Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Learning from Collaboration: The Role of Teacher Qualities

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Learning from Collaboration: The Role of Teacher Qualities

Article excerpt

Teachers learning and working together to achieve common goals is considered by many scholars to be a central element of major school reform efforts, including those aimed at improving the inclusion of students with disabilities in general education settings (Darling-Hammond & McLaughlin, 1995; Johnson & Bauer, 1992; Pugach & Johnson, 2002). The assumption is that when teachers work together to achieve a common vision, they will be able to change their instructional practices in important ways. "In collaborative working environments, teachers have the potential to create the collective capacity for initiating and sustaining ongoing improvement in their professional practice so each student they serve can receive the highest quality of education possible" (Pugach & Johnson, 2002, p. 6). Inherent in this call for collaboration is that the act of planning and working together, by itself, is a powerful professional development tool.

One only has to turn to descriptions of different collaborative arrangements in the literature and their assumed power for creating change to understand that collaboration is viewed as essential to promoting teacher learning (Rogers & Babinski, 2002; Thousand & Villa, 1992). Professional development schools, teacher study groups, teacher-researcher partnerships, professional learning communities, peer coaching, collaborative consultation, co-teaching, collaborative problem-solving, and teacher mentoring all assume that teachers can learn when given the opportunity to work together. Moreover, researchers have demonstrated that teachers (and ultimately their students) benefit from opportunities to work and learn together (Louis, Kruse, & Marks, 1996; Pugach & Johnson, 1995; Rosenholtz, 1989; Snyder, 1994; Trent, 1998; Walther-Thomas, 1997). These research findings combined with scholars' assertions about the importance of collaboration in changing teacher practice have led to its widespread acceptance as an essential component of any effort aimed at improving teaching.

Although the literature provides many examples of how collaborative efforts result in positive changes for teachers generally, we do not know much about how individual teachers respond to collaboration. Do all teachers learn equally from working together? Or, do some teachers profit a great deal while others profit very little? Moreover, what individual factors enable some teachers to profit more than others from collaboration? Previous research on staff development and collaboration suggests that individual teachers do not profit equally even when the conditions supporting collaboration are positive (Elmore, Peterson, & McCarthey, 1996; Klingner, 2004; Vaughn, Hughes, Schumm, & Klingner, 1998). Certain teachers are likely to learn a lot and others are likely to not learn much at all.

Studies in the professional development and teacher collaboration literature

provide evidence that opportunities to work together with researchers or other teachers do not always result in equivalent learning outcomes, even when teachers work in similar organizational contexts. Researchers examining teachers' adoption and sustained use of effective innovations for students with disabilities show that teachers benefit differently from collaborative opportunities to learn (Klingner, 2004; Klingner, Vaughn, Hughes, & Arguelles, 1999). In these studies, classroom teachers were involved in collaborative professional development efforts aimed at learning research-based innovations to improve the learning of students with disabilities. Although many teachers learned the innovations and continued to use them, not all teachers benefited equally. For the most part, researchers blamed organizational conditions and feasibility of the innovation for standing in the way of innovation adoption and sustained use (Greenwood, 1998; Klingner). However, researchers also acknowledged that even when the organizational conditions for promoting change were just right (e. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.