One Year Anniversary: From Good Teachers to Great Teaching
A year ago, NCTAF released STEM Teachers in Professional Learning Communities: From Good Teachers to Great Teaching, a report on the effectiveness of professional learning communities in STEM teaching, at a Capitol Hill briefing. The event, cosponsored by Senator Mark Warner (VA), Congressman Steny Hoyer (MD), Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger (MD), Congressman John Sarbanes (MD), and Congresswoman Donna Edwards (MD), featured a panel that included a team of NCTAF’s STEM Learning Studios teachers from Bowie High School (Prince George’s County, Maryland), Brad Jupp (US Dept. Ed.), Barbara Olds (NSF), Ted Imes (Northrop Grumman), and Talia Milgrom‐Elcott (Carnegie Corporation of New York).
The Good to Great report synthesizes the findings of a two‐year National Science Foundation funded study in which NCTAF and WestEd partnered to analyze nearly two hundred research articles and reports on the impact of professional learning communities on STEM teaching. At the briefing, the Learning Studios teachers shared stories of working as a team to create cross-curricular projects that covered state standards, challenged their own content knowledge, and provided deeper learning opportunities for their students. The teachers brought the report to life, highlighting how collaboration can transform STEM teaching.
The panelists from government, policy, and industry offered perspectives on why business and innovation leaders are invested in supporting teamwork in teaching and learning. Teamwork in schools is essential for 21st century success because it is increasingly a feature of nearly every workplace. Collaborations can reach beyond the school, panelists agreed. Different sectors need to join the movement to transform the education system, which, as Milgrom-Elcott explained, “is at an inflection point.”
This report compiles compelling evidence that when teachers team up with their colleagues they are able to create a culture of success in schools that results in teaching improvements and student learning gains. The clear implication for policy and practice is that we need to redesign our education system to support great team teaching, not the heroic efforts of isolated individuals in self-contained classrooms. Teacher evaluation, compensation, and carrot-and-stick incentive systems undermine teachers’ professionalism by focusing on individual teacher efforts at the expense of collaborative professional capacity building. Every school needs good teachers. But a school does not become a great place to learn until those teachers have the leadership and support they need to create a collaborative culture. NCTAF’s report found that teachers working together are more effective than even the best of them can be working alone.
NCTAF’s Pearson Foundation-funded 2010 research synthesis Team Up for 21st Century Teaching & Learning: What Research and Practice Reveal about Professional Learning examines lessons learned about learning teams across all levels and subjects of schooling. After reviewing hundreds of studies and research reports, we identified six principles that make a professional learning community effective:
- shared values & goals;
- collective responsibility;
- authentic assessment;
- self-directed reflection;
- stable settings; and
- strong leadership support.
The research confirms what teachers have been saying all along: collaboration is the key to a rewarding career that will attract and retain highly-skilled professionals, resulting in higher impact teaching and deeper student learning. It’s time for educators to harness the power of teamwork found in all other successful 21st century professions.
Click here to read the press release from this event.