Tag Archives: collaboration

Modeling Collaboration

This is the sixth and final post in a series where I flesh out why the ideal traits of a PBL teacher are important. Check out the links to the rest of the series below the post.


Traditionally teaching has been an isolated occupation. Most teachers work independently and “shut their door and teach.” They are in charge of their students in their classrooms, focused on their content. With PBL, part of the shift for teachers is away from the idea that their primary job is content delivery, towards a holistic development of children including socio-emotional skills and success skills like collaboration

Community Connections

PBL requires more collaboration for teachers as well as students. Teachers must find authentic problems in their community. This often requires reaching out and networking with people, traditionally more of a business practice than an educational one. Making cold calls or going to social networking events may be new experiences for many educators, but great projects can be found by reaching out and working with your community.

A great example of this is Schoolcraft Community Schools. My friend, Matt McCullough has developed an approach where he asks local businesses for problems that their students can solve. Most business people attended traditional schools and are not very familiar with PBL and are unsure how to collaborate. Matt has developed a process in which he helps businesses find appropriate issues that students can partner on. This requires contacting and meeting with many organizations in the community and taking the time to assess their needs that students can help.

Integrated Projects

Many teachers start out doing PBL on their own, in one subject area. They soon discover that the PBL framework is a natural vehicle for cross-curricular, integrated projects. The authentic problems in the “real world” are rarely siloed into pure math, science, or social studies, but mix disciplines and content areas. So what I think of as the next level of PBL involves an integrated project with multiple teachers from various content areas. These project are often the most authentic and motivating for students.

Integrated projects can be logistically challenging and require a serious time commitment from teachers, a willingnesses to compromise, and dedication to work together. It takes flexibility of both teaching styles and curriculum scope and sequence to get content areas to “match.” Trust me though, it is so worth it. When I have worked on collaborative staffs we have had the best projects such as the Poverty Project or painting our school to leave a legacy for future generations.

Collaboration takes patience, time, and effort, but the payoff is worth it! When teachers connect to local experts in the community they are modeling that they are learners too by seeking advice. By working with colleagues to design epic, integrated projects, teachers are modeling for students what successful groups look like. Collaboration is a key success skill needed in our modern world and we should demonstrate it often for students if we expect them to learn the skill for themselves!

Links to the rest of the series on Ideal Traits of a PBL Teacher:

  1. Overview
  2. Student Centered
  3. Flexible
  4. Passionate
  5. Self efficacious
  6. Collaborative

Questions? PBL Consulting?  I can be found at my blog michaelkaechele.com or @mikekaechele onTwitter.

Team Teaching

Photo Credit: Omar Eduardo via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Omar Eduardo via Compfight cc

I feel like our school has done a few things right that really improve it. One thing we do that I feel is very powerful is team teaching. I teach with a partner in an integrated social studies/ELA class. I so value working with another teacher and I could list many advantages to it, but the one I want to focus on for this post is the huge advantage for new teachers. This year we hired four new teachers as we are a new school adding another class of 100 students each year. Three of them are first year teachers. Also last year one of our original teachers was a first year teacher.

So my partner and I team teach a group of 50 students. The science and math teachers work by themselves half of the time and team teach the other half. Team teaching allows the new teacher to get their feet wet in the classroom without having to be alone with organizing a classroom, preparing content, discipline, and a host of other things. It allows the new teacher to learn from a master teacher over time and plan together. Team teaching is like a paid internship for the new teacher as they are never by themselves. I also think it stretches and grows the mentor teacher too.

From an administration point of view it does not have to cost any extra money because it can be the same teacher to student ratio just with the larger classes. The one problem many schools might have is the space to have these large classrooms, but other than that I think it is a simple yet powerful apprentice model. I think this model of team teaching could be a huge positive change in schools. It would help with retention of young teachers, bring energy to established teachers, and help build skills and confidence in new teachers. I can say I absolutely would have improved greatly as a young teacher if I would of had this opportunity.