In this post I will look at collaboration, the possible barriers to it and some of the benefits in embracing a culture of collaboration in your school.
Although curriculum planning was always collaborative, traditionally each teacher took ownership of their own planning to a large degree. However, with the introduction of the Junior Cycle, new teaching methodologies and the need to keep our students highly engaged this has all now changed. There is a huge emphasis on collaboration within subject departments in the following areas;
- Sharing knowledge
- Sharing experiences
- Sharing fears and failures
- Sharing resources
- Sharing the workload
- Sharing best practice
Some of the Barriers
Building a culture of collaboration is not easy and there are some challenges that need to be overcome. The important thing to remember is that they can be overcome.
This can be the biggest challenge, the reality of busy schedules, in-service training, parent teacher meetings and extra-curricular activities all mean that it can be sometimes tough to find the time to sit down and collaborate with your colleagues.
Having a collaborative space to work together when you are not in the same room is important to share documents, updates, resources and of course planning. Everyone needs visibility and be kept up to date with all that is happening. When you do get the time to meet it will be much more productive and effective.
Templates and guides
If we all use a different map to reach our destination then we would all end up in different places. The same can be said when planning for the new Junior Cycle. It is important to have a common framework to work from where everyone in your team is on the same page, using the same terminology and are working toward the same goal.
Multiple apps and systems
In many schools we talk to there are different apps and systems in use by departments or individuals to do their planning. This is a big barrier to collaboration when planning is done in different formats, layouts, terminology and access to these plans are restricted to the person doing the planning.
Streamlining the IT in your school will make it easier to implement, help with adoption and much easier to support and maintain going forward. Having IT barriers in the way before you even get started such as logins, reliability and setup will hamper the success and eat up more of that valuable time.
There is a vast array of learning content available today and curating your library is something you never stop adding too. If your colleagues on your team are doing the same but in isolation this can be perceived to be a barrier. Actually, having a shared library with an agreed structure can expand everyone’s library and since these resources will be used in your planning it makes sense to pool them together. This also helps to streamline the technology used in your school. Having a shared library that everyone in the department can access is essential and remember it is not all about quantity, but more about the quality of resources.
Benefits of collaboration
We are big believers in collaboration at SchoolWise. Some of our most successful projects have been down to the collaboration of cross functional teams. We wanted to know if our schools experienced the same benefits from collaboration as we have. So, we surveyed a number of our long-standing schools to see if they noticed any benefits from their collaborative work in SchoolWise. Here is what they had to say;
- Reduced workload as it could be shared across the department
- Improved teaching and learning by sharing ideas, experiences and methodologies
- Increase in the quantity and quality of the content
- Consistency in planning and delivery
- More inclusive teaching and learning
- Increased student performance and engagement
- Consistent academic assessment and tracking
- Developing core competencies that students are expected to meet
There are many benefits to be gained from collaboration, however to really improve teaching and learning you must also reflect upon what worked well and what can be improved upon. This is something I will cover in a follow-up post.