Changes in Teaching are Possible When Teachers Work Together to Solve Instructional Problems, Research Shows

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Study establishes connection between teachers working together to study their teaching and specific changes in classroom practice

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Teachers are more likely to make deliberate changes in their teaching practices when they work collaboratively and systematically to solve instructional problems, according to a research study published by Dr. Brad Ermeling in the journal Teaching and Teacher Education.

"International research shows us that teaching is a cultural activity, and the routines we learn as teachers are very difficult to change," said Dr. Ermeling. "This study is noteworthy because it's one of the first to trace a connection between teachers working together to study their teaching and specific changes in classroom practice."

The research focused on a group of science teachers at a high school in southern California. Findings from the project informed the secondary school design of Pearson Learning Teams, an evidence-based, collaborative model that brings together teachers to learn from each other, refine their skills to improve student performance and self-assess their progress. Dr. Ermeling is now senior director for Pearson Learning Teams.

The study, "Tracing the effects of teacher inquiry on classroom practice," is published in the April edition of Teaching and Teacher Education and is available at

Although they are widely practiced in professional development, there has been little evidence until now that the teacher collaboration models of learning teams, action research, Japanese lesson study and other inquiry-based models, though common, actually lead to changes in instruction. Dr. Ermeling's study is one of the first to establish this connection through a systematic analysis, identifying a particular instructional innovation that emerged from the team's research and planning and tracing its faithful implementation into the classroom.

The teachers in the study made some small but rather dramatic changes in their approach to teaching science by planning and implementing lessons, observing each other on videotape, looking at student work and then revising their approach to improve student results.

"Like many collaborative groups, these teachers identified a critical area of need and agreed to work on instructional solutions. But what proved to be essential about the inquiry process was the opportunity to persist with the problem until they noticed some results in student work and could attribute these results to particular instructional choices," said Dr. Ermeling.

Teachers in schools using Pearson Learning Teams meet regularly to analyze assessment results and identify critical student learning needs. Then, as a team, they develop possible solutions which the teachers try out in their individual classrooms. If an approach works, they document the findings and move on to a new area of student need. If the approach doesn't work, the teachers continue the cycles of planning and analysis until they see sufficient results from student data.

Dr. Ermeling is also the co-author, with Drs. Ronald Gallimore, William M. Saunders and Claude Goldenberg, of an article published in The Elementary School Journal that describes gains in student achievement from a longitudinal comparison study in Title I schools. The ESJ article also outlines several key elements that are necessary for establishing productive teacher learning teams. These elements include: trained peer facilitators; perseverance until progress on key student performance indicators; stable settings dedicated to improving instruction and learning; published protocols that guide (but don't prescribe) the teacher team's improvement efforts; and job-alike teams of teachers who teach the same grade level, course or subject. The study is available at

Pearson is the only education company that offers districts a scientifically-based teacher collaboration program based on decades of research. Almost 4,000 teachers at 175 schools across the United States--half of which are secondary schools--are using Pearson Learning Teams to improve instruction and student achievement.

About Pearson
Pearson has global-reach and market leading businesses in education, business information, and consumer publishing (NYSE: PSO).

Media Contact: Susan Aspey, Susan.aspey(at)pearson(dot)com or (800) 745-8489

About Pearson's Teacher Education & Development Group
Pearson Learning Teams, part of Pearson's Teacher Education and Development Group, is the only business in the education industry that is completely dedicated to supporting the education and professional development of teachers from preparation through practice, with content and services that represent the research and knowledge of America's leading education researchers. Respected imprints and programs, including Allyn & Bacon, Merrill and MyEducationLab, provide today's students who will be tomorrow's teachers with powerful insights and applications into how real-world classrooms work. Six out of 10 teachers in the United States used Pearson content and services in their teacher preparation programs, including customized solutions for alternative certification along with graduate degree program offerings. Practicing teachers also benefit from evidence-based professional development programs in mathematics, literacy, RTI and for English learners that help improve the academic achievement of diverse student populations, including the A+RISE Standards2Strategy database of online support. In addition to the research-based Learning Teams, Pearson's SIOP® Model offers a specific, proven pedagogical approach to teaching both content knowledge and language skills, and has helped instruct millions of students in the United States. Pearson's other research-based offering for educators and school improvement includes the Assessment Training Institute (ATI), founded by Rick Stiggins, to coach educators on assessment for learning skills and practices. For more information, visit or


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