Looking back at my teaching career I realise that I have progressed most through learning with and from my colleagues. Working together, listening to each other's hints and tips and learning from each other's experiences not only helps when tackling difficulties but also increases student learning and achievement. To me, collaboration is not a task to complete before moving on: it is an ever-changing, ongoing process that is growing rapidly thanks to social networks and access to new technology.
The great advantage of collaboration is not only the possibility to get inspired by various perspectives and ideas, but also to share responsibility for our students’ learning. When teachers share information, resources, ideas, and expertise, they encourage and motivate each other which contributes to building interpersonal relationships and helping each other grow as teachers.
What are the other benefits of collaboration? Teachers can achieve a sense of shared responsibility for improving students’ attainment; they get more creative about instructional strategies leading to a wider use of innovation and technology in lessons.
Importantly, collaboration also combats feelings of teacher isolation and leads to improved morale and increased professional satisfaction. One of the best ways to boost collaboration is the use of Professional Learning Communities (PLC) which are a powerful tool in education and school reform.
What are some of the challenges to collaboration? Certainly, lack of time, personality clashes and territoriality are some of the factors that weaken effective collaboration between teachers and turn it into an unproductive or even a frustrating process. Developing a shared vision with mutual goals is one of the essential elements of effective collaboration, closely followed by fostering a sense of community and a culture of trust and respect, which will allow everyone to thrive. Strong collaborative cultures develop over time and require effort and commitment to the process.
Despite these challenges, PLCs seem currently one of the most effective methods of teacher collaboration that have a direct influence on student engagement and achievement, as well as growth for the educators who work with them.
Technology and innovation play a major role in modern teacher collaboration. Connecting with other educators through social media gives you direct access to the knowledge, experience, and countless resources of teachers who you may have never connected with in your immediate professional circles. Most likely a great degree of our collaboration in the future will be digital. Indeed, many of our students will work with people all over the world that they may never meet. Google has already revolutionised how many of our teachers and students are working on a daily basis. We teachers have all the tools, and we need to be the mentors, leaders and partners to our students when it comes to learning what collaboration can look like.
- Professional Development