Grantee Corner | Teacher Collaboration
As Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP) grantees implement innovative instructional practices, instructional staff must work and learn together. The following stories show how MSAP grantees encourage teacher collaboration to build teacher capacity and to create effective, engaging instruction.
In Napa Valley Unified School District, one of the three MSAP schools has a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) focus. The school model highlights project-based learning; technology that enhances instruction and learning; and an empowering school culture that connects, engages, and challenges students and staff. To achieve project goals, teams of teachers collaborate with the Academic Specialist, STEM coach, and community experts to design learning units focused on authentic problems. To refine units, teachers regularly use a structured protocol to reflect and get feedback from grade-level colleagues about authenticity, academic rigor, applied learning, active exploration, real-world connections, and assessment practices.
All teachers participate on one of three committees: math, culture, or project-based learning. The committees identify school needs, then plan and lead professional learning for the staff. New learning is applied during grade-level professional learning communities as teachers analyze student work and develop goals that impact student learning.
In Polk County Public Schools’ MSAP-funded schools, teacher-to-teacher collaboration is at the forefront of planning. Polk County has established model classrooms on multiple campuses to support peer modeling and feedback among teachers. This open conversation enables teachers to connect and build mutual support. Teachers understand the positive impact collaboration makes on student learning, and appreciate that it helps them share ideas, build collegial relationships, observe others, and prevent teacher isolation.
At all five MSAP schools, professional learning communities meet weekly with grade- or subject-level teams, which collaborate to build common units and address the needs of all students. Professional development needs are met through the communities as all teachers share practical ideas on classroom implementation. Teachers deliver professional development in their areas of expertise, mentor one another, and engage in collaborative small-group development.
Through its MSAP grant, San Diego Unified School District has built a network of four elementary science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) magnet schools. Knowing that teachers are central to meaningful change, teacher collaboration is a focus of professional development.
The district worked with the four schools to develop a range of opportunities for teachers to connect within and across school sites. Onsite, teachers are engaged through grade-level professional learning communities, staff workshops, and extended learning opportunities with partners. The greatest changes have resulted from the intensive collaboration developed when teachers connect across sites. Through STEAM Saturdays, STEAM release days, and annual week-long STEAM Summer Institutes, administrators, teachers, district resource teachers,and leaders have developed a shared definition of STEAM by engaging in STEAM inquiries, exploring new pedagogies, developing STEAM curriculum, and creating sustainable networks for continued growth.
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