Teaching teachers

Poster created by teachers at the author’s school during a collaborative meeting

Teaching teachers is one of the hardest jobs in my profession, due to the sole reason that teachers have been hardwired to teach and not learn. With the paradigm shift in education, teachers have to be lifelong learners rather than lifelong teachers. This is possible through peer collaboration; teachers may initially resist collaboration but will have the epiphany that collaboration creates an amazing work culture and school environment. My leadership approach is to share best practices within the team instead of just holding them to yourself. In international schools, it is a challenge to work with a diverse group of people, but as a teacher, we must remember that our main goal is to get the students to learn and at the same time learn ourselves. Hence, teachers have to overcome differences to support students by creating a culture of collaboration. Teacher collaboration needs to be intentional. Sharing is the key, collaboration can create lifelong learners. 

The best way to teach teachers is to do it their way. Here is an interesting strategy I recently used, a unit plan to teach teachers. As the IB Middle Years Programme (MYP) Coordinator, I organised a whole team collaboration meeting to discuss the new interdisciplinary unit (IDU) guide. It was run like a lesson plan:


Objective: To understand the new IDU criteria for creating meaningful IDU units​ for MYP students.

Set up: All teachers from different disciplines are seated in groups of 4 (total 52 teachers). On each desk, they have the new IDU guide, the IDU flowchart, the old and new criteria, markers, pens and a big manila paper.

Prior Knowledge: Teachers are asked to discuss the IDU units they completed last year and in groups write down the challenges and strengths of the units and then take turns to share with other groups (Think-Pair-Share).

Starter Activity: The first activity is a deep dive into the changes in the IDU criteria and process. The task is to compare and contrast the old IDU criteria and the new ones to create a poster clearly identifying similarities and differences. Teachers will create a visible thinking wall with their posters. (Skills: Creativity, Collaboration, Communication). Here are a few examples of teacher-created posters, an example of the creativity that teachers bring into mundane everyday affairs.

Poster created by teachers at the author’s school during a collaborative meeting

Plenary: All teachers will take a tour of the visible thinking wall and summarise their learning of the new IDU criteria.

IDU Process in each Discipline: The next activity is to sit in subject groups to use the IDU process flowchart and identify the stages that each department has completed and aligns with (Skills: Transfer, Reflective and Critical thinking). Once each subject group has finished discussing they will use markers to highlight sections of the flowchart that they completely align with and share with other disciplines.

Plenary: After discussion, create agenda for department meetings next week. Review/create unit plans for IDUs to align with the new criteria.

Summary: Each department shares its takeaway points as a reflection. Teachers shared that this was a very successful session as it helped the experienced teachers to understand the changes and the new teachers to learn about the IDU requirements, planning process, assessments, and delivery of an IDU unit. Overall, the big takeaway was teachers collaborating and sharing best practices to discover relationships and interconnectedness between subjects.

My Takeaway

Teacher collaboration is crucial to restructuring the way teachers need to teach. But teacher collaboration faces a lot of pushback in schools. There are many ways recommended to promote and encourage teacher collaboration, one of the ways is to think of creative ways to engage teachers like teaching teachers with their tools-a lesson plan.

Another good way of encouraging collaboration is to create interdisciplinary units with teachers within the department, for example, a unit with Geography and Economics or Biology and Chemistry. The success lies in discussing the instructional design that lays the foundation for collaboration and individual teachers may agree to disagree on certain elements of their practice. ”Collaborative teams must approach these conversations non-judgmentally, striving to remain open to the ways that other teachers think about their work” ( Tran, 2015). This is also the process of lifelong learning. The idea is to break out of silos and come together for the common good of the student as teacher collaboration is a crucial factor in a student’s progress and development.

 Tran. (2015). If you want better collaboration around STEM, build infrastructure. 

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