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Study: Good Teaching is Not a One-Person Show

Teacher Training

Education reformers oversell the importance of highly skilled teachers and undervalue the benefits that come from teacher collaborations, according to a University of Pittsburgh specialist in organizations.

Writing in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Carrie Leana argues that enhancing “teacher human capital” shouldn’t be the sole or even primary focus of school reform. For students to show measurable and sustained improvement, schools also need to foster “social capital,” the patterns of interactions among teachers that serve to strengthen skills and competence, she says.

Leana bases her argument on research she conducted with University of Pittsburgh colleagues over the past decade in several large urban school districts. One study followed more than 1,000 fourth and fifth grade teachers at 130 New York City elementary schools.

“Most striking, students showed higher gains in math achievement when their teachers reported frequent conversations with their peers that centered on math, and when there was a feeling of trust or closeness among teachers,” Leana writes.

“Teaching is not an isolated activity. If it’s going to be done well, it has to be done collaboratively over time,” a New York teacher is quoted as saying.

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