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Teacher Collaboration Can Improve Student Outcome, Reduce Teacher Turnover

August 28, 2017

New resources released by Public Agenda and the Spencer Foundation to help advance teaching and learning by fostering collaboration among teachers


New York City – As educators across the country prepare for the school year and look for new ways to improve instruction and help students succeed, Public Agenda and the Spencer Foundation have released resources designed to contribute to a better-informed dialogue about how teachers can work more collaboratively.

A growing body of research shows that with greater teacher collaboration, student outcomes can improve, teachers can be more satisfied in their jobs and teacher turnover can decrease. The Teacher Collaboration In Perspective project consists of materials that can help educators and leaders begin to understand collaborative practices among teachers and weigh decisions about why, whether and how to foster more collaboration in their schools and districts.

“Greater collaboration among teachers makes intuitive sense and research is increasingly showing that it can have many benefits for students and educators alike. But how to foster a more collaborative environment is neither obvious nor easy,” said Will Friedman, president of Public Agenda. “We believe that these new resources can be a big help to schools and school systems that want to move in this direction.”

The project includes three resources:

A Guide to Research: This guide provides a nonpartisan, nonideological and easily digestible summary of key research on teacher collaboration, including studies that are typically accessible only to academics. The goal of the Guide is to help teachers, principals, superintendents and school board members reflect upon whether and how creating conditions for teachers to work more collaboratively might benefit students and teachers in their schools and districts.

A Discussion Guide for Teachers and Principals: This resource is intended to help teachers and principals make decisions about how to work more collaboratively and at what scale to collaborate. It can be used in a variety of settings, including in schoolwide or districtwide meetings for professional development, in teacher-in-service trainings, in faculty meetings or in meetings with principals. It covers topics including the benefits and challenges of collaboration, goals for collaboration, some collaborative practices to consider and how to plan for implementation.

Critical Questions for Superintendents and School Board Members: These questions are designed to help superintendents and school board members ask good questions about how teachers work in their schools and districts, understand their own roles in creating the conditions for teachers to collaborate, and consider the concerns and needs of stakeholders in the district and community.

“We need all of our children—and not just some of them—to develop the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to flourish in our increasingly complex and changing society. This has not historically been a goal that schools have been expected to embrace, and teachers’ workplaces have not been organized to achieve it. Instead, teachers have largely been left on their own to figure things out, isolated from other adults for much of the day, and bereft of regular opportunities to share ideas and engage in joint-problem solving with professional colleagues. While autonomy has always been an important value to teachers, there are doubtless many challenges to teaching and learning in our schools today that require people work collaboratively rather than separately to solve. We hope these resources can contribute to such efforts, and we hope continued dialogue informed by research can enrich the conversation for us all,” said Na’ilah Suad Nasir, president of the Spencer Foundation, and Michael Barber, associate program officer for the Spencer Foundation, in a joint statement.

The Teacher Collaboration In Perspective project is part of the In Perspective series which provides an analysis of current research; suggests important questions for policymakers and journalists to ask; and offers discussion material to inform voters and help communities hold civil, productive dialogue on education issues.


About Public Agenda

Public Agenda is a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening democracy and expanding opportunity for all Americans. Through a unique understanding of how the public comes to judgment on complex problems, and expertise in research, public engagement and communications, Public Agenda helps communities build common ground and work together to improve education, health care, jobs, civic participation and other issues critical to a thriving democracy. Founded in 1975 by Dan Yankelovich and Cyrus Vance, Public Agenda is based in New York City and can be found online at, on Facebook, and on Twitter at @PublicAgenda.

About The Spencer Foundation

The Spencer Foundation believes that cultivating knowledge and new ideas about education will ultimately improve students’ lives and enrich society. The Foundation pursues its mission by awarding research grants and fellowships and by strengthening the connections among education research, policy and practice through its communications and networking activities. Find the Spencer Foundation online at