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Five Teacher Engagement Strategies to Foster a Collaborative Culture

Increased teacher engagement promotes positive outcomes for all. Use these strategies to promote collective teacher efficacy and a collaborative culture.

Today’s educators balance a multitude of expectations from students, administrators, and their communities. Between ensuring positive student outcomes, managing varying levels of parental engagement, and navigating the impacts of employee and budget shortages, the pressure on these educators can be intense. With 55% of teachers citing an unexpected early end to their careers, now more than ever, districts must prioritize educator engagement and promote collective efficacy and collaboration.

When districts help teachers feel connected and involved, teachers are not the only ones who benefit. In fact, elevated teacher engagement leads to positive outcomes for students, communities, and even other teachers’ longevity. While the benefits are clear, many administrators aren’t sure how to best engage, enrich, and retain educators. Here are five ways to begin amplifying educator engagement efforts in your district.

Embrace Transparent Communication Practices

Effective communication between administrators and teachers is key to improving school and district outcomes. To include teachers in vital conversations as valued voices, districts should be transparent, proactive, and timely in their communications. While several communication platforms exist that can connect all key school community members, identifying how and when to use those channels can be a challenge.

First, administrators should identify the types of information that should be shared with all teachers. To achieve this, develop a communications plan instead of sending out communications on a one-off basis. A communications plan should identify which channels to use for different audiences, determine the most relevant information to share with employees, and experiment with multimedia strategies to see if teachers respond better to certain messages in video or audio form. Surveying employees is an excellent way to learn more about teacher and staff communication preferences. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, the language used in the messaging should be direct and concise to honor teachers’ busy schedules.

Next, identify the channels that should be used to communicate each type of message, including:

  • Website: Post all non-sensitive communications, including public relations content, while prominently listing any urgent alerts on the homepage. You may also consider creating a school blog to highlight achievements, profile teachers, and showcase school culture.
  • Mobile Apps/Text Alerts: Use mobile platforms to push notifications for emergency alerts, special announcements, important reminders, and event promotions.
  • Email: Email is a great tool to communicate all types of messages, though public relations pieces should be kept to the website and social media to avoid overwhelming audiences with too many messages in their inbox. At the school level, day-to-day communication should clearly address teacher expectations, project timelines, and dedicated resources that impact teacher-related initiatives.
  • Social Media: Share all types of messages, from urgent alerts to school campaigns, on social media. Avoid sharing forms, reserving important documentation for the website or email.
Looking for more ways to help prevent educator burnout? Learn more with our K-12 Staff Well-Being Check-in Toolkit

Strengthen Educator Engagement with Two-Way Communication Strategies

The ability for teachers to be heard and share ideas is vital to maintaining teacher engagement. To maintain a collaborative work culture and bolster teachers’ sense of agency, leaders must provide a framework for two-way communication.

In face-to-face conversations, show educators that you respect their time by meeting in their classroom and having an open conversation free from distractions. Come into the meeting with a formal or informal agenda to keep the meeting direct and on track. In addition, administrators may offer weekly or frequent open-door office hours for teachers to stop by to ask questions and give feedback.

Climate and well-being surveys can also help shed light on teacher agency and voice. Creating options for anonymity may also encourage teachers to bring concerns into the light even if they reveal uncomfortable or challenging truths. District leaders should always follow-up on surveys after they are administered, sharing the results and any subsequent actions or plans with all employees.

Promote Teacher Engagement Through Community Inclusivity

Schools are integral to their communities, meaning educators, parents, and community members are all partners in promoting school success. By prioritizing community engagement in districts and schools, teachers have opportunities to build meaningful professional connections by working directly with families and community leaders on school initiatives.

Establish a framework to implement a commitment to community. Use the following insights to help guide this planning process:

  • Connect messages for the community to the district mission statement and shared values to encourage a sense of partnership.
  • Provide informative resources to encourage community members and organizations to engage in educational partnerships.
  • Establish an advisory group composed of administrators, teachers, and community members to promote district goals.
  • Accept and respond to feedback through public forums, surveys, and focus groups.
Learn more about how to give your teachers the tools they need to create a welcoming K-12 school environment.

Support Teacher Professional Growth and Collaboration

A collaborative, professional culture that models a growth mindset over assigning shortcomings is vital to teacher engagement. Positive professional cultures aid educators in committing to their own growth and development. Moreover, a focus on collaboration promotes shared ideas and information, leading to a stronger school community of more effective and engaged teachers.

A strong professional learning culture expands beyond one-off staff seminars to provide a space for educators to learn and share information on current education ideas, issues, and best practices. Consider the following when creating a robust and accessible plan for boosting your educators’ professional growth:

  • Provide actionable tools and implementation support to help teachers and staff move from theory to hands-on practice.
  • Routinely ask educators to reflect on and assess their learning as they begin to explore new methods and implement changes in their work. Long-term professional growth requires ongoing reflection.
  • Structure intentional learning into staff schedules. Educators are more likely to participate when schools and districts offer the proper support and time to complete it within their workday.
  • Foster a climate in which continual learning is supported, recognized, and celebrated — prioritizing teacher agency and two-way feedback.
Promote teacher agency in your district by offering accessible and convenient professional development opportunities. Learn more about Hanover’s K-12 Educator Learning Center.

Foster Collective Efficacy by Repairing Teacher Confidence

Educator self-efficacy is the belief that they can make a difference in their work. A collective sense of teacher efficacy is evident when educators work together to assume joint responsibility for students’ well-being and academic achievement. When this happens, everyone in the district reaps the benefits. Leaders see increases in teacher retention rates, students and families enjoy more meaningful relationships with teachers, and expenditures associated with staffing turnover and onboarding decline.

Fostering collective efficacy begins with promoting teachers’ individual sense of efficacy and confidence through sustainable and accessible engagement initiatives. When teachers feel competent in their professional abilities and have the freedom to exercise their competence, their overall job satisfaction improves. Conversely, self-doubt and feelings of loss of control or agency significantly impact levels of teachers’ job satisfaction. Engagement strategies aimed at mitigating these negative factors prime teachers to not only show up for themselves and their students but also for each other. Consider the following approaches when aiming to increase collective educator efficacy:

  • Celebrate teacher achievements openly and proudly, providing resources for them to advance their achievements in the form of monetary rewards, extra work-life balance opportunities, career pathway development, and positive upward feedback.
  • Routinely ask for teacher perspectives or feedback on school or district decisions. Doing so signals that you value their voices and perspectives and are prepared to honor their feedback with actions.
  • Consider allocating resources for opportunities for teachers to represent their school at external conferences or speaking opportunities.

See our infographic, Solving K-12 Professional Learning Challenges in 2023, for more ideas about how to nurture teachers’ professional growth.

 

Elevated teacher engagement promotes positive outcomes for all! Learn more with our blog.

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