Collaboration lifts learning

18 Apr 2013

The search for school improvement models is not new, although technology can provide more opportunities for school improvement than in the past. Professional development and sharing good teaching practices among teachers is known to have positive effects on teaching practices and student learning. Digital technologies can enhance the possibilities for teachers to collaborate and share good practice both at school and in other places.

This week DERN reviews an outstanding study about teacher’s views of school practices that reveals the powerful effects of professional collaboration among teachers, with support from the Principal. Remodeling Literacy Learning: Making Room for What Works is published by the National Center for Literacy Education which is a peak organisation of 30 major US national educational organisations.

Remodeling Literacy Learning: Making Room for What Works surveyed 2,404 educators in schools across the US. Most of the respondents were experienced classroom teachers and specialist staff in public schools at all levels (elementary, middle, high) of schooling. The findings are reported in a 37 page very readable and ground breaking report.

The dominant theme that recurs throughout the report is the value of teachers regularly working together as a team, sharing teaching practices, reviewing student data and collectively problem solving in order to reach agreements. Based on the findings of the study, the report states that, ‘The clear policy and practice implication is that great teaching is a team sport.’ (p. 12).

Remodeling Literacy Learning outlines five findings from the results of a survey, based on questions developed after a review of the educational literature. The findings place literacy as central to education for all disciplines and emphasise the success of teachers collaborating together to improve student learning, where there is school and system support. However, the downside is that school structures can often mitigate against teams of teachers collaborating although this is in the hands of the Principals, suggested 80% of Principal respondents who said that teacher time-scheduling was under their control in schools.

The building blocks for collaboration include school structures at grade-level, subject area and for student data teams; online professional network capacity; ease of online collaboration; access to student data for collaborative work, and support from coaches and librarians. The researchers make a clear link between successful collaboration and improved student performance. The report states, ‘Sites where PLCs [professional learning communities] demonstrated specific effective practices and norms for collaboration, such as shared purpose and collective responsibility for student outcomes, were found to be particularly powerful in closing achievement gaps’ (p. 12). This study confirmed that finding from the literature.

Remodeling Literacy Learning: Making Room for What Works is a vital report for school improvement. It provides a framework, ideal for Principals, for capacity building in schools that highlights six areas for change that lead to school and student improvement:

•   Deprivatizing practice
•   Enacting shared agreements
•   Creating collaborative culture
•   Maintaining an inquiry stance
•   Using evidence frequently, and
•   Supporting collaboration systematically.

Remodeling Literacy Learning: Making Room for What Works is an excellent and readable report that provides solid evidence from the education literature and new research, to guide improvement for schools and students’ achievement.

Research Report:

National Center for Literacy Education, (2013). Remodeling literacy learning: making room for what works.  National Center for Literacy Education. Retrieved from  (45)



Gerry White is Principal Research Fellow: Teaching & Learning using Digital Technologies, Australian Council for Educational Research

This article was first published on the Digital Education Research Network 2 (DERN) and is reproduced here in full, courtesy of DERN.


Photo Credit: Paolo Margari via Compfight cc

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