Professional Development | Urban Schools K-12

Academic Teaming to Engage Students and Close the Achievement Gap

An Empowering Process to Increase Student Ownership, Promote Self-Regulation and Improve Overall Achievement

How Academic Teaming Can Bridge the Achievement Gap

How do students learn best? By feeling engaged. By challenging each other. Our Academic Teaming programs are rooted in the neuroscience of social engagement and education. In fact, Academic Teaming is proven to close achievement gaps for African-American male students.

  • Work in teams
  • Collaborate
  • Peer coach
  • Engage in rigorous, standards-based tasks

Go beyond group work. Go beyond the norm. Improve academic achievement and social emotional learning simultaneously. Help students take charge of their education to close any achievement gaps.

Why Academic Teaming Works for All Students

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

Social Emotional Learning to Help the Whole Student

Life-Skills for Success. Every Grade Level. Every Subject Area.

Learning isn't just about memorizing. It's about being inspired to learn, and to take agency of your own learning. By integrating social emotional learning with academics, students get more than they would with traditional learning methods.

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.

How Students Benefit from Academic Teaming

Academic teaming engages students in productive struggle and builds the persistence and grit needed to embrace challenges and overcome obstacles.

  • Raise Student Achievement
    Students rise to the high expectations demanded of them as they are held accountable to their team roles and norms.
  • Close Achievement Gaps
    Group work increases participation, and Learning is visible as students verbalize their thinking. Teachers can help close learning gaps on the spot.
  • Develop Social-Emotional Skills
    As teams have academic conversations, debate, and problem solve they developing skills to resolve social conflict and build respect and relationships.
  • Promote Equity and Access
    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.
  • Build 21st-Century Skills
    Students are college and career ready because they can think critically and apply their knowledge and skills to real world problems.

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

How Teachers and Schools Benefit from Academic Teaming

Academic teaming can be used consistently with any content, in any grade level, and in any subject area.

  • 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.
  • Increased Joy from Teaching
    Student teams take responsibility for their own learning and behavior, giving the teacher more time to support students most in need.
  • Total Culture Improvement
    Peer empathy and self-regulation spill out into the hallways, cafeteria, playground, and other areas and becomes part of the schoolwide culture.
  • Standards-Based Rigorous Instruction
    Achievement increases and gaps close as students experience the full intent and rigor of the standards in team tasks.

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

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.

Get Started With Academic Teaming Academy

Student success is built from the ground up, and that means giving you the tools you need to lay that groundwork. Our Academic Teaming Academy is a series of professional development days focused on building successful academic teams.  Why does it work?

  • 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 the Academy Entails

  • A series of professional development days focused on academic teaming
  • Academic Teaming Academy days can be purchased as a single day of training or as part of the whole series
  • Each day is six hours of professional development available as an 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

Ready-to-use Classroom Materials Included

Each teacher receives a ready-to-use toolkit, filled with classroom materials for students and how-to guides for teachers, 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