New Classroom Ideas Come from Colleagues

Many schools are providing opportunities and encouraging teachers to observe each other so they can see best practices being modeled and learn from their colleagues in person. However, there are still many educators who do not have the opportunity to be outside of their own classroom walls for the majority of the school day.
When I taught elementary school, I remember mulling through books for graphic organizers, reading articles to better understand a theory or pedagogical strategy, and running (shh, don’t tell) down the hall to a mentor veteran teacher’s room to see what she thought of an idea.
There definitely were not a lack of good ideas or things to try. But that was four years ago, and I am curious as to how, and if, things have changed. So I asked around 60 of my educator colleagues about where they find their inspiration these days and here is what I found.

The Question

Of the following, which do you use most to get ideas for your classroom?

  1. Social media (posts, shares, etc.)
  2. Books and articles
  3. My colleagues at school

Sample: 60 educators (current and former), ranging in age, number of years taught, where they taught, who they taught, etc.

The Results

While all of the best practices in research were not employed when I crowd-sourced this question (see note below), I can report that I found the following results:

  Books   20%
  Social media   25%
  Colleagues   55%

Books and Articles (#3)

Books had the lowest number of votes, but I was left wondering if this is due to the sharing of shorter versions of articles on social media, or perhaps it is due to lack of time. At Getting Smart, we regularly share ideas from books we read. Here are some examples of recent book reviews on the blog:

Social Media (#2)

Ann Byrd (@AnnByrdCTQ), COO of the Center for Teaching Quality and former classroom teacher, and several other respondents said social media. Ann commented as to why she chose social media: “It’s quickly consumable. There are a plethora of resources and sources that are easily accessible and recommended by known and valuable colleagues.”
I latched on to her last statement, that access is available to resources recommended by known and valuable colleagues. It makes sense and is helpful to have a known source do the first step in the vetting process.


Several of the respondents said that Pinterest was their go-to site. I can’t imagine even eight years ago, when I started my teacher preparation program, having a teacher say that they would be getting ideas from an online source where people pin pictures and ideas–things have changed!
I chose some edu-topics of interest and found several example Pinterest boards:

Colleagues (#1)

“The most valuable resource that all teachers have is each other. Without collaboration, our growth is limited to our own perspectives.”

~ Robert John Meehan

The top way that respondents said they get new ideas was from their colleagues. The power of collaboration and sharing amongst educators has remained a constant in ever-changing classrooms.
A.J. Juliani (@ajjuliani) seconded Meehan’s thoughts when he wrote, “…when I look back at my most valuable learning experiences as a teacher, they are almost always with colleagues and other teachers.”
He also provides 5 reasons why he thinks this might be:

  1. The Shared Hope
  2. The Shared Struggle
  3. A Deep Level of Respect
  4. Communal Experience and Language
  5. It’s Fun to Learn From and With Colleagues

So What Does This All Mean?

As I counted the results, I started to ask myself so what? What does it mean if teachers tend to get new ideas from their colleagues? After further reflection, I think it means these three next steps:

  1. Let teachers observe: We need to let teachers be mobile and able observe in each other’s classrooms to learn from one another.
  2. Create the trickle effect: If teachers are encouraged to try new things and take risks in their own classrooms and we know other teachers will be asking them for new ideas, it could cause a really positive trickle effect of new ideas spreading through a school.
  3. Make a school Pinterest board: Or some other site that teachers prefer to use and can easily share ideas on.

Researcher’s note: I am aware the answer choices could be seen as overlapping, and that by asking educators that I am connected to via social media, there is definitely a risk of selection bias.
For more, see:

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Emily Liebtag

Emily Liebtag, Ed.D., is Education Reimagined's Senior Partner for Systems Transformation. Formerly, Emily served as the Vice President of Advocacy at Getting Smart.

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