All Together Now: The Impact of Team-Based Problem-Solving on Teacher Learning and Productivity
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
This study examines the effectiveness of a specific form of teacher collaboration in the form of inquiry teams, groups of teachers and administrators jointly engaged in action research projects with the aim of uncovering innovative instructional strategies and sharing effective approaches. It takes advantage of the phase-in of teams, eventually to all teachers in a large, urban school district in the northeastern United States from 2007-2010 to estimate the results of three natural experiments. The effects of teamwork on teacher value-added, teacher retention, and student test scores are small and sensitive to year, specification, and outcome, suggesting that overall effects are modest but likely positive. Further examination of heterogeneity suggests that small average effects mask considerable differences in team processes, and that under certain conditions, inquiry team work may be far more effective. A cost analysis reveals that, although it is costly to do inquiry work well, given the low-intensity of average treatment and the large number of students affected, inquiry work may still be cost-effective relative to policy alternatives. Overall, the policy recommendation is to temper unqualified enthusiasm about teacher collaboration, as without appropriate structures and supports it has little measurable effect on the outcomes examined here. Nonetheless, smaller-scale, higher intensity forms of collaboration that allow for more active leadership support and participation may be more promising, and more cost-effective than alternative forms of professional development, particularly for some sub-groups of teachers such as those in their first year of teaching.