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Title page for ETD etd-08122019-192207

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Patrick, Susan Kemper
Author's Email Address susan.k.patrick@gmail.com
URN etd-08122019-192207
Title Working Together: Organizational Conditions, Teacher Teams, and Learning Opportunities Created Through Teacher Collaboration
Degree PhD
Department Leadership and Policy Studies
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Ellen Goldring Committee Chair
Jason Grissom Committee Member
Joanne Golann Committee Member
John Papay Committee Member
  • teacher collaboration
  • education leadership
  • schools as organizations
Date of Defense 2019-07-16
Availability unrestricted
Practitioners and policymakers agree that teachers and students can benefit when teachers spend more time working together. However, the nature and productivity of collaboration actually done in schools seems to vary widely. There is still much to be learned about for whom, how, and under what circumstances collaboration can support teacher learning and school improvement. My dissertation addresses this broad question by examining variation in how Tennessee teachers report engaging in collaboration and by considering how this engagement may differ depending on the characteristics of teachers, the composition of teacher teams, and the organizational conditions of schools.

My first paper explores collaboration within the context of the Instructional Partnership Initiative (IPI), a specific collaborative initiative in Tennessee. Using interviews with 48 teachers participating in IPI, this qualitative analysis draws on goal-setting theory to explore how the specificity of the goals embedded in collaborative work and teachers’ commitment to those goals may shape the extent to which this type of collaboration can create opportunities for learning. The second paper uses statewide survey data from the 2018 Tennessee Educator Survey to examine variation in the teacher-reported frequency and helpfulness of collaborative learning opportunities. I highlight how “professionally isolated” teachers—those teachers who are the only ones in their school who teach their specific courses—engage much less frequently in collaborative learning opportunities, and I find that teachers’ ratings of the helpfulness of their collaboration are higher in schools in which their peers report stronger professional climate and leadership and more teacher autonomy over collaborative activities. Finally, my third paper investigates collaboration within the context of grade-level and subject-area teams and examines associations between the frequency of collaboration, the composition of teachers’ grade-level and subject-area teams, and teachers’ performance outcomes. This analysis, which leverages differences in reported collaboration across teacher teams in the same school, finds suggestive evidence that the frequency of grade-level team collaboration is associated with growth in teacher observation scores and that this association varies by the prior performance of the peers on a teachers’ grade-level team.

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