The effects of focused collaboration on instructional and assessment practices
There are many long-held, traditional views of what the teaching profession looks like: isolated individuals creating and delivering lessons, then collecting a myriad of samples of student work to assess. Presently, however, opportunities for teachers to work together and to expand their instruction and assessment repertoires are becoming more commonplace. There is significant research that not only supports the benefits of teacher collaboration, but also the impact that certain instructional and assessment practices can have on student learning. This study describes how combining opportunities for teacher collaboration with conversations focused on instructional and assessment strategies can lead to improvements in teaching practices. Eight middle-school teachers volunteered to meet together for an hour, after school. Every two weeks for five months. At each meeting, teachers discussed a new instructional or assessment strategy, and reflected on the new strategies they had implemented in previous weeks. Together, teachers shared ideas, supported each other, and discussed ways in which each of them could implement the new strategies in their respective teaching areas. At the conclusion of the collaboration sessions, teachers reported on any changes in their practices through two surveys: a questionnaire consisting of ten close-ended questions, and one containing six openended questions. Results of the questionnaires revealed a positive connection between the frequency a specific strategy was discussed, and positive changes in that area, as reported by participants For example, Learning Intentions was discussed at all ten meetings, and teachers reported they had made the most significant changes in this area of instruction or assessment. Analysis of the data raises questions about how the motivation of teachers may impact their reportings, and how teachers or researchers can sustain, over longer periods of time or teaching assignments, the positive changes that teachers reported.