Alignment to Research

TeamMark was conceived as a solution to three main challenges and one school’s passion for highly effective collaboration within a professional learning community.

The three primary challenges were -

  1. How can teaching teams and admins enjoy collaboration documentation that is efficient and meaningful?

  2. How can administrators and specialists meaningful engage with multiple teams when they frequently are collaborating at the same time?

  3. How can technology be leveraged to elevate, streamline, focus, and propel collaboration notes beyond mundane note taking?

Inspired to solve these challenges, TeamMark was designed upon guiding principles of effective professional learning communities, collaboration needs of educators specifically, and models of continuous improvement.


A group of 21 educational change/professional development leaders agreed in 2005 to support the following image of professional development:

“Mere collegiality will not cut it. Discussions about curricular issues or popular strategies can feel good but go nowhere. The right image to embrace is of a group of teachers who meet regularly to share, refine, and assess the impact of lessons and strategies continuously to help increasing numbers of students learn at higher levels” (Schmoker, in DuFour, Eaker, and DuFour, 2005, p. xiv)


While PLCs (and collaboration) are one of the fastest growing approaches to school improvement, there has yet to be a product that helps teachers manage the complex data and multiple sources of information that drives effective collaboration forward by providing a framework for teachers to work from. TeamMark takes “the right image” of collaboration and supports it with a teacher-friendly, education specific integration of tools, helping teachers focus on what’s most important in collaboration.


Eight step process for collaboration as proposed by Idol and West (1991) –

  1. Goal setting

  2. Data collection

  3. Problem identification

  4. Development of alternative solutions

  5. Action plan development

  6. Action plan implementation

  7. Evaluation

  8. Redesign


  1. Each one of these eight steps has been addressed in TeamMark through user-friendly, interactive, multifunction tools.

  2. Goal setting – there is an entire process, supported with tutorial documentation, for setting goals which is accompanied with search functions and on-going progress reporting.

  3. Data Collection – TeamMark provides a template for establishing an instructional calendar linked to a student assessment data spreadsheet which links with a student grouping/intervention planning tool.

  4. Problem Identification – in TeamMark users can easily review and search past collaboration logs and data efficiently, various alerts - such as an automatic student alert function - help with monitoring of student progress as does the student assessment data functions.

  5. (4, 7, & 8) Development of alternative solutions – ability to project collaboration templates large so that the power of group flow (Sawyers, 2007) may be achieved. Certain templates request that members consider alternative solutions as part of their regular meeting agenda.

  6. (5& 6) Action plan development & action plan implementation – specific guidelines/prompts are included to help with action plan creation and follow-up alerts to action plan implementation are signaled within the program.

  7. TeamMark integrates an easy to use template into the collaboration template. Any action step entered in the template remains in the collaboration log as a reminder of the task to be done until the team marks the task as completed.

  8. The incorporation of many tools needed for effective collaboration into one location allows teachers to efficiently reference their progress towards increased student achievement from multiple perspectives, basing this assessment of progress on triangulated data points, not just passing opinion. Collaboration logs include a notes section for teachers to record both their successes and challenges and in the SMART goal notes section, teachers can review progress towards goals, quantitatively note their progress, and quickly review goal details. Administrators can log onto TeamMark at any time and view all team’s data and print multiple reports to help guide collaborative discourse and staff development.

  9. All tools in TeamMark are date sensitive and allow teachers to monitor their progress in real-time. Structured after the continuous improvement model (E. W. Deming), TeamMark provides teachers with a consolidated resource for monitoring collaborative efforts to improve teaching and learning and to make adjustments to their practice when needed. (Bernhardt, 2004; Schmoker, 1999)


“Although collaboration can thrive in a climate of continuous, positive and respectful critical inquiry, some teachers mistake critical for criticism and fear that others will point out their instructional shortcomings” (The Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement, pg. 2007).


Open templates encourage a climate of continuous, positive, and respectful critical inquiry, while data-driven instructional planning tools have potential to negate some of the potential for criticism. The Group Norms tool helps teams establish working norms of professional behavior which are automatically revisited each time a team logs onto their collaboration log.


“Time is a pervasive problem in educational collaboration, whether for student growth, for staff development, or for problem solving” (Fishbaugh, 1997, p. 12)


TeamMark creates an efficient context within which to collaborate focused on progress monitoring, planning best practices based on student data, and to reflect on professional development efforts. Because of its user-friendly interface which pulls multiple resources together into one accessible tool with multiple printable reports, TeamMark greatly reduces the amount of time lost in traditional collaboration settings. At a more concrete level, TeamMark’s collaboration log includes a countdown timer for teams to use to track their time as they work collaboratively (this is very helpful when you are pressed between lunch and a prep to get to all of the items in your agenda before the bell rings!).

TeamMark’s agenda feature also helps teams work in focused, purposeful collaboration, saving time and reducing the amount of off-task “coblaboration” that can infect the potential of collaborative teams.


