Teams, in many ways, are like performance automobiles. It takes time to build one. There is great care and precision to get all the pieces and parts together. But, then, once it’s built, it requires maintenance. Leaders must be aware and constantly monitoring the performance of teams. Are they doing what they said they would be doing? Are they stuck? Are there questions about goals or instruction? Sometimes teams can’t break through a discussion without the leader. Remember, just because you went to all the trouble building teams doesn’t mean you’re done. Now you’ve got to maintain them.
PROMPT 1 = The leader creates ample, adequate, and regular time to hold teacher collaborative meetings knowing that time is critical if there is any hope of teachers reaching the dialogue needed to support and change student performance as well as teacher capacity.
Leaders must find the time for teachers to meet. Leaders must often look beyond the contracted day for teachers to meet. Very often leaders maximize time by releasing teachers several times a year for an entire day just to do the work of the team. The mileage gained by doing that can be incredible. Wagner (2006) clearly explains that teachers must be given ample, adequate, and regular time to hold these meetings if there is any hope of them reaching the dialogue needed to support and change student performance as well as teacher capacity. Teams don’t happen on accident.
PROMPT 2 = The leader sets the expectation and communicates that in team meetings teachers should come to consensus on the time needed for upcoming curriculum content.
A key task that teams should perform on a regular basis is a discussion about upcoming curriculum and their collective approach. One of the powerful tasks that teachers can accomplish while in the collaborative team meeting includes coming to consensus on the time needed for upcoming curriculum content (White, 2005). Taking time to discuss a collective approach to the instructional direction is a deep form of collaboration. When teams support and trust each other enough to talk about how they can best address the needs of students, reach goals of instruction, and apply successful strategies, then teams are working at their very best.
PROMPT 3 = The leader/leadership team regularly communicates that the most powerful thing that occurs in teacher collaborative teams is the pursuit of results via student-centered data.
The most important thing that happens in teacher teams is the pursuit of results via student-centered data (White, 2005). Stripping everything down to its essence leaves us with one clear purpose: Student performance. Our goals and expectations should always circle back to this. This means that in our teacher teams the most important topics of discussion are those that lead us to better student performance.
All the effort that goes in to helping the teachers be better teachers is wonderful but if it isn’t tied to observable improvements in student performance then there is work to do. When teams get together there should always be a focus on student data of some kind to measure and provide discussion about how teachers taught and how students learned/performed.
PROMPT 4 = The leader sets the expectation that performance assessments are regularly used where students do and apply their learning in a ‘real-world’ setting.
Now, more than ever, we see the need and expectation that students not just give back answers on a multiple-choice exam but that they be able to perform. Performance assessments, as described by White, citing Reeves, (2005) are assessments where students do and apply their learning in a ‘real-world’ setting. Creating and using performance assessments require time and training for teachers to fully understand how the assessment is built and what it is assessing. It requires time for collaborative conversation so that teachers can explore how to best prepare students with the content and depth for them to complete a performance assessment.
PROMPT 5 = The leader consistently communicates that collective effort and intelligence are the most powerful force for improvement – more powerful than even the most knowledgeable individuals working alone.
It is extremely important to work in teams. Having a collective purpose and target is so important it just can’t be overstated. Schmoker (2006) boldly reminds us “collective effort and intelligence are the most powerful force for improvement – more powerful than ‘even the most knowledgeable individuals working alone.’” There is just so much to be gained by having teams solve problems, chart instructional paths, discuss student performance and improve instructional strategies. The all of us will always be better than the one of us.
Schmoker, M. (2006). Results now: How we can achieve unprecedented improvements in teaching and learning. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Wagner, T., Kegan, R., Lahey, L., Lemons, R. W., Garnier, J., Helsing, D., & Howell, A. (2006). Change leadership: A practical guide to transforming our schools. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.
White, S. (2005). Beyond the numbers: Making data work for teachers & school leaders. Englewood, CO: Lead + Learn Press.