Student Learning-Focused Mission
The mission and vision of the school is centered on student learning. This may seem simple in theory but seems to be harder in practice. By establishing this process and the underlying assumptions, a staff is on its way to becoming collectively effective. There are no excuses for students not learning or growing. The teachers either believe that they can have an impact on student achievement, or they don't. There is no middle ground, sliding scale or progressive rubric for this process. It starts with individual and collective belief that the teacher and the school can get the job done.
Teachers demonstrate that they are committed to student learning through the way they interact in their teams. By utilizing an evaluation that assesses the collaborative process, teams and teachers will become more committed, and the small percentage who aren't will be seen by the entire staff. Those individuals will then need to make a decision about their choice of a profession and can be dealt with individually through due process standards, policies, laws and procedures. A staff demonstrates a high level of commitment by contributing its efforts to the success of the organization, school, team, grade level, department. That in its essence is demonstrating your collective efficacy. It is assumed that teachers practice their work with a student learning-focused action and mindset.
Case Study: It All Starts With Belief
Mr. Casper was the new principal at Creekside Middle School. He had been asked to take the position by the assistant superintendent. Creekside had struggled to maintain minimum proficiency levels on state assessments, as well as local assessments, for the last five years. Mr. Casper learned very soon that the teachers at Creekside did not believe that they could have a positive impact on student learning. Mr. Casper knew that the first step at improving the school was to get the staff to believe. He spent the first year watching and learning about the teachers, finding and celebrating pockets of success by teachers, teacher teams and students. He celebrated those pockets of success with his staff and slowly turned the tide of the collective belief system.
Mr. Casper had a writing teacher, Mrs. Johnson, who was great. Every year she would introduce a writing procedure that engaged the kids in authentic literacy. Mrs. Johnson was also well respected by her peers. Mr. Casper quickly took notice and facilitated the process for Mrs. Johnson to teach the other members of the language arts team her processes. The other teachers were attentive: they had seen Mrs. Johnson's success over the years. Within a few months every language arts teacher in the building had the same protocol for engaging students in authentic writing. Mr. Casper jumped on that success and made it a point of emphasis, not just for teaching language arts, but for the teamwork displayed and the belief that they could be successful with all students.
Mr. Casper knew that before the school could engage in any processes to improve, it first needed to believe. After the staff began believing in its ability to influence student learning, then and only then could he facilitate the improvement of the professional staff and school as a whole.
Contributions to Collaborative Teams
Teacher collaboration has been linked extensively to student learning, growth and achievement. We know that when teachers work together, with a common goal and purpose, the collective experience, knowledge, wisdom and effectiveness increases and makes the entire school better.
Practices where teachers lead professional learning and learn from peers in collaborative support structures build school capacity. Student success is not bestowed upon the individual teacher; rather, teachers working together during the day, weeks and quarters of a school year hold ongoing professional conversations to improve their practice and meet their students' needs. Student achievement is influenced by teachers' collaborative endeavors (Goddard et al., 2015). As with all evaluation concepts, a learning evaluation also has foundational assumptions. In a learning evaluation, collaboration is an assumption of effective teaching. In fact, it might be the most important assumption having influence over the other domains. People that don't know how to collaborate, don't know how to collective analyze data, provide feedback to others....and the list goes on. This domain is the foundation of the school's efforts. Teacher collaboration assumes certain behaviors, traits, philosophies and values.