When it comes to driving improved outcomes in teaching and learning, the importance of making sure that staff and students are on the same page cannot be understated.
Research shows that collaborative learning environments are most conducive to learning, and this is something that has been taken on board by schools all over the world as the evidence translates into results.
One educator that understands this well is Karen Yager, deputy headmaster 7-12 and head of student and teacher excellence K-12 at Knox Grammar School in Sydney. Yager says it is imperative that schools build the capability of all teachers through strong leadership.
“At Knox Grammar School we had invested energy and capital into an innovative approach to professional learning that has fostered a transparent, collaborative and supportive culture,” Yager told The Educator.
“Teacher observations, action research projects, teacher well-being and celebrating mastery are integral to what we do as educators.”
Yager said there is “unequivocal evidence” that the quality of teaching is the most significant factor affecting student outcomes.
“Professor John Hattie claims the ‘greatest influence on student progression in learning is having highly expert, inspired and passionate teachers and school leaders working together to maximise the effect of their teaching on all students in their care’,” she said.
“Education leaders need to focus on approaches that support all teachers to work together collaboratively to flourish.”
Yager pointed out that while schools often operate in ‘silos’, they still implement programs and approaches that are innovative and which make “a real difference to the quality of teaching and student learning”.
“Knowing that the quality of teaching makes the greatest difference to student outcomes, how do we as leaders ensure that there is equity in every classroom?” she said.
“This is one of the biggest challenges for school leaders.”
Yager said schools need to implement programs and approaches that support teachers to collaboratively improve their practice.
“Hattie states that ‘the onus needs to be on everyone working collectively to improve student achievement’. Secondly, with the demands placed on teachers to make a difference, the other challenge is to ensure that we nurture the well-being of all teachers to avoid burnout,” she said.
“Bentley and Cazaly  assert that successful schools embed professional collaboration in their culture.”
Yager said a significant factor of collaboration is that the teachers are “drawing upon the power of collective wisdom”.
“They are focusing together on being strategic and targeted. The overarching message from our approach to improving the quality of teaching and learning is that we need to know our students’ and teachers’ stories,” Yager said.
“Teachers need to feel valued, respected and empowered to make a difference.”