Collaborative teacher training, done right, yields significant benefits. For one, when teachers are able to collaborate productively with one another, their overall job satisfaction improves. Our research shows that teachers who are in settings featuring strong collaboration—defined as having formal collaboration time built into the schedule, shared instructional-planning responsibilities, and a teacher-reported positive culture of collaboration—report satisfaction with their day-to-day work 20 percentage points higher than teachers who are not in these environments.
While we acknowledge that teacher satisfaction and self-assessments are not the same as effectiveness, and that more research in this area needs to be done, we maintain that heightened job satisfaction can yield downstream benefits: higher retention of good teachers, better teaching abilities, and improved student outcomes.
Gallup research on employee engagement, for example, shows that when employees are engaged in their work, they are more productive and turnover is lower. When they are not, they often leave. TNTP, an education nonprofit, estimates that nearly 10,000 “irreplaceables” leave the 50 largest school districts each year, with many citing a poor school culture, among other factors that collaborative professional development could address. When one such irreplaceable teacher leaves a low-performing school, TNTP estimates, it can take as many as 11 hires before a school finds a similar star.
In our survey, two-thirds of teachers who experience strong collaboration at work strongly agree that they are effective teachers, compared with less than half of all teachers. And while almost 60 percent of teachers in collaborative environments strongly agree that they could effectively implement new concepts such as digital teaching tools and the Common Core, only about 33 to 37 percent of all teachers feel this way, respectively. (See Exhibit 2.)
If good teachers are more likely to continue teaching and are significantly more confident in their abilities, including their ability to deal with the changing nature of their jobs, we predict that students will enjoy tangible improvements in learning and outcomes.
Ultimately, improving teaching skills through collaboration is a win-win: teachers and administrators agree that collaborative training is the right thing to do, and research suggests that it will ultimately improve outcomes. But collaborative training requires focus and effective execution to live up to its promise of producing better work environments for teachers, more-effective teaching, and an improved education for students.
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