’s classroom to get ideas for instruction or to offer feedback in a typical month.
4. Only four percent of teachers indicated that they never met with other teachers at their school to discuss instructional practice, with 43 percent indicating that they do so weekly or more often.
5. School poverty did not have a statistically significant relationship with teachers’ reports of collaboration opportunities or the frequency of activities.
6. The association between the frequency of collaborative feedback and its perceived helpfulness is most salient for teachers in low-poverty schools; there is no apparent link between frequency and perceived helpfulness among teachers in high-poverty schools.
The report’s authors offer a few recommendations to better support teacher collaboration opportunities:
1. State and local educational agencies, along with school leaders, should work on providing more opportunities for greater collaboration among peers.
2. Increase the time available for teachers to participate in collaborative activities, such as peer observation and common planning time; provide protocols to guide collaboration; and provide scaffolding for meaningful follow-through on an ongoing basis.
3. A focus on developing stronger, evidence-based collaboration practices and support structures might be particularly fruitful for teachers in high-poverty schools. This will require buy-in from principals, who should see their support for teacher collaboration as a part of their role as instructional leaders.
4. It will be important for scholars and policymakers to explore the obstacles that hinder teacher collaboration and the practices that are seen to be particularly effective at improving teacher capacity.