At first thought, I scoffed at this statistic. Of course teachers talk about teaching. However, upon further reflection, I realize that I rarely talk to other teachers about teaching - I'm too busy just trying to keep up.
What if I had the advice or assistance of other teachers - would I constantly feel buried in prep work? Would I have access to more interesting ideas and activities? Would my students benefit from such collaboration and cooperation?
It seems to me that most of the top ten effective teacher interventions identified by John Hattie’s research
could be developed and put to effective use by teachers if they collaborate on methods, share ideas and
strategize about activities. Those teachers who are already leading the pack in innovative, effective teaching
methods could greatly help those of us who are just catching up. If the purpose of teaching our students is to
have them learn, then teachers need to get over the idea of independence in the classroom and grasp the idea of
One key element in creating professional and/or collaborative communities is for the schools to increase the professional development time available to instructors (American Sociological Association, 2013). This means that the concept of collaboration must be supported by the department or school district. Instructors need to be offered the time and opportunity to work with other instructors, even if this means using web conferences and other online meeting tools.
One of the issues in some schools is that “the strategies for ensuring accountability have increased competition among teachers and decreased trust and morale” (American Sociological Association, 2013). John Hattie points out that teachers need to open their classroom doors and invite feedback and evaluations in so that everyone can be better (Hattie, 2011).
To me, this means that we need to stop feeling so protective of our current practices and seek the knowledge needed to better these practices through the use of self-evaluations, peer discussions and student feedback. Another comment by Hattie is that teachers need to ask themselves questions not on what they think happened, but on the evidence of what did happen (Hattie, 2011). Furthermore, he feels that we need to share these reflections and use them as the basis for discussions with our fellow instructors. I interpret this to mean that we need to construct useful self-evaluations, ask peers into our classroom for observations and somehow obtain genuine feedback on the progress of our students.
So, maybe it's time we all put down our pens, shut off our computers and talk. Talk about the good, bad and
the ugly. We stand to gain so much knowledge and insight from one another. If we want to create a revolution
in teaching that focuses on learner-centred instruction, we have to reach out and help one another. There has
never been a revolution in history that was created by a single person. Every major change has required the
ideas and cooperation of many.
Stepping out of my comfort zone is a challenge I would like to present to myself in the next cohort (Heick, 2013). I will do this by truly evaluating my teaching skills, my successes or failures in the classroom and my students’ performances. Taking this one step further, I will share my evaluations and thoughts with others to gain ideas and advice. To date, I have been intimidated by evaluations of my teaching – both by students and by my employers. I have felt that any criticisms, no matter how constructive, were personal attacks on me and jeopardized my employment with the school. I am going to bravely set this thought process aside and embrace all evaluations as an opportunity to work with others to improve my skills and techniques.
As a fairly new instructor (five years), there is a lot that I can learn from more seasoned professionals. However, I also have a lot to offer them. I can offer them my enthusiasm when they are feeling cynical and my eagerness when they are feeling tired (Johnson, 2011). On this note, I am going to do what I can to avoid isolating myself from other teachers. We all tend to stay in our classrooms or offices before and after school, as well as during breaks. I am going to make an effort to reach out to my colleagues by inviting them to have lunch together, contacting them with questions or comments over email, and generally getting a little more in their faces. I think that if I make the effort to get to know them, then they may just make the effort to get to know me. Over time, we can develop a community of instructors that actually talk about teaching.
American Sociological Association. (2013, June 5). Teacher collaboration, professional communities improve many elementary school students' math scores. Retrieved from ScienceDaily: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130605130219.htm
Hattie, J. (2011, December 1). Visible Learning Pt 2: Effective Methods. Retrieved from www.youtTube.com: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pD1DFTNQf4#t=36
Heick, T. (2013, August 19). 10 Teacher Actions For Better Collaboration This School Year. Retrieved from www.teachthought.com: http://www.teachthought.com/teaching/10-teacher-actions-for-better-collaboration-this-school-year/
Inger, M. (1993, December). Teacher Colloboration in Secondary Schools. Retrieved from CenterFocus: http://ncrve.berkeley.edu/centerfocus/cf2.html
Johnson, B. (2011, 11 30). Making the Most Out of Teacher Collaboration. Retrieved from www.edutopia.com: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/teacher-collaboration-strategies-ben-johnson