ERIC Identifier: ED290233
Publication Date: 1987-00-00
Author: Scott, James J. - Smith, Stuart C.
Clearinghouse on Educational Management Eugene OR.
Collaborative Schools. ERIC Digest Series, Number 22.
A growing number of educators are focusing their efforts on improving
the work environment of teaching. In place of the typical school's norms and
practices that isolate teachers from one another, some schools are initiating
new norms and practices that encourage teachers to cooperate with one another
and with administrators on school improvement. The primary goal of these
"collaborative schools" is effective teaching and learning; other objectives are
that teachers will be accorded respect as professionals and that staff harmony
WHAT IS THE COLLABORATIVE SCHOOL?
The collaborative school is one in which administrators and teachers
routinely work together to promote effective teaching and learning. What Judith
Warren Little (1982) calls the "critical practices of adaptability" characterize
the collaborative school:
1. "Teachers engage in frequent, continuous, and increasingly concrete and
precise talk about teaching practices" (as opposed to simply gossiping about
other teachers, administrators, and students).
2. "Teachers are frequently observed and provided with useful (if potentially
frightening) critiques of their teaching."
3. "Teachers plan, design, research, evaluate, and prepare teaching materials
4. "Teachers teach each other the practice of teaching."
WHY HAVE EDUCATORS BECOME INTERESTED IN COLLABORATION?
In most professions, practitioners work together for their mutual benefit--in
a law firm, for example, junior partners take advantage of the expertise of
senior partners, and senior partners look to the junior partners for fresh new
ideas. In contrast, most teachers work in isolation, neither helping nor being
helped by their colleagues. As John I. Goodlad (1984) says, "The classroom cells
in which teachers spend much of their time appear... symbolic of their relative
isolation from one another and from sources of ideas beyond their own background
experience." In a sense, each teacher must "reinvent the lightbulb" on his or
Given these circumstances, it is not surprising that educational leaders are
calling for closer professional interaction among teachers and between teachers
and administrators--in other words, a greater degree of collaboration in the
HOW CAN PRINCIPALS PROMOTE COLLABORATION IN THEIR SCHOOLS?
Principals can promote collaboration by such simple expedients as involving
faculty members in setting the agenda for faculty meetings, giving faculty
committees a meaningful role in matters of curriculum and instruction, and
helping teachers to coordinate their schedules so that they have time to observe
each other teach and provide each other with feedback on their observations.
Although formal structures and strategies can facilitate collaboration,
collaboration ultimately depends on the development of norms of cooperation
among the school's personnel. In this area the principal can lead by example.
When teachers see the principal actively seeking their help and helping them to
improve in their profession, they are likely to work with one another to improve
HOW IMPORTANT IS THE PRINCIPAL'S LEADERSHIP?
Because the principal plays such a crucial role in promoting norms of
collaboration, he or she must actually exercise stronger leadership than would
be necessary where norms of isolation prevail. A number of studies have shown
that principals in collaborative schools are more actively involved in observing
and evaluating teachers and in working with teachers on curriculum and
scheduling than are principals in schools where teachers traditionally are
isolated in their classrooms.
WHAT ROLE CAN SCHOOL DISTRICTS PLAY?
School boards and district administrators can encourage collaboration by
providing individual schools with the resources in time and money needed for
collaborative activities. For example, the Pittsburgh Public Schools pay for
replacement teachers so that teachers in the system can take several weeks away
from their classroom activities to attend the Schenley High School Teaching
Center where they improve their teaching skills in a collegial setting (Davis
District officials cannot expect to successfully impose collaboration on a
school. By its very nature collaboration is a school-site reform that depends
for its success on the willing participation of personnel within the school.
Collaboration is likely to work only when the principal and a significant number
of teachers at a school become convinced that it will actually lead to improved
teaching and learning.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Ashton, Patricia T., and Rodman B. Webb. MAKING A DIFFERENCE: TEACHERS' SENSE
OF EFFICACY AND STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT. New York: Longman, 1986.
Bird, Tom, and Judith Warren Little. "How Schools Organize the Teaching
Occupation." THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL JOURNAL 86 (1986): 493-511. EJ 337 995.
Davis, Lawrence E. "A Recipe for the Development of an Effective Teaching
Clinic." Paper presented at the annual conference of the Association for
Supervision and Curriculum Development, San Francisco, CA, March 1, 1986. ED 275
Furtwengler, Willis J. "Reaching Success through Involvement--Implementation
Strategy for Creating and Maintaining Effective Schools." Paper presented at the
annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco,
CA, April 17, 1986. ED 274 085.
Goodlad, John I. A PLACE CALLED SCHOOL: PROSPECTS FOR THE FUTURE. New York:
Lieberman, Ann, and Lynne Miller. TEACHERS, THEIR WORLD, AND THEIR WORK:
IMPLICATIONS FOR SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT. Alexandria, Virginia: Association for
Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1984. ED 250 285.
Little, Judith Warren. "Norms of Collegiality and Experimentation: Workplace
Conditions of School Success." AMERICAN EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH JOURNAL 19 (1982):
325-340. EJ 275 511.
Rosenholtz, Susan J. TEACHERS' WORKPLACE: A STUDY OF SOCIAL ORGANIZATIONS.
New York: Longman, forthcoming.
Schmuck, Richard A., and others. HANDBOOK OF ORGANIZATIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN
SCHOOLS. 3rd ed. Mountain View, California: Mayfield Publishing Company, 1985.
Smith, Stuart C., and James J. Scott. THE COLLABORATIVE SCHOOL: A WORK
ENVIRONMENT FOR EFFECTIVE INSTRUCTION. Eugene, Oregon: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Educational Management; and Reston, Virginia: National Association of Secondary
School Principals, forthcoming.