Teamwork in Schools

Dec 25, 2017 by

School Principals: Do your teams have these traits?

Any school principal can testify to the fact that during any given day or school year, challenges run rampant.  Schools are the modern day superhero in a single site. They are expected to provide an education to ALL students and that they are all treated as individuals and that their needs, not just in education, are met. With this year’s 13.5% budget cut, this is at a time when resources are not available to provide the education that is demanded by society and the future of our country. A great responsibility is placed on school leaders to maximize the educational outcome of students with only limited resources. There is a way for a school leader to provide the education that their students deserve by developing a team of teachers. A school leader can help to develop a team, which can deliver a better education to more students even with limited resources. Let’s take a look at the benefits of having teachers working as a team and how a school leader today can help to create teams of education professionals.

Benefits of Teamwork

Research has shown the common knowledge that most teachers work on their own and that co-teaching is not that common. However, research has indicated that if teachers are part of a team that they are more effective and that students perform better on assessments of their competency and capabilities. A team is a group of individuals who can cooperate and communicate and can work together for a common purpose. It should be recognized that teachers who feel that they are part of a team are much more motivated than those who believe that they are not. Furthermore, those who are part of a team are more likely to be aware of the performance of their peers and this has been shown to encourage students to commit to continuous improvement. Not only that teachers see what other teachers are doing and try it in their classrooms or tweak it to fit the culture of their classrooms. Great leaders know this, so they make time for their teachers to be in teams. Somehow during the school week for those teachers to work in unison and try out new ideas to increase student achievement. Because what worked last year, might not work for this year’s group of students.

Those who are part of a team are usually able to manage their classroom and to provide instruction that is more focused on the curriculum. If educators are part of a team then they are in constant communication with others that are trying to do the same thing with the same group of students in their building and they are continuously exchanging ideas on their roles, what worked and heck what did not work. These exchanges are pivotal to the education of all. Those who work as a team can communicate their ideas on effective teaching practices and this can help educators all over better understand their role. For example, if a teacher has an issue with a group of students and classroom management then the teachers can learn from their team mates how to better manage a particular class.  This is one of the benefits of a team in that they can compensate for an individuals’ weaknesses. Teams of teachers can provide an ongoing support network for those who are struggling to adapt to a situation and this is particularly the case with new highly qualified teachers.  There are many instances when team members who are experienced educators can act as continuous mentors to younger teachers and this can help them to improve their performance. Being a member of a team means sharing information that can be helpful, and it can mean that the resources of a school are better utilized. Teachers who are cooperating can share resources quicker and with more guidance. This is very important given budgetary pressures across the education sector and the ever looming assessment deadlines. Teams can help to establish realizable goals and provide feedback that allows school leaders to identify what is going right or going wrong with instructional practice or in a school. A growing problem in the school system are the challenges posed by teacher retention. Studies have shown that if a teacher believes that they are a part of a team then they are more likely to stay in their current role.  This can help school leaders to retain talented and experienced staff and reduce the costs associated with the replacement of staff members.

Building Teacher Teams

Building a team requires above all leaders. A school principal needs to be committed to team building and adopt a leadership style that is appropriate. This can be a transformation for leaders who seek to inspire their staff to work closer together. There are several ways that a principal or superintendent can help to foster a spirit of team work.  Fundamentally, they should make clear that all staff members are expected to support each other and to cooperate and that this is something expected of all of them, irrespective of their role or experience. School leaders can create much needed spaces where teachers can cooperate and get to know each other. It is often necessary for teachers to be brought together. This can be done by organizing social events which are proven to be effective in building a team. School leaders should bring teachers together in informal settings so that they can get to know each other, and this leads to more trust which is essential for team building.  School leaders need to help teachers to develop trust in their fellows.

Sometimes school leaders may need to create changes in the organizational culture of the school. Those organizations that are more open usually have more people working as a team. They need to put in place an opportunity for structural collaboration. That is regular formal meetings to discuss collaboration and metrics adopted to measure the level of student achievement due to team work in a school. The school leader will need to visit classrooms and all stakeholders to encourage them to participate in the decision-making process. This can be done by organizing brainstorming sessions and this will encourage more participation by individual members of the school community. A school leader needs to actively promote the idea that teachers need to have a new ‘self-concept’ of themselves and their role so they can see themselves as team-members.

Another way of developing a team in a school is to receive support from professionals. The school principal or school district superintendent can organize workshops or professional development opportunities on team-building to help teachers understand the benefits of working together.  A school can send teachers and staff members on team building retreats, exercises, conferences, etc. because these can contribute to the process of encouraging teachers to see themselves as members of a team and to facilitate more cooperation which in turn increases student achievement. Which is the best result of all.

Keywords: Team, team-building, teacher teams

Comment Below: how can teams of teachers be built in your school or school district?

References

Bondy, E., Ross, D. D., Sindelar, P. T., & Griffin, C. (1995). Elementary and special educators learning to work together: Team building processes. Teacher Education and Special Education, 18(2), 91-101. Retrieved from: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/088840649501800203

Dee, J. R., Henkin, A. B., & Singleton, C. A. (2006). Organizational commitment of teachers in urban schools: Examining the effects of team structures. Urban Education, 41(6), 603-627. Retrieved from: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0042085906292512

Graham, P. (2007). Improving teacher effectiveness through structured collaboration: A case study of a professional learning community. RMLE Online, 31(1), 1-17. Retrieved from: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/19404476.2007.11462044

King, M. B., & Newmann, F. M. (2001). Building school capacity through professional development: Conceptual and empirical considerations. International Journal of Educational Management, 15(2), 86-94. Retrieved from http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/09513540110383818

Mann, E. (2017, June 20). Trump’s Education Budget. Brookings Institution. Retrieved from: http://www.brookings.edu/blog/unpacked/2017/06/20/president-trumps-education-budget/

Maslow, A.H. (1943).  A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50 (4) 370–96 -Retrieved from: http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Maslow/motivation.htm

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