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Volume 23, Number 2
March/April 2007

More Than “Making Nice”

Getting teachers to (truly) collaborate


Adlai Stevenson High School AP Physics teachers (left to right, Bryan Wills, Sheila Edstrom and Chad Hager)

There was no yellow Post-It note, no collegial suggestion like, “Hey, I’ve tried these ...” Newly hired French teacher Amy Moran merely found a stack of worksheets tossed on her desk by a colleague soon after she arrived at Westford Academy, a public high school in Westford, Mass.

With 10 years of teaching already under her belt, Moran had seen students benefit when teachers shared observations about strategies, lessons, and test results. The pile of worksheets made tangible what Moran already knew: She and her new colleague weren’t working together. The two teachers gave students different tests and assessed the results separately. Who knew if their students were learning the same things? “To dump papers on a person’s desk doesn’t mean anything; it’s not helpful,” Moran recalls of the incident that occurred seven years ago.

It’s hardly rare to find teachers who don’t click. But such behavior—once considered an unfortunate personality conflict—is increasingly seen as a barrier to school success. Spurred by shifting teacher demographics and the drive for standards-based instruction, schools across the country are pressing teachers to take active roles in changing practice and to work together more effectively.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


For Further Information

For Further Information

R. DuFour, R. DuFour, R. Eaker, and T. Many. Learning by Doing: A Handbook for Professional Learning Communities at Work. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree, 2006.

S. Kardos. Supporting and Sustaining New Teachers in School: The Importance of Professional Culture and Mentoring. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University dissertation, 2004.

W.D. Stevens, with J. Kahne. “Professional Communities and Instructional Improvement Practices: A Study of Small High Schools in Chicago.” Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago, 2006. Available online at