Transcending the collaboration rhetoric

This term I have designed my own action learning project (Kolb, 1984) around the question “What can effective collaboration look like in education”. My reflective observations are that in education we like to talk about collaboration but due to poor modelling and a lack of soft skills, network awareness and metacognitive tool sets we are in collaboration terms ‘functionally illiterate’.

I spent 3 weeks coding behaviors surrounding the use of the word “collaboration”, I coded educators webpages, documents, blogs, tweets, emails, spoken word & other social networks.


Here is what I observed
  • Total use of the word (spoken, written or implied) = 89
  • Behaviors observed:
    • working together to realize shared goals” = 0/89
    • Telling others what to do = 18/89
    • Sharing basic information/facts/knowledge/content = 75/89
    • Engaging others in the creation of a vision = 0/89
    • Telling others what the vision is = 5/89
    • Asking for feedback = 0/89
    • Positively accepting feedback = 0/89
    • Negatively accepting feedback = 3/89
    • Making connections for personal/professional gain = 12/89
    • Use of the word in a vacuum of any behaviors i.e. “I collaborate” = 10/89

My abstract conceptualisations are:

  • Educators don’t conceptually understand collaboration, so we will chunk it down for them and facilitate them through a process of actual collaboration.
  • Educators lack experience with structures and processes that enable collaboration, so we have timetabled 2 days a term for each faculty to collaborate and we will help structure further collaboration into their routines.
  • Educators are rarely engaged in the visioning process, so we will start by designing a shared vision, then build the collaboration from there.

Let the active experimentation begin…

Further reading:

2 thoughts on “Transcending the collaboration rhetoric

  1. High school teachers in particular dont grasp collaboration. They think it is sharing worksheets. Sad. I think primary teachers are better just because they employ things such as learning spaces and team teaching more than secondary teachers.

    Marzano argues that high school teachers should view collaboration as part of their lesson prep. Yes it takes time but it also saves time. If we do not take this approach then collaboration will always be viewed as something extra (and hence easily dismissed because we are all too busy!)

    Just a few thoughts

  2. At our school I feel that educators are involved in the Visioning process, as least to a certain extent. However when it comes to collaboration, I think one thing we often fail to do is to formalise the process.

    Of course teachers come together to debrief and discuss ideas, so there is some collaboration and feedback processes in place. I would like to see an informal yet formalised process of collaboration.

    I would like to have time where different groups from different parts of the school could model/demonstrate what they are working on to improve what they are responsible for as a group. Too often it feels as though we are in competition with one another, despite our shared goal of education…

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