Professional Development | Urban Schools K-12

Academic Teaming to Close Achievement Gaps and Engage Students

An Empowering Process to Increase Student Ownership, Self-Regulation Behavior, and Achievement

What is Academic Teaming?

Academic teaming is a daily instructional process where students work in teams, collaborate, and peer coach while engaged in rigorous, standards-based tasks. It goes far beyond familiar grouping strategies and is backed by neuroscience and scientific research. Academic teaming has the power to improve academic achievement and social emotional learning simultaneously.

Teaming Integrates Social Emotional Learning with Academics

Works in Any Content. Any Grade Level. Any Subject Area.

What do students get from teams that they can’t get from teacher-centered instruction or teacher-led groups?

Deep Social Bonds

Students use social emotional learning protocols to support each other and build trust.

Self- and Peer Agency

Students take ownership of their own learning and behavior when they feel included in their team and hold each other accountable.

Academic Safety

Students increase their self-esteem when they successfully complete rigorous academic tasks together with their peers.

Why Does Academic Teaming Work?

Groups vs. Teams

In most classrooms that have student groups, when there is student group interaction the teacher still directs the learning and controls student behavior. Cooperative learning, project-based learning, and other common interaction strategies put students into groups. These methods work for some students, but not all students. Academic teaming works for all students because they have access to specific team resources, structures like roles and norms, and challenging academic tasks that allow them to be successful. These unique conditions of academic teaming compel every student to participate, engage, and contribute.

Teacher-Centered Instruction


Teacher-Led Student Groups

Teacher-Led Student Groups

Student-Led Academic Teams

Student-Led Academic Teams

What Benefits Will Students Receive?

Raise Student Achievement

  • Team tasks are designed to be challenging and standards-based.
  • Students have access to classroom materials that help them understand how to engage in high-level academic conversations.
  • Students rise to the high expectations demanded of them as they are held accountable to their team roles and norms.
Mia, 3rd grade student

Because we all get to work together and if someone knows it in our group, but we don't, then they could help us and we could learn better.

3rd Grade Student

Close Academic Gaps

  • Learning is visible as students verbalize their thinking. Teachers can help close learning gaps on the spot.
  • Reluctant learners are willing to participate in small teams, even if they didn’t have the confidence to speak in front of the whole class.
  • Students reflect on their learning and support each other to help bridge gaps.

This student started second grade at a kindergarten reading level. Over the course of the year he grew to a second-grade level, making 209% progress towards annual typical growth. Typical growth is the average annual growth for a student at this grade and placement level.

Year-to-Date Growth
Scale Points: 92/44

Year-to-Date Growth

Overall Diagnostic Growth

Overall Diagnostic Growth

Develop Social Emotional Skills

  • Academic teams create nurturing SEL environments in the classroom beyond morning meetings.
  • Team conversations foster academic mindsets and promote youth voice and engagement.
  • As teams have academic conversations, debate, and problem solve they are simultaneously developing the skills to resolve social conflict, respect each other, and build relationships.

Promote Equity and Access

  • Students can feel emotionally connected to their peers when they become part of an academic team, even if they had previously disengaged.
  • Learning goals are clear and transparent to students since team tasks are designed with criteria for student self-reflection.
  • Students have access to resources so they can be self-reliant and support each other in teams rather than waiting for support from the teacher.
  • Teaming conversation structures allow all student voices to be heard.

Organizing students in small collaborative groups creates opportunities for interaction that lead to improved cognitive learning that is particularly beneficial for subgroups such as English Learners or students with disabilities.

Valls & Kyriakides, 2013

Build 21st Century Skills

  • As a result of academic teaming, students are college and career ready because they can think critically and apply their knowledge and skills to real world problems.
  • Academic teaming engages students in productive struggle and builds the persistence and grit needed to embrace challenges and overcome obstacles.

What Benefits Will Teachers Experience?

Improved Student Behavior and Engagement

  • Students learn how to self-regulate and keep themselves focused on their learning using academic teaming materials and peer support.
  • Engagement increases as students actively share their thinking in teams.
  • Accountability to peers helps students feel connected to their team and motivated to complete challenging tasks.
  • Self- and peer agency grow and student voice begins to flourish as teams deeply engage with each other and their learning.

One student in my classroom has a very strong personality and had struggled with negative behavior. Being part of a team allows his personality to shine through in a positive way...He has shown so much growth and improved his negative behavior more than I think he would have in a traditional classroom. He's stepped up into a leadership position.

