Forms of professional learning: Collaboration

Choose one of the Essential Guides to Professional Learning above and consider how a school or adult education organisation you are familiar with addresses the issues raised in the Guide.

 

 

The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) recognises that collaboration is a powerful professional development tool. Its publication, ‘The Australian Charter for the ‘Professional Learning of Teachers and School Leaders’, underscores that it “has a powerful effect in magnifying and spreading the benefits of professional learning and adds a new and valuable dimension to the learning undertaken by individuals” (2012, p. 5).

 

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AITSL’s (n.d.) ‘The Essential Guide to Professional Learning: Collaboration’ highlights a multitude of factors and issues that relate to collaboration. One of the key questions highlighted on the first page of the document asks: What support is provided to teachers to facilitate collaboration? In my experience, time is the most crucial. DeLuca, Bolden, & Chan (2017) identify this as a factory that impedes group collaboration and professional learning communities. Without being allocated and supported with time, I’ve found it difficult to be effective with collaboration. Teaching teams can easily fall into ruts where they’re ‘too busy’ to meet or one member of the group will do all the work.

 

Another question from AITSL’s (n.d.) asks: how is an effective culture of collaboration developed and maintained? Snow-Gerono (2005) also see this as vital, positing that it’s not enough to come together and collaborate, the practice must be reflected upon, analysed and criticised in order for it to be effective for those involved (p.254).  AITSL (2014) points out that “skills of collaboration are not necessarily automatic or natural but need to be practiced and refined” (p. 8). My experience with developing an ‘effective culture of collaboration’ is that it’s not something that people external to the group have focused upon. Other leaders in similar positions to mine have remarked that it’s something that they want to build, but not something they’ve developed a clear plan for. The barriers and enablers diagram highlighted on page 4 of the diagram effectively showcases both factors which can affect collaboration.

 

In terms of enablers or barriers, it seems as though school culture cultivates either poor or strong collaboration. Schools with poor school culture can often be filled with teachers hesitant to share, are characterised by a lack of enthusiasm or trust while schools with strong collaboration have a shared vision, high level of trust and collective teacher efficacy.

 

The publication suggests learning walks, professional learning communities, instructional rounds, peer observation and instructional coaching as activities relating or encouraging collaboration. My experience within PLCs is that their success is predicated on having support from leadership. This view is in line with Timperley (2011) opinion that strong leadership is crucial for the success of the professional development.

 

References

(please note that formatting problems within WordPress have impacted the correct indentation of referencing below)

 

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. (2014b). Disciplined Collaboration in Professional Learning. Retrieved from https://www.aitsl.edu.au/docs/default-source/default-document-library/dcpl_summary_report.pdf?sfvrsn=59baec3c_0

 

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. (n.d.) The Essential Guide to Professional Learning: Collaboration. Retrieved from https://www.aitsl.edu.au/docs/default-source/default-document-library/the-essential-guide-to-professional-learning—collaborationce4a8891b1e86477b58fff00006709da.pdf?sfvrsn=86a2ec3c_0

 

DeLuca, C., Bolden, B., & Chan, J. (2017). Systemic professional learning through collaborative inquiry: Examining teachers’ perspectives. Teaching and Teacher Education, 67(Supplement C), 67–78. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2017.05.014

 

Timperley, H. (2011). Using student assessment for professional learning: focusing on students’ outcomes to identify teachers’ needs. Retrieved from http://www.education.vic.gov.au/Documents/about/research/timperleyassessment.pdf

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