Education Drivers


Distributed leadership and collaborative school cultures have a strong base of research support, and school teams represent these concepts “in action.” School teams today are ubiquitous; however, their effectiveness in enhancing school outcomes is not automatic and they must be intentionally and carefully designed, implemented, and supported. Collaborative school cultures are enabled when high trust levels and a culture of shared practice among staff are present, and leadership capacity building for teachers is provided. School leadership teams, which include the principal and teacher leaders, are tasked with addressing school improvement, and often analyze learning data and determine professional learning needed for staff. These teams need ample planning time and professional development (e.g., in methods of data analysis) to guide their work. Instructional teams, which may include grade-level or subject-area groups of teachers, often take the form of professional learning communities, which develop curriculum and instructional strategies, review student performance data, and adjust practice as necessary. Principals support these teams effectively when they establish a direction for their work, identify and/or develop teacher leaders to lead teams, and provide sufficient time for the collaborative work to take place. Multidisciplinary, or problem-solving teams, include specialists (e.g., special education teachers) and general educators working together to plan programming for students who need specialized supports to be successful. Research shows these teams can be effective when training and organizational supports are in place to foster collaboration. For successful implementation, all types of school teams will benefit from school leaders who can instill a collaborative school culture, and ensure that team members have the resources and support to work together effectively.

School Teams

School Teams PDF

Donley, J., Detrich, R., States, J., & Keyworth, (2020). Teams. Oakland, CA: The Wing Institute.

Studies demonstrate that school principals, who dominate much of the research literature on educational leadership, exert a strong, though mediated, influence on student learning and powerfully impact factors such as school climate and teacher working conditions (Hallinger & Heck, 2010; Hitt & Tucker, 2016; Leithwood, Harris, & Hopkins, 2020; Robinson, Lloyd, & Rowe, 2008; Sebastian & Allensworth, 2012). However, the heroic notion of the principal taking on all leadership tasks alone gave way as the leadership contributions of other school personnel were researched and acknowledged (Marks & Printy, 2003), and as bureaucratic, hierarchical leadership structures diminished due in part to the increasing complexity of 21st century education (Browne-Ferrigno & Björk, 2018).

            Distributed leadership models proposed that leadership is often “stretched” across leaders, followers, and situations, with the principal sharing the leadership load with teacher leaders and/or other staff (Spillane, Halverson, & Diamond, 2001, 2004). Research has generally supported this model, with many studies demonstrating that school leadership has a greater influence on schools and students when it is distributed widely (Leithwood et al., 2020; Louis, Leithwood, Wahlstrom, & Anderson, 2010). School teams, which include those focused on providing overall school leadership as well as those addressing classroom instruction and student learning explicitly, allow members to share leadership responsibilities and collaborate to promote school improvement. This review summarizes the evidence base for the efficacy of school teams and explores best practices for their implementation.

The Concept of Teams and Their Application in Schools

The idea of teams and teamwork as the most effective approach to accomplishing organizational tasks is often a given in modern society (Coutu, 2009). Teams have been defined in many ways but generally refer to a group of individuals who are “interdependent in their tasks, who share responsibility for outcomes, who see themselves and who are seen by others as an intact social entity embedded in one or more larger social systems, and who manage their relationships across organizational boundaries” (Cohen & Bailey, 1997, p. 241). In schools, teams are “defined by their inclusion of 2 or more professionals, staff members, or administrators who are assigned distinct and specific roles and interact dynamically, interdependently, and adaptively toward a common and valued goal or objective for a limited time-span of membership” (Benishek et al., 2016, p. 113). The common use of collaborative structures in schools is relatively new; for example, teachers adopted professional norms of autonomy and privacy until the 1970s and 1980s, and many continue to do so even though they may participate in teams (Hargreaves & Fullan, 2012; Hord, 2008; Huberman, 1993; Johnson, Reinhorn, & Simon, 2016).

            The broader concept of teams and teamwork in schools has become commonplace, and teams often perform multiple functions (Browne-Ferrigno & Björk, 2018; Rosenfeld, Newell, Zwolski, & Benishek, 2018). Collaborative structures today are used to foster teacher/staff interaction and work sharing, and can take the form of professional development teams, schoolwide teams to address school improvement, grade level teams, and student support teams (Benishek et al., 2016; Hord, 2008). An emerging line of inquiry involves the use of equity teams whose mission is to assess school climate; identify discrimination/bias among staff, instructional methods/materials, assessment, and discipline; and administer staff development to change attitudes and behaviors (Szpara, 2017).

School teams offer several advantages over top-down, hierarchical structures. For example, they can include a greater diversity of perspectives, which can potentially facilitate a stronger capacity to communicate and coordinate work, to detect and solve problems and conflict, and to develop a commitment to accomplishing shared school goals (Edmondson, 2012). School teams may include a “wide array of stakeholders, (e.g., superintendents, school board members, district support staff, community members, principals, teachers, parents, students) or a select few representing specific constituencies to address specific issues” (Browne-Ferrigno & Björk, 2018, p. 339).

Various school teams engaged in collective learning can support acquisition of new knowledge by members and thus improve performance; in fact, the large-scale improvements often needed in underperforming schools often demand collaborative structures (Hargreaves & Fullan, 2012). The number of specialists needed to staff challenging schools has grown substantially (e.g., counselors to address mental health problems, reading teachers specializing in English Language Learner instruction), making collaborative structures among specialists and general education teachers essential to serve diverse student needs (Pugach, Blanton, & Correa, 2011; Sosa & McGrath, 2013).

Research shows that team approaches often fail to work effectively (Coutu, 2009; Hackman, 2002). One of the initial applications of a team approach in education was the use of multidisciplinary teams (MDTs) to serve special needs students, mandated as a result of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (P.L. 94-142) in 1975 (Moore, Fifield, Spira, & Scarlato, 1989; Rosenfeld et al., 2018). While such teams would appear to offer a good degree of face validity for supporting special needs students and actually have demonstrated some benefits such as improved collaboration as well as decreased referrals and special education placements, many studies have questioned their quality and effectiveness (e.g., Moore et al., 1989; Powers, 2001; Yoshida 1983). For example, MDT implementation has posed a challenge in terms of enacting effective team processes and utilizing unbiased decision making for minority students (Klingner & Harry, 2006) and ensuring that all members are fully engaged with team processes to support students (Menlove, Hudson, & Suter, 2001). Indeed, few teachers or other school personnel are prepared to fulfill roles on these teams; most need training in skills such as effective interpersonal communication and group decision-making processes (Moore et al., 1989; Yoshida, 1983). In addition, school organizational structures and processes often inhibit effective MDT processes (Doll et al., 2005). For example, limited administrative support and extensive time demands that do not fit comfortably into existing roles and schedules have been reported in focus groups of MDT members (Doll et al., 2005).

While team-based work structures of all kinds and purposes are now ubiquitous in schools, researchers point to barriers such as excessive time and energy demands that limit opportunities for meaningful professional exchange and for finding ways to cope productively with disagreement and conflict (Little, 2007). Other fields attempting to move away from an overreliance on individual-focused work cultures toward more collaborative work structures face these same issues (Rosenfeld et al., 2018). Implementing effective collaborative structures in schools typically does not arise naturally but requires deliberate leadership to ensure that the conditions are in place to foster collaboration (Benoliel & Berkovich, 2017). As Rosenfeld et al. (2018) noted:

Too frequently it is assumed that school staff will automatically and organically come together to be an effective team (Troen & Boles, 2011). Although some school-based teams are highly successful, benefitting from particular team members who do have team training and/or do an exceptional job of motivating others, inspiring mutual support, and enhancing overall team functioning, not all school staff members find teamwork processes natural…For these reasons, evidence-based team training is critical for all educators. (p. 416)

            Hackman’s (2002) research on teams of all kinds led to the identification of basic conditions needed for the creation and sustainability of effective teams, including those in schools. Teams are advised to:

  • Be real and staff must know who is on the team
  • Include a compelling direction and purpose for the work
  • Have supportive structures and clear tasks and norms
  • Work within a supportive organization
  • Have access to expert coaching

            The remainder of this report briefly discusses distributed leadership as a theoretical foundation for school teams, and describes the research on the types of teams often used in schools and the degree to which they operate under the basic conditions needed for effective team functioning.

