How Middle Grades Teachers Experience a Collaborative Culture: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis


Source: RMLE Online, 42:8, 1-16


Collaboration is a powerful tool for professional development that creates opportunities for teachers to reflect on their practice. However, school districts continue to have difficulty both implementing and sustaining collaboration. The purpose of this research was to investigate the experiences of the teachers in a creative, instructional collaboration.

The study was conducted at a private, Jewish day school in the northeastern United States. The participants included a purposive sample of five eighth-grade faculty who designed a curriculum on the Holocaust for their respective classes totaling 53 students. All but one of the teachers had been employed by the school for a minimum of five years, so the participants had a thorough understanding of the community and the school and had a commitment to their jobs. The group represented a range of experience and areas of expertise. All participants were between the ages of 45 and 60 years, and all had been teaching their subject areas for over 10 years, and all had previous experience teaching eighth grade. The researcher was a participant in the instructional collaborative. While this allowed her access and an insider’s perspective on the phenomenon under investigation, it also required her to adopt a reflexive stance in order to identify and address her biases throughout the study.

This study yielded several observations. The first was that teachers can experience successful, high-level collaboration in which they perceive a sense of satisfaction, mutuality, trust, and growth. For five middle grades teachers in a private, Jewish day school, their satisfactory experience with collaboration was teacher-initiated.

When participating teachers believed that they had power over their collaboration, they perceived the collaborative experience as productive to the extent that they were able to engage in collegial learning. The teachers in this study found that teacher-initiated collaboration offered them trust and they were more comfortable, transparent, and open with their partners. They were more willing to question their existing approaches and try new ones. The results also supported the claim that teacher collaboration can facilitate school reform. Participating teachers felt less isolation and developed more teacher knowledge

Updated: Nov. 07, 2019