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July 1, 2019
Vol. 76
No. 9

Research Alert / Making Time for Collaborative Work in Schools

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Professional Learning
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Schools that structure teachers' schedules in ways that give them more time for collaboration share several key characteristics, according to a study from the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education.
The study, "Teachers' Time: Collaborating for Learning, Teaching, and Leading," looks at four schools (ranging from K–4th grade to high school) known for giving teachers significant time to work together. Despite differences in context and geography, the researchers found, the schools had a number of organizational and philosophical traits in common. These included:
Scheduling for learning. All the schools arranged their master schedules in nontraditional ways, orienting them around clear student learning goals and the support and time teachers needed to help their students reach those goals.
Coherent instructional philosophy. Teachers at the schools had shared pedagogical approaches and a clear conception of the purpose of their collaborative-planning work.
Shared governance. All the schools had structures in which teachers played a valued role in decision making.
Teacher leadership. Teachers at the schools had multiple and flexible roles beyond their classrooms, including as mentors, professional development facilitators, and curriculum specialists.
Continual evolution. The schools' schedules were not fixed but were continually being refined to address teachers' needs and other contingencies.
According to the study, research shows that high-quality teacher collaborative work has the potential to boost teacher self-efficacy and student learning. Yet "few schools structure teacher time in ways that create opportunities for teachers to learn from each other during the school day."
The four schools studied "exemplify the exception to the rule"—but show that, when certain conditions are in place, such work can be done.

Anthony Rebora is the editor in chief of Educational Leadership.

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