Distributed Leadership

School leadership research has largely supported the concept of distributed, or shared, leadership as important for optimal organizational performance and student outcomes. In distributed leadership, the principal and teachers collaborate to determine and carry out the best practices for the school, rather than the principal serving as the sole or primary authority on these matters (Gronn, 2003; Spillane et al., 2001, 2004). Also referred to as a form of collective leadership, distributed leadership may include “practitioners work[ing] collaboratively to develop expertise” (Harris, 2014b, p. 31). The empirical research suggests that careful design and wise execution of distributed leadership strategies, such as through the use of school leadership teams, when tailored to suit the school context, provide the best chance to improve organizational performance and outcomes (Camburn & Han, 2009; Hallinger & Heck, 2010; Heck & Hallinger, 2010). However, high levels of trust, transparency, and mutual respect, along with a culture of collaborative learning and shared practice, are necessary for distributed leadership to have a positive impact (Harris, 2014a; Massachusetts Department Elementary and Secondary Education, n.d.; Tian, Risku, & Collin, 2016).

            The leadership capacity of teachers must also be considered, as this capacity can be hampered or supported by factors such as degree of preparation and professional development for leadership work (Jensen, Roberts-Hull, Magee, & Ginnivan, 2016; Wei, Darling-Hammond, Andree, Richardson, & Orphanos, 2009), and even meaningful leadership work, when added to the workload of teachers who are already at capacity with their own instructional responsibilities, will likely not translate to more positive student outcomes (Eckert, 2019). As Harris and DeFlaminis (2016) noted, “distributed leadership is not a panacea, it depends on how it is shared, received and enacted” (p. 143).

Types of School Teams

School teams represent the concept of distributed leadership in action. Individuals working alone are often unable to address the complex problems and subject matter in schools, and teams are necessary to carry out this work effectively (Jimerson & Wayman, 2012). Additionally, professional development workshops alone are not likely to improve outcomes, and daily collaboration among staff is often necessary to implement significant change (Fullan, 2005). Some team formation in schools is a discretionary decision made by school staff, while other teams are formed because of regulation mandates (Benoliel & Bekovich, 2017). Teams take different forms in different schools and are used to serve diverse purposes such as (1) school leadership teams to shape and direct school policy and functioning; (2) instructional teams, which may be discipline based (e.g., math or English) to address goals of improving student performance in specific subject areas, or grade level based to plan and coordinate the work of different subject matter teachers at a particular grade level; and (3) multidisciplinary/problem-solving  teams to provide appropriate services for students with special learning needs (Benoliel & Bekovich, 2017). An overview of the literature that describes the composition and functioning of these teams and best practices for their implementation in schools follows.

Leadership Teams. A school leadership team consists of a group of individuals who work to establish and enact the school’s vision, goals, and strategies, and guide the organizational process for school improvement (Edwards & Gammell, 2016). They orchestrate and coordinate the efforts of administrators, teachers, and other staff; make school governance decisions; and coordinate school improvement initiatives. Research shows that when principals work with teachers in school-based leadership teams, the speed at which improvement efforts occur increases and reform is more likely to be sustained (Edwards & Gammell, 2016; Pedersen, Yager, & Yager, 2010). The potential of leadership teams to free up time for administrators to be more directly involved in day-to-day instruction and organizational management appears to be part of the reason that distributed management responsibilities improve student performance. Horng, Klasik, and Loeb (2010) reported in a correlational study that principals spent significantly less time on administrative tasks and more time on day-to-day instructional tasks in high-performing schools than their counterparts in low-performing schools, as rated by state accountability systems.

            To become effective instructional leaders—by visiting classrooms, contributing to curriculum development, and coaching teachers—principals must step away from more managerial responsibilities and delegate some leadership tasks to others (Hallinger & Murphy, 2013; Murphy, Elliot, Goldring, & Porter, 2007). These leadership tasks must be assigned based on patterns of expertise in the school and avoid excessive burdens to teacher leaders (Spillane, 2005). In addition, a principal does not have expertise in every area of his or her instructional responsibility, particularly when it comes to secondary content areas. The literature recommends that a principal share or distribute leadership to teachers with content area expertise in these areas and that he or she partner with the leadership team to oversee its work (Hallinger & Murphy, 2013). A leadership team is also tasked with both representing the beliefs and concerns of the entire staff, and with serving as a conduit of communication to relay information back to staff (Redding, 2007).

A leadership team should consist of staff who have diverse perspectives and skills, and represent all grade levels, departments, and specialty areas (Chenoweth & Everhart, 2002). It should have access to a broad range of school achievement, climate, and satisfaction data; however, professional development on how to analyze and apply data for school improvement will likely be essential (Wayman & Cho, 2008). A leadership team is expected to examine both aggregated and overall student performance data, in order to set yearly learning goals and make decisions on using resources for professional learning (Redding, 2007). Data should be disaggregated by student subgroups at various levels: at the overall school level to allow the leadership team to focus on areas that need schoolwide improvement, at the classroom level to focus on teacher strengths and need areas, and at the individual student level to address needs of individual students (Herman et al., 2008).

Frequent monitoring of student learning data may be necessary; for example, leadership team review of benchmark assessment data during the year can provide teachers with timely information on where students need the most assistance, and adjustments can be made to instruction and/or additional student supports provided (Love & Crowell, 2018). A leadership team can also work with the principal to conduct classroom observations and discern patterns of practice; this procedure aggregates data from several or all teachers without revealing teachers’ individual identities. The leadership team can then use the observation data to determine what professional learning is needed for individual teachers, for certain grade levels, or schoolwide (Redding, 2006).

To be effective, a leadership team requires ample time for critical conversations, observation, and collaboration. A successful team establishes group norms (e.g., logistics, timeliness, courtesy, decision-making process), and uses effective communication skills (e.g., paraphrasing, perception checking, summarizing, active/attentive listening), and structured problem-solving processes (e.g., issue identification/clarification, brainstorming potential successful practices to address the problem, summarizing/recording the plan to address the issue) (William & Mary School of Education Training and Technical Assistance Center, 2011).

            While few studies have examined the impact of school leadership teams on academic or other school-related outcomes, the Annenberg Foundation’s Distributed Leadership Project (DLP) captured data on the impact of distributed leadership/leadership teams in urban schools with highly diverse student populations and in need of substantial school improvement (DeFlaminis, 2013; Supovitz & Riggan, 2012). The DLP provided principal preparation to establish a distributed leadership mindset and assisted with the development of distributed leadership teams to build leadership capacity in struggling Philadelphia schools. Team building, a key project component, fostered the conditions needed for effective teams, such as sustained leadership coaching, schoolwide professional development for establishing professional learning communities, and extensive training focused on collaborative team learning at both the district and school building levels (Hackman, 2002; Harris, 2014a. Positive results in the form of multiple leadership team outcomes were obtained, including effective team functioning, collaborative decision making, trust and efficacy levels among team members and with their principal, perceptions of school influence, professional learning opportunities, and teacher satisfaction; however, the project was unable to detect improvements in student achievement (Abdul-Jabbar, 2013; Riggan, 2009; Supovitz & Riggan, 2012; Supovitz & Tognatta, 2013). This failure to impact school improvement may have been due in part to a lack of coherent curricula and instructional plans at the district level (Harris, 2014b. A doctoral dissertation study found that the model’s impact was sustainable provided that relational trust and respect were maintained in the school setting (Klink, 2019).