Referring to PLCs and collaboration, Schmoker (in DuFour, Eaker, and DuFour, 2005) explains that, “it starts with a group of teachers who meet regularly as a team to identify essential and valued student learning, develop common formative assessments, analyze current levels of achievement, set achievement goals, share strategies, and then create lessons to improve upon those levels” (p. xii).


These were guiding principles in the development of TeamMark. Each point made in Schmoker’s quote can be traced to a specific integrated function within TeamMark. The primary tools in the TeamMark toolkit integrate and unite discourse focused on essential learning objectives, instructional planning, SMART goals, data, and more directly into the hub of the toolkit, the collaboration protocol.


Six steps for creating a more collaborative environment (Johnson, Pugach, and Devlin, 1990)

  1. Sanctioning of collaboration efforts by administration

  2. Providing assistance for teachers with clerical work and other non-instructional tasks

  3. Organizing meeting times for teachers to engage in mutual problem solving

  4. Providing opportunities for teachers and specialists to co-teach

  5. Developing common vocabulary and terminology in order to avoid specialized jargon

  6. Reserving regular faculty or in-service meetings for collaboration


In response to the corresponding number:

  1. TeamMark provides administrators easy monitoring of collaboration efforts, therefore administration has a greater awareness of collaborative health of each teacher/team and has greater control over collaborative efforts. This is specifically the case when the Agenda Notes tool is used to guide team’s meeting focus and when the administration follows up with teams by reviewing collaboration logs and viewing the notes/progress of teams in relation to their agenda items and SMART goal and action step progress.

  2. TeamMark creates an efficient, integrated network of tools that greatly reduce clerical work.

  3. Mutual problem solving encouraged and facilitated through program functions (see above).

  4. Supports co-planning specifically and co-teaching efforts can be recorded in certain templates (student grouping)

  5. Organizes all/most collaboration efforts into one clearinghouse with common tasks, vocabulary, etc.

  6. TeamMark provides such efficiency that little time is needed for teachers to engage in focused discoursed based on purposeful aims. TeamMark also makes it easy for schools/administrators to identify areas that may need to be addressed at the staff level in regards to collaboration because TeamMark organized all collaboration data into an easily searchable database with multiple reports available for all users. Professional development efforts can be presented in Agenda Notes and detailed as a SMART goal and all teams can individually report on their efforts towards these professional development goals within the program.


“Both special education mandate, IDEA, and general education civil rights legislation, Section 504, cannot be implemented without collaboration. IDEA requires a multidisciplinary team for evaluation and program planning; section 504 demands that a group knowledgeable about assessment, the student, and the School’s resources convene to develop a general education intervention plan.

…Americans with Disabilities Act and in GOALS 2000 further support the need for collaboration. Court decisions, from the Supreme Court and from lower federal jurisdictions reinforce the concept of collaboration among professionals and others with an interest in an individual child’s educational program” (Fishbaugh, 1997, p. 40).


TeamMark organizes collaboration data (students, assessments, instruction) into a manageable context and saves all data in one easy to access location.

TeamMark allows for searching and reporting of data to help inform parties requesting or requiring student data regarding narrative references, instruction, and reflection, not just assessment data, while TeamMark can provide reports on assessment data as well.

TeamMark provides an organized interface of data management specifically designed to help with evaluation and program planning . . . assessment, the student, and the School’s resources.

Built-in grouping functions, including instructional calendar monitoring, assessment recording, and instructional grouping have been designed specifically to help with planning for interventions.

Alignment to Learning Forward's Standards for Professional Learning

TeamMark Collaboration Solutions believes that meaningful, value-added collaboration is one of the richest forms of professional learning. TeamMark empowers teams - teachers, specialists, and administrators - to realize Learning Forward's Standards for Professional Learning through their collaborative efforts. We want to provide a summary of these standards here as a reference. To read more about the standards, please visit Learning Forward's website.

Learning Communities: Professional learning that increases educator effectiveness and results for all students occurs within learning communities committed to continuous improvement, collective responsibility, and goal alignment.

Resources: Professional learning that increases educator effectiveness and results for all students requires prioritizing, monitoring, and coordinating resources for educator learning.

Learning Designs: Professional learning that increases educator effectiveness and results for all students integrates theories, research, and models of human learning to achieve its intended outcomes.

Outcomes: Professional learning that increases educator effectiveness and results for all students aligns its outcomes with educator performance and student curriculum standards.

Leadership: Professional learning that increases educator effectiveness and results for all students requires skillful leaders who develop capacity, advocate, and create support systems for professional learning.

Data: Professional learning that increases educator effectiveness and results for all students uses a variety of sources and types of student, educator, and system data to plan, assess, and evaluate professional learning.

Implementation: Professional learning that increases educator effectiveness and results for all students applies research on change and sustains support for implementation of professional learning for long term change.