Strategies for Building Effective Teacher Collaboration
You must have read about Professional Learning Communities, and other organisational models that promote Teacher Collaboration. Organizational models facilitate, but do not guarantee collaboration. How teachers engage in a model can make a difference. Teachers’ personal stance about whether they “have to” or “want to” participate in an organizational model is critical to successful collaboration.
You can gain a greater capacity for collaboration if you apply strategies with an opportunity to practice. To initiate or revitalize teacher collaboration in your school, try these five strategies.
Creating a Community
For a successful collaboration, relationship building between staff is essential. Getting to know your colleagues, understanding their passions, and taking the time to connect on a personal level can help members gain mutual respect and look past perceived eccentricities in others. Like all relationships, a collaborative community develops over time and requires work to maintain. Regular meetings and discussions about work and personal life are necessary. Ways to develop community can include establishing traditions, celebrating accomplishments, and recognizing individual contributions.
A safe environment
Collaboration can be uncomfortable or stressful at times. Being transparent about work and beliefs means our colleagues can see our limitations as well as our strengths, placing us in a position of vulnerability. Sharing with and trusting colleagues requires courage and humility. Trust is very important to establish a safe environment for open communication. Taking the time to get to know the learning styles, needs, interests, fears, and hopes of each team member helps shape the norms for how the group engages in the shared work.
Discussions and Dialogue
Discussion moves the conversation forward. In discussion, individuals state their opinions for the purpose of building consensus or making decisions. The goal of dialogue is to share and broaden knowledge. Dialogue invites multiple perspectives, values the exploration of biases and assumptions, questions the status quo, and entertains new ways of knowing and being.
Whether they are integrating curriculum, analyzing data, or studying a new practice, teams should understand the roles of, and differences between, dialogue and discussion. They are equally important to the group process.
A Shared Vision
The level of ownership they feel in the process influences how much teachers actually invest in collaborative work. A shared vision and goals can lead to that sense of ownership. The strong connection between the work and the vision of the team can help individuals see purpose and assume ownership in the process.
Working through differences
Dialogue can cultivate deep professional learning as individuals and teams explore new ideas for practice. Teams can help manage conflict by providing time, space, grace, and support for individuals as they work through their emotions. Individuals also should monitor their own emotions and practice self-care.
Strong collaboration and collaborative cultures develop over time and require commitment to the process. While the benefits are clear, genuine collaboration is complex.
What will it take to maximize organizational models for productive teacher collaboration in your school? School leaders—principals and teachers—need to work together and commit to a collaborative culture. They need to ensure dedicated time for the organizational model within the school day.
This article has been inspired by and contains excerpts from AMLE.org. Read the original here.