Instructional Teams. Redding (2006) noted that “Instructional teams are manageable groupings of teachers by grade level or subject area who meet to develop instructional strategies aligned to the standards-based curriculum and to monitor the progress of the students in the grade level or subject area for which the team is responsible” (p. 46). Teachers collaborate in teams to (1) develop and/or review instructional strategies and curriculum; (2) analyze assessment data; and (3) determine the instructional needs of individual students through an analysis of classroom work and discipline/classroom management practices (Ronfeldt, Farmer, McQueen, & Grissom, 2015). Research supports the use of instructional teams, and demonstrates that teachers’ instructional effectiveness often spills over to other colleagues through professional interactions, potentially changing the instructional practices of colleagues (Jackson & Bruegmann, 2009; Sun, Penuel, Frank, Gallagher, & Youngs, 2013). Indeed, teachers’ collaboration in instructional teams has been shown to improve student achievement (Gallimore, Ermeling, Saunders, & Goldberg, 2009; Goddard, Goddard, & Tschannen-Moran, 2007; Ronfeldt et al., 2015).

Instructional teams often operate as professional learning communities (PLCs), also referred to as professional learning networks and communities of practice (DuFour, 2011; DuFour & Mattos, 2013; Hirsh, 2018). While there is no universally agreed-upon definition of a PLC, Harris, Jones, and Huffman (2018) put it simply:

A PLC is where teachers inquire together and learn together in order to develop new practices that will improve learner outcomes…[and are not] a talking show or a therapy group; its prime aim is to engage professionals in disciplined collaborative enquiry in order to generate new approaches to learning and teaching that will have a positive impact on student outcomes. (p. 4)

PLCs are included in many school improvement initiatives. As research has convincingly demonstrated, when they are implemented effectively, they enhance skills, knowledge, pedagogy, and collective professional efficacy in ways that directly and positively impact student learning and achievement (Campbell, 2015; Jones & Harris, 2014; Lomos, Hofman, & Bosker, 2011; Louis et al., 2010; McLaughlin & Talbert, 1993; Vescio, Ross, & Adams, 2008; Voelkel & Chrispeels, 2017).

Teacher collaboration in instructional teams does not necessarily arise spontaneously, and “simply assigning teachers to work together during common planning time provides no assurance that practice will change, either in the classroom or across the school” (Johnson et al., 2016, p. 4). Principal leadership may be a key factor in laying a foundation for instructional teams’ effectiveness (Benoliel & Berkovich, 2016; Johnson et al., 2016). One study of teams in schools in high-poverty, high-minority communities with intense accountability pressures found that effectiveness was determined by principals’ involvement and their engagement in practices such as encouraging a clear and meaningful purpose for the team, attending and participating in team meetings, and encouraging teachers to focus on their own professional learning as they work with colleagues to improve performance (Charner-Laird et al., 2017). Johnson et al. (2016) described ways that principals can foster conditions for effective instructional teams in high-poverty, urban schools:

Teachers’ endorsement of teams depends on specific conditions that support teamwork, many of which appear to depend on the principal’s approach to leadership and management. These include providing regularly scheduled time for meetings, defining a worthwhile purpose for the teams’ work, granting teachers sufficient agency in their shared efforts, and ensuring that teachers can count on what Edmondson (2012) called a “psychologically safe” environment, where members can examine their practice openly and experiment with ways to improve it without risk. (p. 7)

Also important for team effectiveness is the role of trained teacher leaders as team facilitators (Johnson et al., 2016).

            DuFour and Mattos (2013) suggested that school leaders encourage staff to closely examine every existing instructional practice, program, and procedure to ensure that it serves the school’s purpose of high levels of student learning, and “organize staff into meaningful collaborative teams that take collective responsibility for student learning and work interdependently to achieve shared goals which members hold themselves mutually accountable” (p. 39). They offered recommendations focused on evaluating evidence of student learning and on refining curriculum/instruction:

  • Ask teams to create a high-quality, viable curriculum for each unit that specifies the essential learning for all students, agree on proper pacing, and develop and administer aligned formative assessments to monitor each student’s learning at the conclusion of each unit. Hirsh (2018) further suggested that PLCs develop preassessments to help determine how teachers should spend their time, and allow them to focus on key lessons/strategies and group/regroup students to leverage student and teacher strengths. Some teams will also elect to use daily formative assessments to gauge lesson impact and allow for immediate adjustments (Hirsh, 2018).
  • Use the evidence of student learning to identify:
  • Students who need extra time and support to develop proficiency
  • Students who need enrichment and extension of their learning because they’re already highly proficient
  • Teachers whose students perform at high levels so that team members can study those teachers’ instructional practices, as well as teachers who struggle so that team members can help them address the issue
  • Skills or concepts that none of the team was successful in helping students achieve at the intended level, so the team can expand its learning beyond its members to become more effective in teaching those skills or concepts. The team can consult members of other teams in the school with relevant expertise specialists from the district office, other content teachers in the district, or networks of teachers outside the district that they can interact with online.
  • Establish a coordinated intervention plan for struggling students that provides additional time and support for learning.

Without clear structures and organization, instructional teams are likely to fail (Hackman, 2002). Teams/PLCs must be given sufficient time to engage in their critical work, which can be challenging but is essential for their success (Hattie, 2012; Redding, 2007). Twice monthly 45-minute meetings provide a minimum standard for teachers to maintain communication and organize their work; longer periods are more desirable for teachers to thoroughly review a variety of student data and adjust lessons (Berry, Daughtrey, & Wieder, 2009). These meetings must have an explicit agenda and focus, with minutes that document the team’s work (Berry et al., 2009; Redding, 2006). Instructional teams that are created to enable vertical collaboration (across grade level) allow teachers to relay their knowledge about individual student needs to the next teacher and align instructional strategies across grade levels; these teams may be particularly effective in high-need schools (Berry et al., 2009).   

Multidisciplinary/Problem-Solving Teams. As noted previously, multidisciplinary teams (MDTs) that engage in decision making to identify and support special education students often struggle to use effective team processes (Rosenfeld et al., 2018). The need for effective collaboration between specialists and regular educators has only grown as students with academic and behavioral issues are increasingly included in regular education settings; however, this collaboration has often proven challenging (Pugach et al., 2011). Problem-solving teams (PSTs), developed as an alternative to MDTs, were designed to reduce inappropriate special education referrals and improve the performance of students in the general educational setting (Truscott, Cohen, Sams, Sanborn, & Frank, 2005). PSTs are interdisciplinary, frequently including administrators, general educators, and specialists such as psychologists, nurses, and special education teachers (Truscott et al, 2005). They are prevalent due in part to the rising use of multitiered system of support models (Nellis, 2012).

            While a review of the literature on PSTs is beyond the scope of this report (see Dowd-Eagle & Eagle, 2014, for a review), researchers generally concur that the limited research available suggests that implementation barriers, similar to those previously described for MDTs, often limit their effectiveness, Rosenfeld et al. (2018) found. They reviewed the literature on PST inputs (e.g., size, composition, degree of administrative/organization support), mediators (e.g., affective and cognitive states of team members), and outputs (e.g., data on team performance and its link to improvements in student performance). In their review, they concluded the following:

  • Team training based on team science, which is rooted in the positive benefits to team performance in other fields, is needed (Salas, Cooke, & Rosen, 2008). For example, Teach Teamwork was adapted for school team use from an evidence-based training program used to improve the performance of health care teams (Benishek et al., 2016).
  • Organizational supports are often needed to enable collaborative cultures and effective PSTs. School leaders can work to foster supportive conditions for these teams. For example, many teachers believe that they are not adequately prepared or equipped to meet the needs of students with disabilities, and this diminishes their capacity for serving on PSTs (Yell, Drasgow, Bradley, & Justesen, 2004). School leaders can “utilize professional development as a means to provide training for teachers, particularly in effective instructional and behavioral intervention strategies and collaboration skills that address the diverse learning needs of students with disabilities” (Black & Simon, 2014, p. 161).

