- Dr. Matthew Johnson, who has 13 years’ experience as a school and district leader, discusses the benefits of effective collaborative leadership in an eSchool News article.
- Johnson, who defines collaborative leadership as “the presence of opportunities for shared leadership, educator ownership, and sharing of instructional and pedagogical ideas,” says that effective collaborative leadership allows teachers to grow in the profession and increases teacher retention as the teachers feel more valued.
- Johnson also offers seven steps to becoming a collaborative leader: Establishing group goals and norms, using discussion and dialogue, working through conflict, developing problem-solving and decision-making strategies, assuring all voices are heard, asking “what if” questions, and communicating openly with one another.
A 2009 Center for Teacher Quality report titled “Collaboration: Closing the Effective Teacher Gap,” outlined the importance of teacher collaboration for educators and the students they serve. “Analysis of survey and interview data from teacher leaders provides additional evidence on what existing literature has shown is true of all teachers: that collaboration among teachers paves the way for the spread of effective teaching practices, improved outcomes for the students they teach, and the retention of the most accomplished teachers in high-needs schools,” the authors wrote.
However, effective teacher collaboration can only occur in a climate where leaders themselves are supportive of open discussion. Collaboration requires a willingness to be vulnerable and to ask for help. Collaboration also sometimes means the discussion of uncomfortable subjects or airing of conflicting opinions. An “In Perspective” article notes that “School climates or educational reforms that treat teachers as lone individuals — who either do their jobs well or are “bad eggs” needing to be replaced — may leave teachers unable to be open, trusting and vulnerable enough to seek or provide support. Asking for help or admitting a struggle in such climates may be seen as signs of weakness, incompetence or inefficiency. Even if they want help, teachers have been shown to avoid asking for it in climates where there is a stigma attached to doing so.”
Teaching can be a lonely profession and school leaders need to create ways for teachers to become connected educators. In the past, collaboration usually occurred in face-to-face meetings which were difficult to schedule. However, social media platforms make these connections easier. Even small districts can increase collaboration by using technology to cross district boundaries. And an increasing number of apps can also foster teacher collaboration. Within a school, administrators can also use thoughtful and intentional assignment of classrooms when they want specific teachers to learn from each other, as research indicates that teacher collaboration rises when classrooms are placed close together.