Teachers and the Need for Collaboration

Secondary school teachers from the United States to Singapore value collaboration with their peers, but the vast majority are still largely isolated in their classrooms, according to a new report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. (OECD)

The OECD’s 2013 Teaching and Learning International Survey analyzes what more than 100,000 teachers in 34 member countries and economies think of their working conditions. The survey found women in American education still make up 68 percent of the teaching force and that teachers are overwhelmingly college educated and engaged in ongoing professional development at least once a year.

U.S. teachers report spending more hours a week working than their international counterparts—45 hours versus 38 on average in other countries—and more hours in instruction, 27 hours versus the 19-hour OECD average. Even so, 89 percent of the U.S. teachers surveyed said they were satisfied with their job overall—only slightly below the international average of 91 percent. But when it comes to implementing research-backed teaching practices such as collaboration, many teachers reported not being able to do so.

In spite of research touting the benefits of collaboration, the survey found that more than half of teachers in grades 7 to 9 reported they rarely or never co-teach or observe their peers teaching. Moreover, nearly half never get feedback on how they can improve at their jobs from their principal or other school administrators. Nearly all U.S. teachers receive feedback from their principals or administrative staff (98 percent), but less than half receive feedback from their peers.

Though more districts have been adding additional school days to the calendar, he said, schools need to discuss ways to integrate more professional development, planning, and team-teaching time throughout normal school days rather than tacking on a few extra professional-development days at the end of a term.

In the US, teachers are already considered slackers and lazy by the media and those who wish to undermine public education.  But the reality is that America’s teachers are working more hours than their peers in other countries and are receiving less administrative support.