Summary and Conclusions

School teams are examples of distributed leadership in action, as groups of colleagues work together, exerting leadership in various ways to strive toward fulfilling the school’s mission. The types of teams formed in schools may vary, but generally include those dedicated to overall school functioning and effectiveness as well as those that seek to enhance instruction and the learning of all students. Collaborative cultures and school teams can serve to reflect diverse viewpoints, identify and manage conflict or problems, and foster commitment to school goals. However, these ideals often are not achieved due to failures in implementation of the basic conditions needed for effective teaming, such as effective organizational structures and supports, leadership, and training and coaching to allow for successful collaboration.

            Research suggests that, when well implemented, distributed leadership can foster substantial school improvement. Important implementation conditions—including high levels of trust, a culture of shared practice, and leadership capacity building for teachers—increase the chances for successful implementation and long-term sustainability. School leadership teams, in which a principal works with a team of teacher leaders, can free up more time for a principal’s instructional leadership as the principal may delegate some tasks to the team and distribute leadership to those with content area expertise. These teams are often charged with analyzing school learning data and determining professional learning needs. Leadership teams need sufficient time for their work and, often, training in areas such as data analysis and effective team collaboration. The Annenberg Foundation’s Distributed Leadership Project is an example of a project that incorporated many of the elements and conditions necessary to establish effective school teams, such as extensive leadership training and ongoing support for school teams.

            Instructional teams involve teachers collaborating in grade level or subject area groupings to develop curriculum and instructional strategies, review assessment data, and make adjustments to meet the needs of all students. Research demonstrates that instructional teams provide opportunities for effective teachers to spread their practices to team members, resulting in enhanced student learning and achievement schoolwide. PLCs, the most commonly used instructional team structure, involve teachers learning together in collaborative teams to find ways to improve their teaching and student outcomes. Successful implementation of PLCs requires principal support that establishes the conditions for working effectively, such as adequate time and direction for their work, and teacher leaders who can serve as team facilitators.

            Multidisciplinary teams, which today are often referred to as problem solving teams, are intended to foster collaboration between general educators and specialists, reduce inappropriate special education referrals, and help identified students to succeed in the regular education classroom. These teams suffer from implementation barriers similar to those faced by instructional and leadership teams, and need evidence-based training and organization supports to enable effective collaboration.

            In short, the use of school teams, while based on a substantial research base that demonstrates the power of collaborative cultures in schools, will not effectively fulfill their mission without careful attention to the ways they are implemented. All types of school teams can benefit from training in how to work together effectively, and from school leaders capable of establishing a culture of collaboration and providing the resources and support necessary for successful team functioning.



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Harris, A. (2014b). Distributed leadership matters: Perspectives, practicalities, and potential. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Harris, A., & DeFlaminis, J. (2016). Distributed leadership in practice: Evidence, misconceptions and possibilities. Management in Education, 30(4), 141–146.

Harris, A., Jones, M., & Huffman, J. B. (2018). Teachers leading educational reform: The power of professional learning communities. London, UK: Routledge.

Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on learning. New York, NY: Routledge.

Heck, R, & Hallinger, P. (2010) Testing a longitudinal model of distributed leadership effects on school improvement. Leadership Quarterly, 21(5), 867–885. 

Herman, R., Dawson, P., Dee, T., Greene, J., Maynard, R., Redding, S., & Darwin, M. (2008). Turning around chronically low-performing schools: A practice guide (NCEE #2008-4020). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.

Hirsh, S. (2018). Whatever name you give it, the PLC plays an important role. The Learning Professional, 39(1), 8–9.

Hitt, D. H., & Tucker, P. D. (2016). Systematic review of key leader practices found to influence student achievement: A unified framework. Review of Educational Research, 86(2), 531–569.

Hord, S. M. (2008). Evolution of the professional learning community: Revolutionary concept is based on intentional collegial learning. Journal of Staff Development, 29(3), 10–13.

Horng, E. L., Klasik, D., & Loeb, S. (2010). Principal’s time use and school effectiveness. American Journal of Education, 116(4), 491–523.

Huberman, M. (1993). The model of the independent artisan in teachers’ professional relations. In J. W. Little & M. W. McLaughlin (Eds.), Teachers’ work: Individuals, colleagues, and contexts (pp. 11-50). New York: Teachers College Press.

Jackson, C. K., & Bruegmann, E. (2009). Teaching students and teaching each other: The importance of peer learning for teachers. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 1(4), 85–108.

Jensen, B., Roberts-Hull, K., Magee, J., & Ginnivan, L. (2016). Not so elementary: Primary school teacher quality in top-performing systems. Washington, DC: National Center on Education and the Economy.

Jimerson, J. B., & Wayman, J. C. (2012). Branding educational data use through professional learning: Findings from a study in three school districts. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Vancouver, Canada.

Johnson, S. M., Reinhorn, S. K., & Simon, N. S. (2016). Ending isolation: The payoff of teacher teams in successful high-poverty urban schools. Cambridge, MA: Project on the Next Generation of Teachers, Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Jones, M., & Harris, A. (2014). Principals leading successful organisational change: Building social capital through disciplined professional collaboration. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 27(3), 473–485.

Klingner, J. K., & Harry, B. (2006). The special education referral and decision-making process for English Language Learners: Child study team meetings and staffings. Teachers College Record, 108, 2247–2281.

Klink, M. (2019). The sustainability of distributed leadership [Doctoral dissertation, University of Pittsburgh].

Leithwood, K., Harris, A., & Hopkins, D. (2020). Seven strong claims about successful school leadership revisited. School Leadership and Management, 40(1), 5–22.

Little, J. W. (2007). Professional communication and collaboration. In W. S. Hawley & D. L. Rollie (Eds.), The keys to effective schools: Educational reform as continuous improvement (pp. 51–65). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Lomos, C., Hofman, R. H., & Bosker, R. J. (2011). Professional communities and student achievement: A meta-analysis. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 22(2), 121–148.

Louis, K. S., Leithwood, K., Wahlstrom, K. L., & Anderson, S. E. (2010). Investigating the links to improved student learning. New York, NY: Wallace Foundation.

Love, N., & Crowell, M. (2018). Strong teams, strong results: Formative assessment helps teacher teams strengthen equity. The Learning Professional, 39(5), 34-39.

Marks, H. M., & Printy, S. M. (2003). Principal leadership and school performance: An integration of transformational and instructional leadership. Educational Administration Quarterly, 39(3), 370–397.

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. (n.d.). An interactive planning guide for distributed leadership.

McLaughlin, M. W., & Talbert, J. E. (1993). Contexts that matter for teaching and learning: Strategic opportunities for meeting the nation’s educational goals. Stanford, CA: Center for Research on the Context of Secondary School Teaching, Stanford University.

Menlove, R. R., Hudson, P. J., & Suter, D. (2001). A field of IEP dreams: Increasing general education teacher participation in the IEP development process. Teaching Exceptional Children, 33(5), 28–33.

Moore, K. J., Fifield, M. B., Spira, D. A., & Scarlato, M. (1989). Child study team decision making in special education: Improving the process. Remedial and Special Education, 10(4), 50–58.

Murphy, J., Elliott, S. N., Goldring, E., & Porter, A. C. (2007). Leadership for learning: A research-based model and taxonomy of behaviors. School Leadership and Management, 27(2), 179–201.

Nellis, L. (2012). Maximizing the effectiveness of building teams in response to intervention implementation. Psychology in the Schools, 49(3), 245–256.

Pedersen, J., Yager, S. & Yager, R. (2010). Distributed leadership influence on professional development initiatives: Conversations with eight teachers. Academic Leadership: The Online Journal, 8(3).

Powers, K. M. (2001). Problem solving student support teams. California School Psychologist, 6, 19–30.

