Primer Series: Collective Learning Groups—The Importance of Teacher Collaboration and Its Benefits to Our Students

Collaboration allows teachers to capture each other’s fund of collective intelligence.
—Dr. Mike Schmoker

As a component of our educators’ ongoing professional development work, there is increasing emphasis on teacher collaboration as a means of enhancing students’ educational opportunities.

Why is teacher collaboration important, and how does it benefit our students?

  • Teacher collaboration allows teachers to share resources and exchange ideas about a variety of instructional approaches and ways in which they can help to further tailor instruction to meet the various needs of their students.
  • In addition to sharing resources and data, teachers can engage in discussions about methods that work well and ways in which methods can be improved. By reflecting upon their own practices, teachers can benefit from their collective wisdom and experience, applying that wisdom and experience for the benefit of their students.
  • It allows all teachers to share responsibility for the learning of all students; similarly, teachers share a greater sense of accountability for students’ academic achievement. In the same way, the collaboration provides teachers with a strong professional culture and a sense of teamwork.
  • It fosters greater uniformity in the application of school-wide procedures and policies.
  • It provides students with the additional benefit of granting them access to a wide variety of teaching styles.
  • It provides additional means through which students can make the most of their learning opportunities.

A recent example of effective teacher collaboration was at Malletts Bay School, where students practiced important twenty-first-century skills through hands-on learning projects.

As part of the district’s updated social studies curriculum, MBS third graders conducted a comprehensive study of Native Americans, making tribal-inspired traditional crafts and sharing them with one another during a potlatch celebration featuring foods from varying tribal regions. They later delved further into their research, preparing informational presentations and then breaking into groups to share their knowledge with other classes. This independence and sharing with one another created a very high level of energy and engagement for the students. Furthermore, these collaborative learning strategies, including those that involve speaking and listening skills, incorporate important elements of the new Common Core State Standards.

Malletts Bay School students enjoy a recent Native American-themed potlatch celebration as a component of their study

Malletts Bay School students enjoy a recent Native American-themed potlatch celebration as a component of their study.

Another recent example involved world languages teachers from Burr and Burton Academy visiting Colchester High School to exchange ideas around differentiated instruction. Following advanced preparation, the visiting teachers from Burr and Burton Academy observed Mary Romary’s French class and Carrie Robinson’s Spanish classes, after which the educators met to exchange ideas, establish beneficial connections, and cultivate colleagueship.

CHS's Vito Cannizzaro, B&B's Michelle Emery, CHS's Mary Romary, B&B's Katie Bove, CHS's Carrie Robinson, B&B's Sue Richie, and B&B's Chris Nolan.

CHS’s Vito Cannizzaro, B&B’s Michelle Emery, CHS’s Mary Romary, B&B’s Katie Bove, CHS’s Carrie Robinson, B&B’s Sue Richie, and B&B’s Chris Nolan.

At CHS, Principal Amy Minor and science teacher Heather Baron cofacilitate collective learning groups (CLGs) as a means of strategizing how educators can:

  • improve inclusive practices in their instruction;
  • collect and analyze data for the purpose of incorporating current research into their teaching practices;
  • formulate methods of using technology in transformative ways to better facilitate differentiated instruction;
  • identify gaps and devise solutions to them;
  • expand and enrich student learning opportunities;
  • develop methods of creating and incorporating authentic learning experiences into the students’ curriculum;
  • foster interdisciplinary connections and integration;
  • encourage critical-thinking and problem-solving skills; and
  • enhance creativity, accountability, organization, and more.

(It was not for nothing that CHS attracted the attention of the Vermont Agency of Education and the Vermont State Legislature, who have regaled the school as a model for other high schools across the state.)

The Colchester School District Vision and Strategic Plan 2012–2017 emphasizes a number of important pathways to foster excellence in our schools. We are working hard for our students and our community.

For more information about teacher collaboration in Colchester School District, please contact any of our schools.

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