While researchers continue the search for methods to isolate individual teacher effects, the MetLife survey reveals that over 90% of the nation’s teachers believe their colleagues contribute to their own teaching effectiveness. New teachers, in particular, were more likely to strongly agree that their success in the classroom hinged on the effectiveness of others.
For me, this finding calls to mind the 2009 study by Jackson and Bruegmann highlighting the importance of peer learning for teachers. Using 11 years of matched teacher and student achievement data in North Carolina, these scholars (from Cornell and Harvard, respectively) were able to isolate and quantify the added value brought about by teachers’ collective expertise — finding that most value-added gains are attributable to teachers who are more experienced (and qualified) and stay together as teams.*
The results reported in Part 1 (Effective Teaching and Leadership) of MetLife's new survey offer additional insights. Teachers in schools that report more collaboration are more likely to point out that:
• other teachers contribute to their classroom success
• there are higher levels of trust among teachers and principals,
• there are more opportunities to watch each other teach, and
• they are more satisfied with their careers.
The MetLife data confirms the powerful effects of deep teacher collaboration. Policymakers who seek to improve student performance should pay attention to the international PISA research, which found that teachers in nations with high-performing schools have somewhere between 10 and 20 hours a week to work with their colleagues — critiquing lessons, examining student work products, and developing and adapting curriculum. Strikingly, the MetLife survey also reveals that the average American teacher spends less than 3 hours a week working with his or her fellow teachers — and almost one in 5 teachers has less than one hour per week of “structured collaboration.”
Want to improve teaching effectiveness? Listen to teachers — and make it possible for teachers to spend substantive time listening to each other. Kudos to Metlife for providing important new evidence to support this much-needed reform strategy.
* Jackson, C. K. & Bruegmann, E. (2009, August). Teaching students and teaching each other: The importance of peer learning for teachers. NBER Working Paper 15202. Washington, DC: National Bureau of Economic Research.