Pugach, M. C., Blanton, L. P., & Correa, V. I. (2011). A historical perspective on the role of collaboration in teacher education reform: Making good on the promise of teaching all students. Teacher Education and Special Education, 34(3), 183–200.

Redding, S. (2006). The Mega System: Deciding. Learning. Connecting. Lincoln, IL: Academic Development Institute.

Redding, S. (2007). Systems for improved teaching and learning. In H. J. Walberg (Ed.), Handbook on restructuring and substantial school improvement (pp. 99–112). Lincoln, IL: Center on Innovation and Improvement.

 Riggan, M (2009). An analysis of team behavior in the Distributed Leadership Project. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Diego, CA. 

Robinson, V. M. J., Lloyd, C. A., & Rowe, K. J. (2008). The impact of leadership on school outcomes: An analysis of the differential effects of leadership types. Educational Administration Quarterly, 44(5), 635–674.

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

Rosenfield, S, Newell, M., Zwolski, S., & Benishek, L. E. (2018). Evaluating problem-solving teams in K–12 schools: Do they work? American Psychologist, 73(4), 407–419.

Salas, E., Cooke, N. J., & Rosen, M. A. (2008). On teams, teamwork, and team performance: Discoveries and developments. Human Factors, 50(3), 540–547.

Sebastian, J., & Allensworth, E. (2012). The influence of principal leadership on classroom instruction and student learning: A study of mediated pathways to learning. Educational Administration Quarterly, 48(4), 626–663.

Sosa, L. V., & McGrath, B. (2013). Collaboration from the ground up: Creating effective teams. School Social Work Journal, 38(1), 34–48.

Spillane, J. (2005). Distributed leadership. Educational Forum, 69(2), 143–150.

Spillane, J., Halverson, R., & Diamond, J. (2001). Investigating school leadership practice: A distributed perspective. Educational Researcher, 30(3), 23–28.

Spillane, J., Halverson, R., & Diamond, J. (2004). Towards a theory of leadership practice: A distributed perspective. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 36(1), 3–34.

Sun, M., Penuel, W. R., Frank, K. A., Gallagher, H. A., & Youngs, P. (2013). Shaping professional development to promote the diffusion of instructional expertise among teachers. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 35(3), 344–369. 

Supovitz, J., & Riggan, M. (2012). Building a foundation for school leadership: An evaluation of the Annenberg Distributed Leadership Project, 2006–2010. Philadelphia, PA: Consortium for Policy Research in Education, University of Pennsylvania.

Supovitz, J., & Tognatta, N. (2013). The impact of distributed leadership on collaborative team decision making. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 12(2), 101–121.

Szpara, M. Y. (2017). Changing staff attitudes through leadership development and equity teams. In A. Esmail, A. Pitre, & A. Aragon (Eds.), Perspectives on diversity, equity, and social justice in educational leadership (pp. 79–98). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Tian, M., Risku, M., & Collin, K. (2016). A meta-analysis of distributed leadership from 2002 to 2013: Theory development, empirical evidence and future research focus. Educational Management Administration and Leadership, 44(1), 146–164.

Troen, V., & Boles, K. C. (2011). The power of teacher teams: With cases, analyses, and strategies for success. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Truscott, S., Cohen, C., Sams, D., Sanborn, K., & Frank, A. (2005). The current state(s) of prereferral intervention teams. Remedial and Special Education, 26(3), 130–140.

 Vescio, V., Ross, D., & Adams, A. (2008). A review of research on the impact of professional learning communities on teaching practice and student learning. Teaching and Teacher Education, 24(1), 80–91.

Voelkel, R. H., & Chrispeels, J. H. (2017). Understanding the link between professional learning communities and teacher collective efficacy. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 28(4), 505–526.

Wayman, J. C., & Cho, V. (2008). Preparing educators to effectively use student data systems. In T. J. Kowalski & T. J. Lasley (Eds.), Handbook of data-based decision-making in education (pp. 89–104). New York, NY: Routledge.

Wei, R. C., Darling-Hammond, L., Andree, A., Richardson, N., & Orphanos, S. (2009). Professional learning in the learning profession: A status report on teacher development in the U.S. and abroad. Dallas, TX: National Staff Development Council.

William & Mary School of Education Training and Technical Assistance Center. (2011). Strategies for creating effective school leadership teams: Considerations packet. Williamsburg, VA: Author.

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Yoshida, R. K. (1983). Are multidisciplinary teams worth the investment? School Psychology Review, 12(2), 137–143.


Data Mining

How differently do principals and teachers view working condition issues in their schools?
This analysis examines how teacher and principal perception of school working conditions differ.
Keyworth, R. (2009). How differently do principals and teachers view working condition issues in their schools? Retrieved from how-differently-do-principals.
How do teacher working conditions impact teacher turnover?
This item analyzes teacher reports of differing working condition issues and how they correlate to student achievement.
Keyworth, R. (2009). How do teacher working conditions impact teacher turnover? Retrieved from how-do-teacher-working.
What is the relationship between teacher working conditions and school performance?
This item analyzes teacher reports of differing working condition issues and how they correlate to student achievement.
Keyworth, R. (2009). What is the relationship between teacher working conditions and school performance? Retrieved from what-is-relationship-between900.
Is there empirical research to validate the use of prereferral intervention teams (PIT) to reduce special education referrals, achieve gains, or improve student conduct?
This is a review of a meta-analysis of Prereferral Intervention Teams on student and system outcomes.
States, J. (2011). Is there empirical research to validate the use of prereferral intervention teams (PIT) to reduce special education referrals, achieve gains, or improve student conduct? Retrieved from is-there-empirical-research.
How important are principals and administrative support in the retention of teachers?
This review looks at the impact of principal and administrative support in retaining teachers.
States, J. (2012). How important are principals and administrative support in the retention of teachers? Retrieved from how-important-are-principals904.



A Research-Informed Design for Preparing Principals: What We Could Do Differently and Why It Might Work
This paper explores an alternative principal development program that combines the development of shared leadership and individual leaders as schools pursue their learning-improvement agendas.
Bellamy, T. (2015). A Research-Informed Design for Preparing Principals: What We Could Do Differently and Why It Might Work [Powerpoint Slides]. Retrieved from 2015-wing-presentation-tom-bellamy.
A New Approach to Principal Preparation: Innovative Programs Share Their Practices and Lessons Learned

This paper examines a number of promising principal preparation programs to identify lessons for improving the impact of principals on student perrmance.

A new approach to principal preparation: Innovative programs share their practices and lessons learned. Rainwater Leadership Alliance, 2010.

The dilemma of pragmatics: Why schools don’t use quality team consultation practices

Research supports that school districts' prereferral consultation teams adhere less closely to quality consultation procedures and are less effective than those conducted through university research projects. This study investigated whether this finding might be due to incompatibilities between school settings and recommended team consultation practices.

Beth Doll, Kelly Haack, Stacy Kosse, Mary Osterloh, Erin Siemers & Bruce Pray (2005) The Dilemma of Pragmatics: Why Schools Don't Use Quality Team Consultation Practices, Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation, 16(3)127–155.

Best Practices in Operating Pre-Referral Intervention Teams

The purpose of this chapter is to articulate those best practices that have been identified to increase the effectiveness of pre-referral teams.

Kovaleski, J. F. (2002). Best practices in operating pre-referral intervention teams. Best practices in school psychology IV1, 645-655.

Best Practices in Collaborative Problem Solving for Intervention Design.

This chapter describes a process, collaborative problem solving, that can guide decision making and intervention planning for improving academic and behavior outcomes for students. The primary focus is on the two basic components of the term collaborative problem solving.

Allen, S. J., & Graden, J. L. (2002). Best Practices in Collaborative Problem Solving for Intervention Design.

