Do you think you spend too much time planning lessons?
Does lesson planning keep you from more productive work?
Does it seem a little counterintuitive to create lesson plans from scratch when there is a whole department of like-minded people who could be working together?
You are not alone.
Traditional lesson planning can be time-consuming, draining, and solitary, which is why so many in the profession have turned to collaborative lesson planning. And technology has made it easier for teachers to collaborate.
That collaboration, Sharon Lurye at The Hechinger Report writes, can help make teaching less stressful, create high-quality lessons, and put more focus on helping kids learn.
Why teacher collaboration is so powerful
Two heads are better than one. That may seem overly simple, but it perfectly encapsulates why teacher collaboration works.
Anne Guarnera, a former teacher and current homeschooling mom, speaks from experience when she explains some of the benefits of collaborative lesson planning. By collaborating with other teachers, she says, you can organize your course creatively, gain access to resources to help you handle course content, and ensure your assessments are aligned with class lessons.
As the appeal of collaboration spreads, some school districts are testing the effectiveness of teachers working together. Their experiments have shed some definitive light on the practical benefits of that collaboration.
For example, the former superintendent of the Shaler Area School District in Pennsylvania ran a study in the district’s schools on the impact of teacher collaboration. At the end of the study, the school district was able to draw some notable conclusions:
- All participating teachers said their teaching improved because collaboration gave them support to try new ideas or tweak old ones.
- Teachers had access to more resources.
- Teachers felt they were on the same page in terms of lesson planning and delivery.
- Teachers developed a greater sense of accountability.
Perhaps the greatest benefit is a cumulative one: When teachers are happier and developing professionally, students reap the benefits. Collaboration plays a key role in teachers’ professional development, but they don’t always have the opportunity to work together.
Carrie Leana, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, writes that this is a missing link in school reform. In a study, Leana found that “students showed higher gains in math achievement when their teachers reported frequent conversations with their peers that centered on math.” These personal testimonies and studies are all a testament to the power of teacher collaboration.
The problem, however, is that it isn’t always easy to facilitate cooperative lesson planning, despite the benefits of doing so.
Tips for creating a culture of collaboration
Teachers are often pulled in many different directions throughout the day, limiting the time they have to form collaborative relationships with their peers.
With some perseverance, however, it can be done. Here are some suggestions for creating a culture of collaboration within your department and school:
- Make time to collaborate. This is the most difficult aspect of cooperative lesson planning because teachers don’t have much extra time in their day. Former teacher Lily Jones advocates for creating shared planning time right before school starts or after school ends. Whenever the time can be found, capitalize on it.
- Foster trust with colleagues. Building relationships and trust is important for collaboration. Take the time to visit each other’s classrooms and build rapport with departmental teachers. Be open and honest in your communications with other teachers to establish that trust, writes Rebecca Rufo-Tepper, co-executive director at Institute of Play.
- Establish protocols and delegate roles. In an article for Schoology Exchange, EdTech editor Lauren Davis states that collaboration can be stressful, which is why it is important to delegate protocols and responsibilities. Make sure the work is shared so everyone is accountable to the collaborative process.
The idea is to prioritize and facilitate collaborative lesson planning. Furthermore, don’t hesitate to rely on technology to help you create that culture of collaboration.
How technology facilitates collaborative lesson planning
Technology is perhaps your biggest asset for collaboration.
In years past, teachers would have to physically sit with other teachers to coordinate lesson plans. The laborious work of editing finished lesson plans was enough to discourage them from sharing ideas.
But when using digital tools to create lesson plans, teachers can more easily bounce ideas off each other and collaborate on final lesson plans. They are no longer at the mercy of other teachers’ schedules.
These online tools are especially useful for interdepartmental collaboration. A few of the most common digital lesson planning tools include
These resources make it easy for teachers to collaborate when creating lesson plans, which can ultimately lead to better teacher performance and higher student achievement.
While these tools may not solve all of the headaches associated with lesson planning, they do help relieve some of the pressure by allowing teachers to work together.
Technology has opened the door for teachers to learn from each other and share the workload that comes with lesson planning, allowing everyone more time to do what they do best: teach.