Allison Berg
1st Grade Teacher

Teachers Find More Joy in Teaching

  • Student teams take responsibility for their own learning and behavior, giving the teacher more time to support students most in need.
  • Teaming makes learning visible so the teacher can make small adjustments to the lesson rather than having to do more intensive interventions.

I am a happier teacher because I'm not doing all the work. Yes, I'm planning it, but my students are doing the work. I just love watching them grow and figure things out by themselves.

Julie Lake
Kindergarten Teacher
Julie Lake

How Will It Benefit the School?

School Culture Improves When Classroom Culture Improves

  • Academic teaming builds classroom cultures where students self-regulate and practice empathy for their peers. The effects spill out into the hallways, cafeteria, playground, and other areas and becomes part of the schoolwide culture.
  • As students learn teamwork and communication in the classroom, they increase youth voice and engagement in their school and community.

Shared by Colonel Richardson High School, Caroline County, MD

After CRHS implemented academic teaming, students with Individualized Education Plans attended prom in record numbers – they usually don't attend at all. They sat with other students, danced, and socially interacted with students without IEPs to the extent that the adults noticed and commented on it. The staff attributes this to the interactions these kids are having in the classrooms carrying over to the social arena. There was also higher overall attendance at CRHS's awards programs and at their student art show. Kids who never participated outside school hours started to show up and participate in activities.

Promote Standards-Based Rigorous Instruction

  • Teachers can use academic teaming guides and materials to plan cognitively demanding tasks for their students.
  • Achievement increases and gaps close as students experience the full intent and rigor of the standards in team tasks.
  • Academic teaming can be used consistently with any content, in any grade level, and in any subject area.

This past year, I've really seen student ownership and I've seen a shift in the students' academic vocabulary and the way that they can speak about their learning. The students and teachers have gone places where I didn't realize we were even able to go.

Sarajean McDaniel
Sarajean McDaniel

How to Get Started with Academic Teaming Academy

What is Academic Teaming Academy?

  • A series of professional development days focused on academic teaming
  • Academic Teaming Academy days can be purchased as single day training or as parts of the whole series
  • Each day is 6-hour of professional development available as on-site workshop or virtually
  • Teachers receive up to 93 high-quality teacher and student materials with each professional development day, ready to be used the next day in the classroom

4 Reasons Why Academic Teaming Academy is Effective

  • Teachers practice using the Academic Teaming materials: During the training, teachers use teaming materials and personally experience the teaming structures before they bring them back to their students.
  • Teachers receive How-To Guides: All student materials come with a How-to Guide to support teachers through the implementation process and take the guess work out of facilitating student-centered learning.
  • It's practical: The training focuses on the practical implementation of resources. No time is wasted on theoretical pedagogy or heavy concepts
  • There's time for lesson planning: The training includes dedicated time for planning team tasks. Teachers walk away confident to start using academic teaming in their classroom.

What Will Teachers Experience?

Academic Teaming Academy is interactive, practical, and focused on the implementation of student resources.

During the training teachers will learn how to:

  • Launch academic teaming in their classroom
  • Implement structures, routines, and procedures for student teaming
  • Plan team tasks aligned to standards and be ready to implement immediately
  • Troubleshoot potential pitfalls and plan ahead
  • Prepare to implement each of the student resources immediately in their classroom
Shayla Calhoun, 2nd Grade Teacher

The whole training was awesome and I could imagine my own students actively engaged, learning and having fun!

Shayla Calhoun
2nd Grade Teacher

Everything You Need to Get Started

Includes Ready-to-Use Classroom Materials

Each teacher receives a ready-to-use toolkit, filled with classroom materials how-to guides, which is the key to immediate implementation of Academic Teaming Academy training and concepts.

Agree/Disagree cards and teaming mats keep students involved, more interactive in discussions and promote individual accountability. How-to guides enable teachers to initiate active learning strategies with students the very next day.

The Learning Sciences Promise

At Learning Sciences, we hold ourselves accountable to help you achieve your goals. Student-led Academic teaming has the power to improve academic achievement and social-emotional learning simultaneously, while also closing gaps between students of differing abilities, preparing students for college and the workplace, and promoting equity and access.

  • You will receive high-quality, research-based ready-to-use classroom materials for teachers that deliver immediate student impact.
  • Your Professional Development program will be applicable to all teachers, at all levels, and will impact all students at all levels and capabilities.
  • You will have access to ongoing resources to support implementation.
A group of teachers working together on Academic Teaming PD

Put Your Students, Teachers, and School on a Path to Success