Benchmarks for Advanced Tiers

The Benchmarks for Advanced Tiers (BAT) allows school teams to self-assess the implementation status of Tiers 2 (secondary, targeted) and 3 (tertiary, intensive) behavior support systems within their school. The BAT is based on factors drawn from the Individual Student Systems Evaluation Tool (I-SSET). School teams can use the BAT to build an action plan to delineate next steps in the implementation process.

Anderson, C., Childs, K., Kincaid, D., Horner, R. H., George, H., Todd, A. W., & Spaulding, S. (2009). Benchmarks for advanced tiers. Eugene, OR: Educational and Community Supports, University of Oregon.

Progress Over a Decade in Preparing More Effective School Principals

Over the past 10 years, the Southern Regional Education Board has helped states and public universities across the region evaluate their state policies for preparing school principals who are leaders of instruction. This benchmark report reviews the past decade and looks at 10 learning-centered leadership indicators to gauge how far states have come and how far they need to go in selecting, preparing and supporting leaders of change.

Bottoms, G., Egelson, P., & Bussey, L. H. (2012). Progress over a decade in preparing more effective school principals. Atlanta, GA: Southern Regional Education Board.

A Meta-analysis of Prereferral Intervention Teams: Student and Systemic Outcomes

Although prereferral intervention teams (PIT) are common in public schools, there is little and conflicting research to support them. The current article conducted an empirical meta-analysis of research on PITs by reviewing 72 articles.

Burns, M. K., & Symington, T. (2002). A meta-analysis of prereferral intervention teams: Student and systemic outcomes. Journal of School Psychology40(5), 437-447.

Why teams don’t work

The belief that working in teams makes us more creative and productive is so widespread that when faced with a challenging new task, leaders are quick to assume that teams are the best way to get the job done. Getting agreement is the leader’s job, and they must be willing to take great personal and professional risks to set the team’s direction. And if the leader isn’t disciplined about managing who is on the team and how it is set up, the odds are slim that a team will do a good job.

Coutu, D., & Beschloss, M. (2009). Why teams don’t work. Harvard business review87(5), 98-105.

The effects of team training on team outcomes: A meta‐analysis

A meta‐analysis was conducted to determine relationships between team training and team effectiveness. Results from the 21 studies provided evidence that training is positively related to team effectiveness and effectiveness in five outcome categories: affective, cognitive, subjective task‐based skill, objective task‐based skill, and teamwork skill.

Delise, L. A., Allen Gorman, C., Brooks, A. M., Rentsch, J. R., & Steele‐Johnson, D. (2010). The effects of team training on team outcomes: A meta‐analysis. Performance Improvement Quarterly22(4), 53–80.

Do smarter teams do better? A meta-analysis of team-level the cognitive ability and team performance

This study reports the results of several meta-analyses examining the relationship between four operational definitions of cognitive ability within teams (highest member score, lowest member score, mean score, standard deviation of scores) and team performance. 

Devine, D. J., & Phillips, J. L. (2000). Do smarter teams do better? A meta-analysis of team-level the cognitive ability and team performance. Paper presented at the 15th Annual Conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, New Orleans, LA.


Research examining group/team-based school consultation

A prominent philosophical influence in school consultation research proposes that to effectively serve children, school psychologists must work primarily and paradoxically on changing the behavior of adults. Although the consultation literature base has traditionally conceptualized this role within a dyadic model emphasizing the consultant-consultee relationship, much of school consultation today occurs in the context of teams rather than dyads.

Dowd-Eagle, S., & Eagle, J. (2014). Team-based school consultation. In Handbook of research in school consultation (pp. 464-486). Routledge.

Work together: But only if you want to.

Teachers work in isolation from one another. They view their classrooms as their personal domains, have little access to the ideas or strategies of their colleagues, and prefer to be left alone rather than engage with their colleagues or principals. Their professional practice is shrouded in a veil of privacy and personal autonomy and is not a subject for collective discussion or analysis.

DuFour, R. (2011). Work together: But only if you want to. Phi Delta Kappan92(5), 57-61.

Teaming: How organizations learn, innovate, and compete in the knowledge economy

New breakthrough thinking in organizational learning, leadership, and change. Continuous
improvement, understanding complex systems, and promoting innovation are all part of the
landscape of learning challenges today's companies face. Amy Edmondson shows that
organizations thrive, or fail to thrive, based on how well the small groups within those
organizations work.

Edmondson, A. C. (2012). Teaming: How organizations learn, innovate, and compete in the knowledge economy. John Wiley & Sons.

A theoretical and empirical investigation of teacher collaboration for school improvement and student achievement in public elementary schools

A review of the literature demonstrates that schools are frequently called upon to improve by developing high levels of teacher collaboration. At the same time, there is a paucity of research investigating the extent to which teachers’ collaborative school improvement practices are related to student achievement.

Goddard, Y., Goddard, R., & Tschannen-Moran, M. (2007). A theoretical and empirical investigation of teacher collaboration for school improvement and student achievement in public elementary schools. Teachers college record109(4), 877-896.

A meta-analysis of team-efficacy, potency, and performance: Interdependence and level of analysis as moderators of observed relationships.

The purpose of the current study was to test theoretically derived hypotheses regarding the relationships between team efficacy, potency, and performance and to examine the moderating effects of level of analysis and interdependence on observed relationships.

Gully, S. M., Incalcaterra, K. A., Joshi, A., & Beaubien, J. M. (2002). A meta-analysis of team-efficacy, potency, and performance: interdependence and level of analysis as moderators of observed relationships. Journal of applied psychology87(5), 819.

Leading teams: Setting the stage for great performances

Teams have more talent and experience, more diverse resources, and greater operating flexibility than individual performers. J. Richard Hackman, one of the world's leading experts on group and organizational behavior, argues that the answer to this puzzle is rooted in flawed thinking about team leadership. 

Hackman, J. R., & Hackman, R. J. (2002). Leading teams: Setting the stage for great performances. Harvard Business Press.

Distributed leadership

If we think about leadership as being confined to only those in positions of authority then we are willfully ignoring the leadership talent and capability of many others. If leadership is fundamentally about influence, then within any school there are many sources of influence, both formal and informal.

Harris, A. (2014a, September 29). Distributed leadership. Teacher.

Teachers leading educational reform: The power of professional learning communities

Teachers Leading Educational Reform explores the ways in which teachers across the world are currently working together in professional learning communities to generate meaningful change and innovation in order to transform pedagogy and practice. By discussing how teachers can work collectively and collaboratively on the issues of learning and teaching that matter to them, it argues that through collective action and collaborative agency, teachers are leading educational reform.

Harris, A., Jones, M., & Huffman, J. B. (Eds.). (2017). Teachers leading educational reform: The power of professional learning communities. Routledge.

Testing a longitudinal model of distributed leadership effects on school improvement

A central premise in the literature on leadership highlights its central role in organizational change. In light of the strength of this conceptual association, it is striking to note the paucity of large-scale empirical studies that have investigated how leadership impacts performance improvement in organizations over time. Indeed evidence-based conclusions concerning the impact of leadership on organizational change are drawn largely from case studies and cross-sectional surveys.

Heck, R. H., & Hallinger, P. (2010). Testing a longitudinal model of distributed leadership effects on school improvement. The leadership quarterly21(5), 867-885.

Whatever name you give it, the PLC plays an important role

Learning communities serve a variety of education constituencies, beginning with grade-level or subject-matter teams, vertical-grade or subject-band teams, school leadership teams, cadres of principals, or teams of employees in district offices.

Hirsh, S. (2018). Whatever name you give it, the PLC plays an important role. The Learning Professional39(1), 8-9.

Great Principals at Scale: Creating Districts That Enable All Principals to be Effective

This report is a comprehensive and research-based framework outlining the conditions necessary for transformational school leaders to succeed. It offers a framework of conditions that can help districts enable great school leadership.

