The Importance of Faculty Collaborative Time

Vol. 16 No. 4

PSN eletter vol15 no4 collaboration

A teacher at a private school typically devotes most of the day to instruction, with almost no time for collaborating with other teachers, mutually planning lessons, or even reflecting on their practices. Professional isolation is a significant issue in many of our classrooms.

A recent report from the Center for American Progress indicates American teachers spend far less time planning and collaborating with other teachers than educators in other top-performing countries. Teachers in the U.S. spend 27 hours teaching in the classroom out of 45 hours of work each week. Faculty members in Singapore teach for only 17 hours each week. In Finland, they teach for 21 hours each week. These countries schedule time for planning and collaboration, whereas American teachers often have little time for such collegiality. According to the research, the most common length of time scheduled for planning for U.S. teachers was 45 minutes per day—and much of that time was dedicated to grading student work, communicating with parents, and handling necessary paperwork. There is almost no time to plan or collaborate with peers. Another study, from the American Federation Teachers, shows that, for American teachers, one of the most cited “everyday stressors” was time pressure.

Granted, the two studies mentioned focused on public school teachers, but their findings are no less relevant for private schools. For most teachers, squeezing in time for collaboration is nearly impossible without their schools intentionally scheduling such time—which, of course, is what ISM recommends.

ISM defines faculty culture as the “assumptions, ideas, and beliefs that drive professional attitudes and behaviors.” Our research demonstrates that it is this culture that most strongly influences student performance, enthusiasm, and satisfaction. We also state that it is the mandatory engagement of every individual—and through each individual, the faculty culture as a whole—in his or her commitment to professional growth and career that leads to sustained success in the school’s programs. A significant way to get teachers to commit to that growth is to understand, honor, and promote collegiality. ISM’s research also emphasizes the importance of conversation between the School Head and faculty (and also among teachers) focused on professional growth.

Academic administrators would do well to insist on institutional collegiality as a professional norm. Encourage teamwork that maintains clear goals (based on your mission), promotes open and clear decision-making processes, and fosters a climate of trust and openness. Take steps to reduce the isolation of teachers from one another, and provide the resources of time, space, and money to accomplish common objectives.

Additional ISM resources:
The Source for Academic Leadership
Vol. 7 No. 6 Your Monthly All-Faculty Meetings: Go From Snores to Roars!
The Source for Academic Leadership Vol. 12 No. 6 Constructive Criticism 101

Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 35 No. 11 The 21st Century School: Faculty
I&P Vol. 33 No. 9 The Allocation of Time and Your Faculty’s Professional Growth
I&P Vol. 31 No. 8 Purpose and Outcome Statements: Characteristics of Professional Excellence

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