Sharing ideas, a supportive network, and positive environment are just some of the benefits of a collaborative school culture. IB World magazine speaks to teachers about how working together has transformed their classrooms
A collaborative culture is at the core of many IB World Schools. It’s not just about students working together, fostering a community of experience and learning, but also includes teachers and staff. Research and case studies suggest that by forming a network of resources, support, and guidance, teachers feel more comfortable in their roles, which subsequently has a positive effect on students.
“Collaboration is when teachers work together to plan and create lessons and a curriculum for their students,” explains Jennifer May, PYP Teacher at Arroyo Elementary in California, USA. “Our team meets at least once a week to reflect on how our unit is going, and then amend or improve as necessary. As a team, we understand that we all have an opinion, and we need to respect and listen to each other. We all have a voice.”
“As students guide the learning, lessons look different in every classroom but the central ideas and key concepts are the same,” she adds. “The foundation of this lies with the teachers but can include the whole school with the help of social media channels or the school website.”
Sabrina McCartney, MYP Coordinator at Carrollwood Day School, Florida, USA, believes collaborative teaching is centered on developing an environment where staff feel confident and safe in trying innovative approaches to learning and teaching. She says: “It’s based on the philosophy of keeping the student at the center while sharing ideas and thoughts in the planning process to create engaging lessons and assessments.”
Developing the culture
So how can teachers develop an environment of collaboration? And what processes already exist within the school to help support teachers and pool their resources?
In terms of offering teachers’ guidance, May is a strong advocate of having an IB coordinator who ensures all teachers feel included. “Our coordinator offers support if we ever need help with ideas or planning, and we get an hour a week with her. She’s done an awesome job as a moderator, teacher and example of how to collaborate. She really helped us listen to each other and work as a team.”
Communal, cohesive and strategic planning certainly helps teachers feel confident in their roles, but what about support outside the role of educator and professional?
Carrollwood Day School has a childcare program for staff with children up to two years old, which helps foster a wider community of engagement and support. “Many staff children attend our school and the school organizes childcare on professional days. This allows all of us to attend training and meetings without the worry of childcare,” says McCartney. “By supporting staff, a positive community is established.”
Passing on a sense of community and collaboration is important for the success of any school. In terms of the impact on students, it can act as a microcosm of the greater world. “Students will see how a community works, how they are part of it and what their role is in their community,” says May. “It is good for students to see that their classroom is not an island and that learning doesn’t end in the classroom when the bell rings.”
In essence, collaborative teaching – be it unit planning, feedback or other, external means of support – allows teachers to feel appreciated and guided in their role. With such support comes confidence, which teachers are likely to pass on to their students. “When ideas build upon each other, and we work together, the product we present to the student is much better than a teacher working by themselves,” May says. “We need to create a community, after all ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’”
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