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Blog: Tuesday, February 18th, 2020

Collaboration is a Good Thing - at ATMS We Make it Great

Teacher collaboration in strong professional learning communities improves the quality and equity of student learning, promotes discussions that are grounded in evidence and analysis rather than opinion, and fosters collective responsibility for student success (McLaughlin & Talbert, 2006). Knowing students are the ultimate beneficiaries, some of the best education systems in the world prioritize teacher collaboration time (Lander, 2015).

But what does effective collaboration look like and how can school teams capitalize on the this carved out time to make it most impactful for students?

While sharing resources and planning together are great starting points, effective collaboration really begins when there is a shift from a focus on teaching to a focus on student learning and on the belief that ALL students, with the right support, can learn at a high level. To make this happen, a culture of collective responsibility for student learning is essential, combined with some basic structures and a clear direction (Graham & Ferriter, 2008).

At ATMS we have two key collaboration structures – ELA and Math Department meetings and in- school subject collaboration blocks.  Our teacher teams work interdependently to determine what competencies are most essential for English Language Arts and Math and collectively develop common formative and summative assessments for their students. With this clear purpose and structure in place, Mireille Strafford, who leads our Math Department, explains, “Most of our time now is driven by collaborating on essential Math content and competencies, and working together to create unit overviews and common formative and summative assessments that we can use directly in our classes.

The benefit of this structure is that we get time to work together to ensure that we are on the same page with what we feel should be taught, in what order and making sure that we are assessing their understanding at grade level… and it challenges us to plan effectively and focus on the achievement of our students.”  She has also added in rigor level considerations with her team, collectively agreeing on what it looks like for students to achieve proficiency at the end of the unit. Our ELA Department, led by Julie Wilms, is testing out a 4-week assessment cycle, aligning learning targets, formative and summative assessments between the grade 6 ELA classes. 

Throughout this cycle, teachers are looking at their formative assessment data, discussing the effectiveness of their instruction and determining how to support those who are not yet proficient as well as those who are needing extension opportunities. We are proud of our dedicated and united teams of teachers sharing collective responsibility, passion and attentiveness towards a common goal. Not only is this collaborative commitment instrumental in ensuring all students learn but it also fosters collegial and professional relationships amongst our staff.

Vice-Principal, Abbotsford Traditional Middle Schools