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Teacher Teams As Powerful Engines of Change

posted Apr 22, 2016, 5:48 AM by HSD Principal

            In this article from Usable Knowledge, Leah Shafer reports on a study by Susan Moore Johnson, Stefanie Reinhorn, and Nicole Simon (Harvard Graduate School of Education) on what makes effective teacher teams. The research took place in six Massachusetts schools and involved content teams – focused on curriculum, lessons, and pedagogy – and cohort teams – focused on behavior, individual student needs, and school culture. The researchers found that five factors consistently contributed to a team’s success:

-   There was a clear, worthwhile purpose to meetings.

-   Teams met on a regular schedule, there was enough time for the business at hand, and the time was considered sacred.

-   Trained teacher leaders facilitated team meetings.

-   Administrators offered ongoing, engaged support and attention to the meetings and held teachers responsible for what they were supposed to accomplish.

-   Administrators looked for collaboration skills when hiring and gave teachers continual feedback that augmented the substance of team meetings.

Effective teacher teamwork had a positive impact in each of the schools, including:

-   Greater curriculum consistency across classes and grades;

-   Sharing the work of lesson planning;

-   Increased rigor and expectations for students – getting them to think “bigger and deeper about tough concepts”;

-   A support network for new teachers;

-   Opportunities for skill-sharing between veteran and novice teachers;

-   Frequent feedback from peers on lesson plans, behavior management, and pedagogy.

“Many factors contributed to these schools’ success,” says Johnson, “– careful hiring, frequent feedback on instruction, strong norms for both students and faculty, student supports, and skilled management – but it was teams that knit these components together for the good of students.”


“Teaching Together for Change: Five Factors That Make Teacher Teams Successful – and Make Schools Stronger” by Leah Shafer in Usable Knowledge, February 29, 2016,


Excerpt taken from Marshall Memo, March 29, 2016.