Why have teams? Teams share the load. Many hands make for lighter work. But beyond that, there is a psychological power to teams. Teams allow individuals to find an identity in teams that is greater than himself or herself as an individual. Teams become an entity unto themselves. The entity creates the ability to talk about a team as a collective, as though it were a living organism itself.
Having teachers grouped in teams allows the conversation to focus on the performance of the entire 2nd grade, for instance. The conversation can speak about the whole team and needs without singling any one person out. Very often the desired collective success and positive peer pressure alone can bring tremendous success to teams. Teams require work and maintenance but the benefits can be astronomical.
Explore your thinking and ideas around teams with the following 5 prompts. How do you and your organization measure up?
PROMPT 1 = The leader sets clear, measurable goals.
It starts with knowing where we’re going. It is critical that staff know the destination in mind. The most important thing besides having goals is to be sure they are clear and measurable. Schmoker (1996) reminds us that having clear, measurable goals is the number one thing that is the difference maker between the successful, mediocre or failing school.
PROMPT 2 = In our organization, teams function with goals and these goals are measured against common, agreed upon terms.
Leaders must set the target. Teams must understand the target. Once the process has been accomplished as a school team to have common goals and a clear understanding of where things are headed, then teams can get to work. What we are in search of is a setting where teams function with goals and these goals are measured against common, agreed upon terms (Schmoker, 1996). Leaders must be involved and monitoring each team.
PROMPT 3 = In our organization, teachers understand and use common assessments because the team will not be able to look at common data and student work otherwise.
Teams quickly realize as they take on their work to reach common goals that there must be a measurement device that they share. Without common assessments the team will not be able to look at common data and student work that comes back after the administration of the assessment (Schmoker, 1996). Leaders must be prepared for this and work with teams early in the process to discover how they will measure results.
PROMPT 4 = Our organization understands that instruction/assessment alignment allows for teacher teams to see, enjoy, and celebrate short-term results.
When lessons and instruction are focused and streamlined and a matching assessment tool is designed in advance of the teaching from the instructional goals teachers can really see where students found success or where they struggled. Having this instruction/assessment alignment allows for teacher teams to see, enjoy and celebrate short-term results (Schmoker, 1996). When assessments don’t match the instruction or the instruction strayed from the intended goals then when students take the assessment they are confused. The results will show this.
PROMPT 5 = I/we understand that organizations that see significant achievement gains have teams of teachers organized into collaborative groups.
It is not enough to simply turn teachers loose on the appointed day of a meeting and expect that they will function as a team. There must be time and effort to organize each team and clarify their purpose and task. This effort is not a fool’s errand or wasted time. Odden (2012) makes it very clear that organizations that see significant achievement gains have teams of teachers organized into these collaborative groups. The power of sharing ideas, strategies and problem solving is unmatched when it comes to the difference between teams working together and teachers left alone in isolation.
In my next posts we will explore prompts to support both Building and Maintaining Teams. This takes our learning beyond “why” teams are important into the space of “how” and “support” for teams in schools.
Odden, A. R. (2012). Improving student learning when budgets get tight. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Schmoker, M. (1996). Results: The key to continuous school improvement. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.