Fostering a Collaborative Learning Culture

Teacher leader intentionally fosters a collaborative learning culture among teachers to improve instruction.
Made by Jacobs Institute for Innovation in Learning at USD
Earn Graduate Credit
Graduate-level credit is available for this micro-credential. You can apply for credit through one of our university partners after successfully completing the micro-credential.
Learn More About Graduate Credit

About this Micro-credential

Key Method

Teacher leader fosters a collaborative learning culture by building interpersonal relationships with teachers and designing opportunities and sustainable structures for teachers to effectively collaborate to improve student learning.

Method Components

Components of fostering a collaborative learning culture for teachers:

  1. Establish collaborative learning cultures by building interpersonal relationships.
    • Nurture relationships. Coaching is all about growing relationships.
      • Get to know teachers on a personal level. Talk informally with teachers about their interests and achievements both in and outside of school.
      • Greet teachers by name on and off campus.
      • Plan inclusion/team-building activities at the start of each session.
  2. Improve instruction through designing opportunities and sustainable structures.
    • Start with a shared vision. Guide group to develop a shared understanding of your role as the teacher leader, the school’s vision, and how your work fits into that vision.
    • Create opportunities for problem-solving together as a team (or various teams). Consistently and frequently seek input from teachers on authentic problems facing the school.
    • Provide a safe space for people to openly share. This can be accomplished by:
      • Establishing norms.
      • Sticking to protocols and time boundaries
      • Facilitating in a purposeful way.
      • Developing small groups (3-6 people).
      • Creating a feedback loop that offers teachers choice in their learning, values the input of participants, and informs your practice.
    • Build in time for reflection (lots of it!) as well as next steps.
    • Facilitate learning walks and make sure all participants are clear that the purpose is to improve the walker’s practice and not that of the teacher being observed. It is also helpful to have a protocol in place for the pre- and post-briefings. See the Resources section.
    • Provide equal access to information and resources for all teachers. This will stimulate rich discussion as they seek to improve instruction.
    • Ensure there is a system in place for teachers to hold each other accountable for their action items.

Research & Resources

Supporting Research

  • Goddard, Y., Goddard, R., & Tschannen-Moran, M. (2007). A Theoretical and Empirical Investigation of Teacher Collaboration for School Improvement and Student Achievement in Public Elementary Schools. The Teachers College Record, 109(4), 877-896.

The authors suggest that the results provide preliminary support for efforts to improve student achievement by providing teachers with opportunities to collaborate on issues related to curriculum, instruction, and professional development. The authors also discuss the need for more research on the effects of different types of collaborative practices using more representative samples.

  • Gajda, R., & Koliba, C. J. (2008). Evaluating and Improving the Quality of Teacher Collaboration: A Field-Tested Framework for Secondary School Leaders. NASSP Bulletin, 92(2), 133-153.

Teacher collaboration is an essential element of substantive school change which principals have responsibility for cultivating. As such, it is becoming increasingly important for school leaders to employ models of supervision that focus on the performance and improvement of collective teacher behavior. In this article, the authors present a field-tested, action-research leadership framework for evaluating the quality and improving the performance of teacher collaboration at the secondary school level.

One hundred twenty-one teachers from nine junior high schools in one town in Israel responded to the teacher efficacy questionnaire, as well as to a questionnaire assessing the extent to which teachers collaborated with one another. Results indicated that teachers who implemented cooperative learning most frequently also expressed a higher level of efficacy in promoting the learning of slow students than did other teachers. Teachers who reported a higher level of collaboration with colleagues also expressed a higher level of general teaching efficacy and of efficacy in enhancing students’ social relations than did teachers who reported a low level of collaboration with colleagues.

  • Talbert, J. (2010). Professional Learning Communities at the Crossroads: How Systems Hinder or Engender Change. In A. Hargreaves et al. (eds.), Second International Handbook of Educational Change, 555 Springer International Handbooks of Education 23, DOI 10.1007/978-90-481-2660-6_32.

Talbert lists key conditions that enable professional learning communities to flourish: they must establish norms of collaboration, focus on students and their academic performance, grant access to a wide range of learning resources for individuals and the group, and demonstrate mutual accountability for student growth and success. Talbert goes on to say that creating these conditions is the most persistent challenge facing systems trying to build PLCs, especially in systems lacking in material resources, and works through the particular challenges of achieving each condition.


Submission Requirements

Submission Guidelines & Evaluation Criteria

To earn this micro-credential, you must receive a passing evaluation for Parts 1 and 3 and a “Yes” for Part 2.

Part 1. Overview question

(300-word limit)

  • Please discuss the collaborative learning culture you fostered, including the details of what considerations were made to engage teachers in this culture.

Part 2. Work examples/artifacts

Please submit several artifacts that were created to foster a collaborative learning culture (such as links to writing, audio, images, video, or other products) including such items as:

  • Written or recorded reflections from teachers
  • Agendas of professional learning sessions
  • Video footage of a protocol being utilized
  • A communication log, including notes from meetings with teachers

Part 3. Reflection

(300-word limit)

Provide a reflection on your experience, using the following questions as guidance:

  • How is this collaborative culture of learning among adults impacting the school culture? What is the impact of purposeful and consistent adult learning on instruction?
  • Moving forward, how might your practice change as a result of what you have learned?

Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under:
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


Download to access the requirements and scoring guide for this micro-credential.
How to prepare for and earn this micro-credential - in a downloadable PDF document

Ready to get started?