The Benefits of Collegial Support
May 09, 2022
Research shows that the more collegial support teachers experience in the workplace, the more likely we are to have increased levels of job satisfaction, professional growth, and higher levels of school quality and student performance (Shah, M. 2012). I'm sure you would agree - the more support you receive from your colleagues, the more you tend to enjoy your workplace.
High levels of collegial support also lead to higher levels of collective teacher efficacy (the shared belief of teachers as to their ability to positively affect their students' outcomes), which is the number one effect size in accordance with Professor John Hattie's work on Visible Learning. For this reason alone, it's pretty important that collegial support is fostered to the fullest extent within every school.
Unfortunately, there are still many schools where it is 'every man for himself', and very little collegial support occurs. In some cases, teachers might even find themselves in a toxic work environment, where they are subject to bullying, verbal abuse or unrealistic demands. This really is so detrimental to teachers, and the culture of the school as a whole, and does not serve the students well.
There are some high-performing education systems that do a very good job of fostering collegial support, and have built it in as an integral and formal part of the system. These include Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong and British Columbia. For example, in Shanghai, every single teacher has a mentor, and beginner teachers have 2 mentors - one that is subject-specific and another that offers more general pedagogical support. They have time given to them throughout the week to observe their mentor's classes, and to be observed, and to attend research groups with other teachers to take part in professional learning.
In both Shanghai and Singapore, there is a select cohort of 'master teachers', who develop professional learning in their subject area. They mentor and train other experienced or 'senior' teachers who hold key roles in developing other teachers in others schools.
In Singapore, in order to move up the career ladder, increased weighting is placed on how much collegial support teachers offer and how they have helped to develop other teachers' skills. Mentoring is part of the job description and often comes with a lower teaching load.
Common to all of these high-performing systems, time is given for collaborative professional learning which is built into daily teaching, where teachers are able to support, and learn from, each other. In the example of British Columbia, it can be seen that allowing just 1-2 hours a week for collaborative professional learning can have a huge impact on collective teacher efficacy and school performance.
Australia could learn a lot from these systems, by giving teachers more time during the week to collaborate with their colleagues. The AITSL 'Highly Accomplished' standards recognise how important collegial support is: in order to gain this status, teachers need to provide evidence of how they have supported their colleagues in a number of ways, and how this support has positively impacted on their colleagues teaching practice. However, providing standards alone is not enough to foster higher levels of collegial support. Time and resources must also be provided to support this, and a culture of trust must be evident, which can only come from the leadership of the school.
If you would like more guidance in terms of how to foster higher levels of collegial support at your school, or if you are wanting to gain the 'Highly Accomplished' status, I go into more detail on this topic within our online professional learning community, Transformational Teachers
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