Study: Team approach improves teaching

Professional teamwork is a key strategy in improving school performance and student achievement, according to a review of research and case studies compiled into a new book from the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF).

In Team Up for 21st Century Teaching and Learning, NCTAF analyzed an extensive body of research and case studies documenting how learning teams improve teaching effectiveness. Pearson Learning Teams is among the programs cited.

“This synthesis of research and case studies can become a valuable tool for school leaders who are working to turn around low-performing schools,” said Hanna Doerr, NCTAF Program Leader and editor of the book.

NCTAF notes six common themes among high performing schools that use professional learning communities, which have been shown to positively affect school culture, teacher retention, teaching effectiveness and student performance. These themes include: Shared Values and Goals; Collective Responsibility; Authentic Assessment; Self-Directed Reflection; Stable Settings; and Strong Leadership Support.

“We have been trying to improve schools the old-fashioned way—one teacher at a time,” said Tom Carroll, Ph.D., President of NCTAF. “It is time to recognize that stand-alone teaching in self-contained classrooms won’t prepare today’s students for 21st century college or careers—we need to build on the power of teamwork that is the key to success in every high performing organization in our country.”

For example, the new book cites George Washington Carver/Bruce Street School for the Deaf in Newark, where Principal Winston Jackson attributes the school’s positive teaching culture and improved student achievement, with more students meeting state and federal benchmarks, to the implementation of Pearson Learning Teams. And at Wilmington Middle School, part of the Los Angeles Unified School District, there has been a positive shift in the school’s culture, as well as more teachers relying on data to inform decision making about their teaching practices, according to Diana Zarro-Martinez, the school’s Problem Solving Data Coordinator.

According to a recent study in the Elementary School Journal, also included in the new NCTAF volume, large gains in student achievement can be made when schools use teacher learning teams to work collaboratively and follow a structured protocol. The same strategy forms the basis for Pearson Learning Teams.

Pearson Learning Teams is an evidence-based collaborative model that brings together teachers to learn from each other and refine their skills. The program is based on a five-year comparison study that included 15 Title I schools serving 14,000 mostly low-achieving, limited English proficient students. Achievement in the schools using teacher learning teams rose by 41 percent overall— 54 percent for Hispanic students—relative to a comparable group of schools that used other methods. The model has since been replicated in elementary, middle and high schools across the country.