I have spent many years thinking about the concept of collaboration. It involves an approach to learning that has been very meaningful to me as a teacher, a principal, a superintendent and now in research and consulting work. I have loved working on teams with specific goals and learning together. The complexities of collaboration were a meaningful focus for my personal doctoral work as I lived the complexities with colleagues on a daily basis.
While I use the word often and effortlessly, I know from my own experience and study that the kind of collaboration we need in schools today is specific and not without its challenges.
Collaboration as a kind of co-labouring to improve our practice is quite different than collaborating with colleagues to organise a time-table, write a curricular unit together or prepare an athletic event for students. Collegial work is always enhanced by strong relationships but co-labouring involves working towards developing shared understandings about effective teacher practice and student learning as we learn from and with each other. Co-labouring involves work where we share responsibility as well as intent. Co-labouring involves some level of risk as sharing our work exposes our practice to some degree. It takes respect, trust and a growth mindset. Learning protocols assist us by adding structure to collaborative efforts. It takes a leap of faith that we can be vulnerable about sharing personal understandings and what we need to learn collectively. Centering our co-labour around what we see in student work which can inform our efforts to collaborate keeps the focus where it needs to be – on learning. Co-labouring is at the heart of strong enquiry efforts to improve student learning and teacher practice.
Deeper forms of collaboration allow us to take risks together and move our profession forward.
Collaboration – what does it mean to you?
Discover the power of collaboration and meet Beate at the second annual SCEL Conference on Wednesday 3 May 2017 at Perth Concert Hall.