Ronfeldt et al Teacher Collaboration and Student Achievement

Ronfeldt, M., Farmer, S. O., McQueen, K., & Grissom, J. (2015). Teacher collaboration in instructional teams and student achievement. American Educational Research Journal, 52(3), 475-514.


Summary: This large scale mixed methods study examined teachers’ and administrators’ perceptions of collaboration on student achievement in a large urban school district. The study found that teachers working in schools with better quality collaboration see positive effects on student achievement in math and reading. Teachers, regardless of their quality of collaboration, improve their practice at greater rates when they work in schools with better quality collaboration. The authors recognize that they cannot distinguish perception of quality from actual quality in this study.


  • Provide descriptive account of kinds and quality of collaboration of instructional teams in a large urban district
  • Test whether certain kinds of collaboration affect student achievement
  • Investigate mechanisms that might affect student achievement



Research Questions: (p. 481)

  • What kinds of instructional collaboration exist in this large urban district?
  • Do teachers perceive collaboration in certain instructional domains to be more extensive or helpful that others?
  • How much variation in collaboration quality exists within and between schools?



  • Extensive teacher survey and administrative data
  • 9000 teacher observations over two years
  • Student test score data



  • What kinds of instructional collaborations exist in this large urban district?

    • “Surveys revealed that the vast majority of teachers belonged to instructional teams and that they had favorable impressions about the quality of collaborations they experienced in these teams” (p. 493).
  • Do different kinds of schools have different kinds of instructional collaboration?

    • Yes. Teachers in elementary schools report better quality collaboration than secondary teachers with regard to collaboration about instructional strategies, curriculum, and students but not necessarily better collaboration on assessment.
  • Do different kinds of teachers report different kinds of instructional collaboration?

    • Yes. Females report better quality collaboration. Black teachers report the best quality of collaboration followed by Hispanic teachers. White teachers report the lowest quality collaboration.
    • Teachers who only have their bachelors’ degrees report the highest quality collaboration.
    • Teachers with less than 15 years teaching experience report higher quality collaboration.
  • Is the average quality of faculty collaboration associated with school achievement?

    • “…schools that have instructional teams engaged in better collaboration also have higher achievement gains in both math and reading” (p. 500).
  • Is a teacher’s own collaboration quality or the average collaboration quality of her colleagues associated with her students’ achievement?

    • “…teachers who worked in schools with better quality collaboration about students tended to be more effective at raising student achievement” (p. 502) regardless of their individual ability to collaborate.
    • “When teachers themselves engaged in better quality collaboration, they were no more or less effective than peers who engaged in worse quality collaboration; however, when individuals taught in schools with better collaboration among colleagues, they were more effective than teachers who worked in schools with worse quality collaboration in this area, even after accounting for a teacher’s individual collaboration level” (p. 503).
    • “Schools with a culture of collaboration about particular students have better mechanisms for triaging student issues and distributing teaching responsibility across the community in ways that help students to achieve” (p. 503).
    • “Additionally, these results indicate that, even when working in schools with better or worse quality collaboration, the benefits of being a more collaborative individual persist” (p. 504).
  • Do teachers improve at greater rates in schools with better collaboration?

    • Teachers who work in schools with better collaboration improve faster.


Discussion and Implications:

  • “Results suggest that collaboration in instructional teams is associated with gains on both fronts. Schools and teachers that have better quality collaboration across instructional domains (i.e., ‘general’ collaboration factor) also have higher achievement gains, and usually at statistically significant and meaningful levels” (p. 506).
  • “Collaboration about assessment was most often significantly predictive of achievement gains across math and reading. In reading, collaboration about instructional strategies and curriculum also predicted achievement gains” (p. 506).
  • “Returns to a single year of teaching experience were significantly greater for a teacher working in a school with better collaboration as compared to the same teacher working in a school with worse collaboration” (p. 508).
  • Increasing the quality of the collaboration of instructional teams can have a positive effect on teachers’ practices, school improvement, and student achievement.
  • Individual teachers have better achievement gains when they engage in better quality collaboration (p. 509).
  • Quality collaboration is good for teachers and students.
  • “Student achievement gains are greater in schools with stronger collaborative environments and in classrooms of teachers who are stronger collaborators” (p. 512).