Critiical Issue: Buiding a Committed Team Critical Issue: Building a Committed Team

ISSUE: Making schools successful takes more than just individual effort - it takes teamwork. Schools are using teams to accomplish many tasks. Teams may work on site-based decisionmaking, curricular reform, implementing new programs, or restructuring. For teamwork to be successful, teams and individual team members need to have clear, shared goals; a sense of commitment; the ability to work together; mutual accountability; access to needed resources and skills; and other elements of effective teams.

While successful teamwork can be rewarding in itself, teamwork should focus on meeting the academic and social needs of all students in the school. Just as the school vision and mission should focus on student learning, team building, team planning, and team developing should be directed toward improving student outcomes.

OVERVIEW: In many schools, teachers work in isolation, administrators try to accomplish tasks alone, and the responsibility of implementating new ideas falls to individuals. Working together in teams often is a more effective way to accomplish important tasks. Teams have many advantages over individuals working in isolation. Teams tend to be better at solving problems, have a higher level of commitment, and include more people who can help implement an idea or plan. Moreover, teams are able to generate energy and interest in new projects.

Both research and practice demonstrate the advantages that teams bring to accomplishing goals. But effective teams do not develop by accident. Teams take time, skills, and knowledge to be successful.

Kent PetersonKent Peterson, professor of educational administration, University of Wisconsin-Madison, challenges administrators to support team-building and collaboration by providing time and resources, in order to reap the benefits effective teams can bring to schools (audio comment, 313k). Excerpted from a presentation given at NCREL's Urban School Leadership Mini-Conference in July 1993. A text transcript is available.

Transformational leadership skills can help in developing such high-performing teams. Leaders of school transformation must be able to inspire, motivate, and support teams. Engaged and high-performing teams thrive in a "learning organization," where colleagues support each other in learning, risk-taking, innovation, and change (Senge, 1990).

GOALS: School leaders (including administrators, teachers, and parents) should help nurture and build highly committed teams for accomplishing school activities and goals, which may include school improvement planning, site-based management, budget and personnel decisions, and implementing programs or plans.

Diana LangolisFormer kindergarten teacher from Joyce Elementary School in Detroit, Diana Langlois, talks about how her principal supports team building and learning at the school and the benefits that have resulted (QuickTime slide show, 487k). Excerpted from NCREL's urban school leadership case studies (1992). A text transcript is available.

Effective team functioning requires finding time, selecting team members, empowering team members, providing training in relevant skills and knowledge, developing shared goals, and facilitating team functioning - particularly in the early stages of the team's work.



DIFFERENT POINTS OF VIEW: Few people would deny that teams can be highly effective. But some believe that teams must face enormous obstacles before they can become effective in schools. Some teachers have never worked on teams and actually became teachers so that they could work independently. In other cases, staff and administrators have not been trained to cope with the special challenges of working in teams and practicing shared decisionmaking.


Piccolo Elementary School, Chicago, Illinois

Joyce Elementary School, Detroit, Michigan

Hollibrook Elementary School, Houston, Texas

Audubon Elementary School, Baton Rouge, Louisiana


The Accelerated Schools Project, CERAS 109, School of Education, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-3084, 415-725-1676 Contact: Beth Keller, assistant director of communications, e-mail:

California School Leadership Academy, 313 W. Winton Ave., Hayward, CA 94544-1198, 510-670-4569, Contact: Laraine Roberts, e-mail:

Center for Leadership in School Reform, 950 Breckenridge Lane, Suite 200, Louisville, Kentucky 40207, 502-895-1942 Contact: Marty Vowels, e-mail:

Coalition for Essential Schools, Dr. Ted Sizer, Director, Box 1938, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, 401- 863-2847

CMI, 711 South Blvd., Suite 9, Oak Park, IL 60302, 708-383-7970, FAX 708-383-0819, Contact: Bruce Hodes, e-mail:

School Development Program, Yale Child Study Center, 230 South Frontage Rd., Box 3333, New Haven, CT 06510, 203-785-2548 Contact: Cynthia Savo, WWW:

Program for School Improvement, College of Education, 124 Aderhold Hall, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, 706-542-2516, Contact: Lew Allen, director of outreach, e-mail:


This Critical Issue summary was researched and written by Kent Peterson, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Date posted: 1995
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