The power of collaborative teams reveals itself most in how the outcomes of meetings impact all students’ learning. When teachers share instructional strategies and success criteria with others, and when building level and district level teams share administrative and instructional successes, collaborative teams are making a difference for student success. So often teams spend an inordinate amount of time on data analysis without ever getting to the real work of “now what, so what?” This meaningful work – the information that matters most for students – entails sharing or researching instructional strategies or practices that are relevant to students’ opportunities for growth while lifting the cognition of students.
Although these teacher teams may make a difference for students directly influenced by individual teams, it is the work of building level teams to find out what is and what is not working at the teacher team level so that highly effective practices can be shared in the system. For example, if a 7th grade English teacher has used a particularly effective vocabulary strategy with measurable results, this strategy should be shared at the building level so that all students, not just 7th grade students, may benefit. If this vocabulary strategy eventually benefits the whole of the school, it should be shared at the district level, so that the district, or all students in all buildings within a district, may benefit.
Likewise, when administrators use leadership practices with measurable results, these administrative conditions should also be shared at the building and district level, so all instructional leaders may benefit from the practice. For example, if a particular teacher coaching method yielded positive results that impacted student learning, this should be a shared practice. If a leader restructures the master schedule so that teachers of various grade levels and/or subject areas are more available to meet during the day, the results, whether this change worked or didn’t work, is valuable information to be shared with the district. If principals use teacher evaluation to differentiate professional development based on interest and opportunities for growth, the methods of this practice should be shared.
So often building and district level teams “spin their wheels” and lose sight of what matters most: helping students learn more effectively and efficiently. In some cases, too much time is spent on the “nuts and bolts,” or logistics of individual upcoming events, and not nearly enough time is spent discussing instruction, particularly instructional strategies. The power of collaboration exists as leadership is shared with others and when teachers and leaders are learners of their craft. The greatest power of teams occurs when students are directly, positively impacted, and whatever method to get them there is shared with others for the greater good of all. Only then are we building human capital and building capacity for more effective instruction.