Ikemoto, G., Taliaferro, L., Fenton, B., Davis, J. (2014)Great Principals at Scale: Creating Districts That Enable All Principals to be Effective. New Leaders

Teaching students and teaching each other: The importance of peer learning for teachers

Using longitudinal elementary school teacher and student data, we document that students have larger test score gains when their teachers experience improvements in the observable characteristics of their colleagues. Using within-school and within-teacher variation, we show that a teacher's students have larger achievement gains in math and reading when she has more effective colleagues.

Jackson, C. K., & Bruegmann, E. (2009). Teaching students and teaching each other: The importance of peer learning for teachers. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics1(4), 85-108.

Principals leading successful organisational change: Building social capital through disciplined professional collaboration

The purpose of this paper is to focus on the way in which principals in different countries are securing successful organisational change through systematically building social capital. It argues that how a school works as a cohesive unit and how people collaborates will ultimately define organisational performance.

Jones, M., & Harris, A. (2014). Principals leading successful organisational change: Building social capital through disciplined professional collaboration. Journal of Organizational Change Management.

Leadership and the Fate of Organizations

This article concerns the real-world importance of leadership for the success or failure of organizations and social institutions. The authors propose conceptualizing leadership and evaluating leaders in terms of the performance of the team or organization for which they are responsible.

Kaiser, R. B., Hogan, R., & Craig, S. B. (2008). Leadership and the fate of organizations. American Psychologist63(2), 96.

Class-Wide Function-Related Intervention Teams: Effects of Group Contingency Programs in Urban Classrooms

The purpose of the study was to determine the effectiveness of the Class-Wide Function-related Intervention Teams (CW-FIT) program, a group contingency intervention for whole classes, and for students with disruptive behaviors who are at risk for emotional/behavioral disorders (EBD). 

Kamps, D., Wills, H. P., Heitzman-Powell, L., Laylin, J., Szoke, C., Petrillo, T., & Culey, A. (2011). Class-wide function-related intervention teams: Effects of group contingency programs in urban classrooms. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions13(3), 154-167.supp

The sustainability of distributed leadership

School based leadership is an increasingly complex task that requires leaders to find ways to spread responsibility throughout organizations to achieve goals. This dissertation research is an exploratory study in the field of sustainability of distributed leadership at Capital High School, a large urban high school.

Klink, M. (2019). The Sustainability of Distributed Leadership (Doctoral dissertation, University of Pittsburgh).

Work groups and teams in organizations.

This review chapter examines the literature on work team effectiveness. This paper consider their nature, define them, and identify four critical conceptual issues—context, workflow, levels, and time—that serve as review themes and discuss the multitude of forms that teams may assume.

Kozlowski, S. W., & Bell, B. S. (2003). Work groups and teams in organizations. Handbook of psychology, 333-375.

Strong teams, strong results: Formative assessment helps teacher teams strengthen equity

Sitting in our schools right now is one of the most powerful levers we have for deepening equity: teacher teams focused on developing collective expertise in high-leverage, equity promoting practices. One conversation at a time, teams like the one in the vignette above, a composite of teams we have observed over time, chip away at low expectations, racism, and cultural biases that have marginalized special education students, English language learners, students of color, and others who have not traditionally been served well by schools.

Love, N., & Crowell, M. (2018). Strong teams, strong results. The Learning Professional39(5), 34-39.

Team effectiveness 1997–2007: A review of recent advancements and a glimpse into the future

The authors review team research that has been conducted over the past 10 years. They discuss the nature of work teams in context and note the substantive differences underlying different types of teams.

Mathieu, J., Maynard, M. T., Rapp, T., & Gilson, L. (2008). Team effectiveness 1997-2007: A review of recent advancements and a glimpse into the future. Journal of management34(3), 410-476.

Exploring the Use of Social Media Network Methods in Designing Healthcare Quality Improvement Teams.

In this paper, the authors use tools from social network analysis (SNA) to derive principles for the design of effective clinical quality improvement teams and explore the implementation of these principles using social network data collected from the inpatient general medicine services at a large academic medical center in Chicago, USA

Meltzer, D., Chung, J., Khalili, P., Marlow, E., Arora, V., Schumock, G., & Burt, R. (2010). Exploring the use of social network methods in designing healthcare quality improvement teams. Social science & medicine71(6), 1119-1130.

Ending isolation: The payoff of teacher teams in successful high-poverty urban schools

Many urban schools today look to instructional teams as a means to decrease professional isolation, promote teachers' ongoing development, and substantially reduce well-documented variation in teachers' effectiveness across classrooms. Recent research finds that teams can contribute to teachers' development and increased student achievement.

Moore Johnson, S., Reinhorn, S., & Simon, N. (2018). Ending isolation: The payoff of teacher teams in successful high-poverty urban schools. Teachers College Record120(5), 1-46.

Child study team decision making in special education: Improving the process.

Child study teams (CSTs) are involved in making decisions about many aspects of the delivery of special services to handicapped students. However, a number of factors inhibit the decision-making process within CSTs. These factors have their origins in the implementation of the team process at the local education agency (LEA) level, the preparation of CST members to participate in team decision making, and in the difficulties encountered in communicating discipline-specific information.

Moore, K. J., Fifield, M. B., Spira, D. A., & Scarlato, M. (1989). Child study team decision making in special education: Improving the process. Remedial and Special Education10(4), 50-58.

Maximizing the effectiveness of building teams in response to intervention implementation

In the school setting, teams are abundant, often serving multiple purposes, having various titles, and consisting of diverse members. Teams are considered an essential component of Response to Intervention (RtI) and are the vehicle through which data‐based decision making occurs at the school, grade, small‐group, and individual student level.

Nellis, L. M. (2012). Maximizing the effectiveness of building teams in response to intervention implementation. Psychology in the Schools49(3), 245-256.

Taking Charge of Principal Preparation-A Guide to NYC Leadership Academy's Aspiring Principals Program

This report provides an overview of NYCLA’s flagship principal preparation program. Intended to help others involved in principal preparation think through important elements of principal preparation, including candidate selection, developing experiential learning opportunities, and funding, staffing and sustaining the program, the guide shares NYCLA’s successes and lessons learned during the 11 years we have delivered the Aspiring Principals Program in New York City, as well as through our work with various state and district partners nationally to adapt the program.

NYC Leadership Academy (2014). Taking Charge of Principal Preparation-A Guide to NYC Leadership Academy's Aspiring Principals Program.  Retrieved from

Work Teams in Schools

"More is better"--this precept lies behind the burgeoning use of work teams to handle problem-solving and decision-making in schools and school districts. Teams are said to build stronger relationships among those involved in education and, ultimately, to benefit students because more people with broader perspectives help to shape a stronger educational program.

Oswald, L. J. (1996). Work teams in schools.

Problem solving student support teams

The on-going efforts to improve Student Support Teams (SST) within a large, urban California school district are presented. The major goal of this reform has been to reshape the SSTs to focus on empirically supported interventions and data based decision making rather than student deficit and disability.

Powers, K. M. (2001). Problem solving student support teams. The California School Psychologist6(1), 19-30.

An analysis of team behavior in the Distributed Leadership Project

Drawing from video analysis of Distributed Leadership team meetings, this paper explores the work of the teams themselves, focusing on team priorities, organization, roles and authority dynamics, and decision making. The analysis focuses on the four Distributed Leadership schools that were in their second year of implementation in 2007-08.

Riggan, M. (2009). An analysis of team behavior in the distributed leadership project. In American Educational Research Association annual meeting, San Diego, CA.

Teacher collaboration in instructional teams and student achievement

This study draws upon survey and administrative data on over 9,000 teachers in 336 Miami-Dade County public schools over 2 years to investigate the kinds of collaborations that exist in instructional teams across the district and whether these collaborations predict student achievement. While different kinds of teachers and schools report different collaboration quality, we find average collaboration quality is related to student achievement.

Ronfeldt, M., Farmer, S. O., McQueen, K., & Grissom, J. A. (2015). Teacher collaboration in instructional teams and student achievement. American Educational Research Journal52(3), 475-514.

