When teachers work in a collaborative setting they are in charge of their own learning which allows them to focus on the specific needs of their students and apply theory to practice. Professional learning communities, critical friends groups, whole-faculty study groups, and book studies all offer an opportunity for teachers to work collaboratively rather than in isolation. Zepeda (2012) describes these forms of professional development as a “collaborative enterprise, where a space for learning through mutual exchange, dialogue, and constant challenge is created” (p. 178). This collaboration allows teachers to share their own expertise, learn from each other, and receive support from teachers who can relate to their practice.
Learning groups offer the opportunity for teachers to engage in dialogue about student learning and learn from the experiences and challenges of others. It is an opportunity for teachers to be a part of ongoing learning while receiving support and encouragement from others. I think this type of professional development can also motivate teachers to improve their instruction because the work is centered on teachers’ interests and focused on reaching personal goals with the support of others. According to Zepeda (2012), collaboration with peers improves self-efficacy because their sense of mutual support and effectiveness of instruction has increased (p.181).
In my own experience, I have felt the positive effects of professional learning in a collaborative setting. Professional learning communities and book studies have offered me a safe place to share my professional goals, student data, and instructional practice. Because it is a trusting environment, I can receive critical feedback without feeling like I am being evaluated or judged. Dufour (2011) states, “A school staff must focus on learning rather than teaching, work collaboratively on matters related to learning, and hold itself accountable for the kind of results that fuel continued improvement” (p.162). I think working as a group with common interests and goals helps you tackle the hard work that is necessary to improve student learning.
DuFour, R. (2011). Professional learning community. In E. B. Hilty (Ed.) Teacher leadership: The “new” foundations of teacher education. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing (Chapter 15).
Zepeda, S. (2012). Professional development: What works (2nd ED). Larchmont, NY: Eye On Education