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Monday, March 27, 2017

Location Can Determine How Successfully Teachers Work Together, Study Finds | Education Week Teacher

"A study by Northwestern University finds that teachers' physical proximity to one another plays an important role in the way they interact and, ultimately, in how successful they are at collaborating." says Teaching Now Blog contributor.

Teaching Now

A teacher's work is often done in the seclusion of the classroom. But new research finds that teachers' physical proximity to one another plays an important role in the way they interact and, ultimately, how successful they are at collaborating.

Source: Image by Flickr user dcJohn, licensed under Creative Commons

A study from Northwestern University's school of education and social policy, published this month in Sociology of Education, measured how distance in the school building—teachers' proximity to each other's classrooms as well as to other areas where teachers spend their time, such as restrooms and the lunchroom—affects the way teachers connect with one another to talk about academics, problems, and support. 

Researchers examined school staff interactions about instruction as well as floor plans in 14 elementary schools, and conducted surveys and interviews with more than 1,000 elementary school teachers and administrators over the course of four years.

They found that the closer teachers are physically, the less time and effort they need to put into working together. This is especially true for teachers in the same grade level. While planned staff meetings are helpful, there are more benefits to the day-to-day interactions that result from working close by; impromptu conversations increase and teachers can more immediately collaborate on ideas or share issues while they are still fresh.

Even small distances can make a difference. One 5th grade teacher reported collaborating most often with a colleague who was next door, rather than going to talk with other teachers across the hall, because it was easier. 

And a 6th grade teacher said that grade-level planning meetings with all teachers were helpful for thinking about lessons, but more informal exchanges with nearby teachers were better for discussing day-to-day teaching issues. If a lesson "didn't happen in math the way I wanted it to," she would go into another teacher's room and say, "Oh my God, you'll never guess what happened in math today.''

These interactions can have a positive effect on student performance and other school outcomes, by giving those at the front of the classroom greater access to resources, information, materials, and encouragement.

Source: Education Week