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ERIC Number: ED534444
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 160
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISBN: ISBN-978-1-2670-0460-4
Working and Learning Together: How Teachers Use Collaboration to Improve Classroom Practice
Plagens, Marcia L.
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, Capella University
The purpose of this study was to explore how teachers use collaboration to improve practice in a Midwest elementary school. A case study approach was used for this research utilizing qualitative research techniques including surveys, individual interviews, and review of teacher reflective journals. This methodology was selected because the focus of the study related to how participants, eight elementary teachers, used collaboration, their perceptions of factors that both helped and hindered the process, and how participants perceived collaborative activities as affecting the school culture as a whole. The problem addressed in this study was teacher isolation. Publications and legislation that focus on the standards and accountability have resulted in education reform efforts to restructure schools to encourage more teacher collaboration in order to improve teaching and learning. The professional learning community framework and teacher collaboration have emerged as effective strategies for addressing accountability and achievement standards issues (DuFour, 2004; Eaker, DuFour, & DuFour, 2002; Hord, 1997, 2009). There were five major themes to emerge from the data. These themes were consistent with the existing literature and evolved from survey responses, journal entries, and participant interview responses. The first theme to emerge was that collaborative activities were generally perceived as positive experiences. The second theme was collaboration as both formal and informal. The third theme to emerge from data analysis was related to time. Participants perceived a general lack of time and opportunity to collaborate before, during, and after school hours. The fourth theme was related to teacher isolation. Finally, the fifth theme revealed the following imperatives for effective collaboration: trust and respect, relevant topics, conflict resolution skills, small group venues, administrative support, goal setting, and building rapport with colleagues. It was disclosed that participants used collaborative opportunities to discuss curriculum consistency, instructional options, behavioral issues, and to assess student work as well as reflect on their instruction. The data also revealed factors that facilitated the collaborative process. They were administrative support, such as having a facilitator to keep everyone on task and allow for equal participation; developing trust and respect for colleagues; coming to consensus despite personality or philosophical differences; having time to collaborate; facilitating small group discussions to encourage equal participation; setting common goals to increase ownership; and developing rapport with colleagues. The major inhibiting factor was shown to be the lack of time to collaborate with colleagues. Further, overall indications from the data were that the school site was lacking a culture of collaboration. The small groups or pockets of collaboration were not perceived as affecting the school as a whole. Recommendations included emphasizing the professional learning community framework in order to support collaboration among teachers at the school site. Another recommendation was to continue the collaborative assessment of student work, possibly during the monthly grade level meetings. Further, it could be beneficial to include the administrator in any future research study due to the importance of their support within the professional learning community framework. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Elementary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A