EFFECTIVE COLLABORATION CAN SUPPORT PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND IMPROVE STUDENT OUTCOMES

Collaboration in teaching

More effective collaboration among teachers within a school  is seen as important for professional development

And for improving pupil outcomes

Comment

Research suggests that collaboration with teacher colleagues around student instruction is an essential part of every teacher’s job and results in rising student achievement. Historically, teachers professional development has   often taken place in isolation and has been dependent upon  ad hoc inputs from outside “experts” .What is now increasingly  happening is that teachers are seeking to learn from others within their own schools,  as part of their professional development. Most obviously, if teachers are sharing ideas for successful teaching practices with one another, they will have a wider base of knowledge to bring to the classroom. A variety of pedagogical approaches will be available, and the teacher will have a resource to rely on when the teacher needs additional input or advice in effectively teaching students. Additionally, if a teacher is part of a community of sharing, that teacher is more likely to value the benefits of the support and knowledge that is created in such a community. The teacher who values collaboration, sharing, and peer-oriented learning will make the effort to create a similar community within their classroom.

Of course allowing teachers the time to collaborate is one thing; making sure they understand the specific goals of that collaboration and how to effectively collaborate is another.  Research also shows that some teachers may think they are collaborating well,  and have the best of motives, but their collaborative activity is, in effect, adding little value, either to their own professional development, or student outcomes. Collaboration has no purpose if the results are never discussed, implemented, evaluated  or  followed up, if the teachers involved are not committed to the process,  or, indeed, if  it is not  supported by the schools management.

So, what characteristics underpin effective collaboration? Friend, M., & Cook, L. (1996, 2000) help us out here.

First, it should be voluntary. Second, there should be parity-teachers must believe that all individuals’ contributions are valued equally. Third, it requires clearly defined mutual  goals. Fourth,  shared responsibility for participation—a ‘convenient’ (though not necessarily equal) division of labour; Fifth, equal participation in the decision making; Sixth,  pooling the resources; and, finally,   a shared accountability for outcomes, whether results are positive or negative.

Similarly, Tiegerman-Farber and Radziewicz (1998: 70) described the characteristics of a collaborative style in terms of co-equality and co-participation, reciprocity, common goals, and accountability

Steve Munby, Chief Executive of CFBT Education Trust, a keen advocate of collaboration, within and between schools,  and among  school leaders ,reminded an audience at the recent Sunday Times/ Wellington College Education Festival of an  African  Proverb  ‘If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together’  

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