Evaluating problem-solving teams in K–12 schools: Do they work?

Teams and other collaborative structures have become commonplace in American schools, although historically school staff members functioned more independently from one another. In this article, we describe the growing influence of collaboration and teaming in a variety of school contexts, but focus on the empirical literature on problem-solving teams as reflecting the state of research and practice in the schools.

Rosenfield, S., Newell, M., Zwolski Jr, S., & Benishek, L. E. (2018). Evaluating problem-solving teams in K–12 schools: do they work?. American Psychologist73(4), 407.

Hiring an External Evaluator

This essay seeks to help you put the hard-earned experience of others to use through a set of practical steps, prompts, and tips for matching the right evaluator to your need.

S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation. (2018). Hiring an External Evaluator. Retrieved from

On teams, teamwork, and team performance: Discoveries and developments

We highlight some of the key discoveries and developments in the area of team performance over the past 50 years, especially as reflected in the pages of Human Factors. Teams increasingly have become a way of life in many organizations, and research has kept up with the pace.

Salas, E., Cooke, N. J., & Rosen, M. A. (2008). On teams, teamwork, and team performance: Discoveries and developments. Human factors50(3), 540-547.

Developing and enhancing teamwork in organizations: Evidence-based best practices and guidelines

This latest volume in the SIOP Professional Practice Series was inspired by a Leading Edge Conference sponsored by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology to bring together leading-edge practitioners and academics to exchange views and knowledge about effective teams and help lead to better practice in that area.

Salas, E., Tannenbaum, S., Cohen, D., & Latham, G. (Eds.). (2013). Developing and enhancing teamwork in organizations: Evidence-based best practices and guidelines (Vol. 33). John Wiley & Sons.

What Makes A Leadership Preparation Program Exemplary

In this report, the Southern Regional Education Board outlines critical actions that states, districts, universities and principals themselves should take as part of a systematic plan to address principal succession. The report makes the case for principal succession planning and describes six steps for succession planning that states and districts can implement to ensure they have the right principals for the job.

Schmidt-Davis, J., & Bottoms, G. (2011). Who's Next? Let's Stop Gambling on School Performance and Plan for Principal Succession. Southern Regional Education Board (SREB).

Teams in the Military: A Review and Emerging Challenges

the purpose of this chapter is to review the science of teams and their effectiveness, extrapolate critical lessons learned, and highlight several future challenges critical for military psychology to address in order to prepare future military teams for success.

Shuffler, M. L., Pavlas, D., & Salas, E. (2012). Teams in the military: A review and emerging challenges. In J. H. Laurence & M. D. Matthews (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of military psychology(pp. 282–310). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Managing conflict in school teams: The impact of task and goal interdependence on conflict management and team effectiveness

The present study explores conflict management as a team phenomenon in schools. The author examined how the contextual variables (task interdependence, goal interdependence) are related to team conflict management style (integrating vs. dominating) and school team effectiveness (team performance).

Somech, A. (2008). Managing conflict in school teams: The impact of task and goal interdependence on conflict management and team effectiveness. Educational administration quarterly44(3), 359-390.

Collaboration from the ground up: Creating effective teams

The role of the school social worker and school psychologist in the provision of mental health services in the schools has been in transition over the last decade. As schools implement Response to Intervention (RTI), Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), and Expanded School Mental Health (ESMH) programs, there is an increasing emphasis on the need for inter-professional collaboration in meeting the needs of children in the schools.

Sosa, L. V., & McGrath, B. (2013). Collaboration from the ground up: Creating effective teams. School Social Work Journal38(1), 34-48.

Complexity and Creativity in Organizations.

Traditional organizational theory mandates that organizations predict and stay in control in order to avoid chaos. This book proposes that members of organizations work at developing a new frame of reference for understanding organizational life

Stacey, R. D. (1996). Complexity and creativity in organizations. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Shaping professional development to promote the diffusion of instructional expertise among teachers

This study examines how high-quality professional development can promote the diffusion of effective teaching strategies among teachers through collaboration. Drawing on longitudinal and socio-metric data from a study of writing professional development in 39 schools, this study shows that teachers’ participation in professional development is associated with providing more help to colleagues on instructional matters.

Sun, M., Penuel, W. R., Frank, K. A., Gallagher, H. A., & Youngs, P. (2013). Shaping professional development to promote the diffusion of instructional expertise among teachers. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis35(3), 344-369.

The impact of distributed leadership on collaborative team decision making

There are many rationales for group, rather than individual, decision making. Theorized advantages include more information to contribute to the decision, more diverse perspectives to inform deliberation, and greater efficiency for implementation.

Supovitz, J. A., & Tognatta, N. (2013). The impact of distributed leadership on collaborative team decision making. Leadership and Policy in Schools12(2), 101-121.

Changing staff attitudes through leadership development and equity teams

Perspectives on Diversity, Equity, and Social Justice in Educational Leadership provides educational leaders with practical steps for implementing multicultural education into schools. Drawing from multicultural scholars like James Bank’s it equips educational leaders with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to ensure that schools provide all students with equal educational opportunities.

Szpara, M. Y. (2017). Changing staff attitudes through leadership development and equity teams. In A. Esmail, A. Pitre, & A. Aragon (Eds.), Perspectives on diversity, equity, and social justice in educational leadership (pp. 79–98). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

The power of teacher teams: With cases, analyses, and strategies for success

While most educators believe working in teams is valuable, not all team efforts lead to instructional improvement. Through richly detailed case studies The Power of Teacher Teams demonstrates how schools can transform their teams into more effective learning communities that foster teacher leadership.

Troen, V., & Boles, K. (2012). The power of teacher teams: With cases, analyses, and strategies for success. Corwin Press.

The current state(s) of prereferral intervention teams

Current prereferral intervention team (PIT) regulations, prevalence, membership, goals, and intervention information from two national telephone surveys are reported. There was no clear school-based consensus on PIT goals. PITs most commonly recommended additional services, testing, or easy classroom interventions and seldom recommended substantive instructional modifications.

Truscott, S. D., Cohen, C. E., Sams, D. P., Sanborn, K. J., & Frank, A. J. (2005). The current state (s) of prereferral intervention teams: A report from two national surveys. Remedial and special Education26(3), 130-140.

Understanding the link between professional learning communities and teacher collective efficacy

Research suggests effective professional learning communities (PLCs) enhance teacher collaboration and student achievement. Some studies indicate that these communities also predict greater collective efficacy, while others suggest teacher efficacy is predictive of teachers working together.

Voelkel Jr, R. H., & Chrispeels, J. H. (2017). Understanding the link between professional learning communities and teacher collective efficacy. School Effectiveness and School Improvement28(4), 505-526.

The New York City Aspiring Principals Program-A School-Level Evaluation

This report represents the first systematic comparison of student outcomes in schools led by the Aspiring Principals Program (APP) graduates after three years to those in comparable schools led by other new principals.

Weinstein, M., Schwartz, A. E., & Corcoran, S. P. (2009). The New York City Aspiring Principals Program: A School-Level Evaluation. NYU Wagner Research Paper, (2011-07).

Strategies for creating effective school leadership teams: Considerations packet

This Considerations Packet is designed to support school leadership teams as they guide school improvement efforts. Topics include the rationale for using a team approach, team composition, and necessary skills and responsibilities of the leadership team.

William & Mary School of Education Training and Technical Assistance Center. (2011). Strategies for creating effective school leadership teams: Considerations packet. Williamsburg, VA: Author.

Are multidisciplinary teams worth the investment?

The efficacy of using multidisciplinary teams (MDTs) for special education evaluation and programming is increasingly being questioned. Current research data provide only weak support for the continued use of MDTs. 

Yoshida, R. K. (1983). Are multidisciplinary teams worth the investment?. School Psychology Review12(2), 137-143.

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