Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Teacher Collaboration for Science Activity Design

Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Teacher Collaboration for Science Activity Design

Article excerpt

Abstract

An effective way of preparing teachers for professional development is the establishment of learning networks and collaboration among teachers. This study presents the results of a yearlong science teacher collaboration project that aimed to create effective teaching strategies for high school science laboratory investigations. Five teachers from a public high school in the Southeastern U.S. and two teacher educators from a public university worked in collaboration. Our results indicated that collaboration provides cognitive and affective support for teachers who face similar challenges.

Professional development of teachers is vital to better accommodate current science education reforms. Reform movements not only require appropriate curriculum change but also change in teachers' beliefs of subject matter and teaching practices. As stated in the National Science Education Standards, an effective way of preparing teachers for professional development is the establishment of learning networks among teachers and collaboration (National Research Council, 1996).

Collaboration among teachers and effects of collaboration on teacher learning and change has been an emerging research area (Chan & Pang, 2006; Richardson & Placier, 2001). It is asserted that teacher learning is not a solitary activity, but it is a collective activity that is situated in the work place (Chan & Pang, 2006). Professional learning is more likely to be effective and meaningful if it takes place through interaction and collaboration among community members. Hargreaves and Giles (2003) highlighted three important components of a professional learning community: collaborative work and discussion, strong focus on teaching and learning, and gathering data to make assessments and improve teaching practices. In similar lines, Little (2002) further summarizes the value of teacher collaboration as follows: "Conditions for improving teaching and learning are strengthened when teachers collectively question ineffective teaching routines, examine new conceptions of teaching and learning, find generative means to acknowledge and respond to difference and conflict, and engage in supporting professional growth (p.917)." Little's assertions reflect an idea of teaching that is sensitive to contemporary issues of our time. For example, teachers today cannot be unresponsive to demands for increased teaching performance, adopting new teaching strategies, understanding cultural diversity, and continuous professional development.

Related literature in this field showed that teacher collaboration is beneficial for several reasons. Having an informal, flexible, unprescriptive, innovative and borderless nature, teacher learning networks are efficient alternatives to bureaucratically organized programs of professional developments (Lieberman, 2000). Since the learning networks are organized by the common interest and volunteer efforts of the participants, the pressure and stress of arbitrary bureaucratic decisions on teachers are eliminated. Collegiality also helps teachers to break the isolation of the classroom. By working together for instructional planning and decisions teachers have a chance to explore their colleagues' ideas and make decisions toward improving their classroom practice (Little, 1990). As recent research shows, acting in collaboration provides teachers moral support and confidence (Johnson, 2003). With an increased moral well-being teachers are more likely to take action towards new classroom innovations to improve the quality of instruction. Another benefit of teacher collaboration is that teachers will have opportunities to assess their career choices. Working with different success and experience levels of teachers, colleagues will see their personal positions better, make decisions for future career choices, and even discover new possibilities for their careers. For example, as we learn from the teachers in our community, nowadays many teachers seem to be inspired by their successful colleagues to pursue a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification. …

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