How do we catalyse real collaboration amongst our teachers?
Margery Evans, Chief Executive Officer of AITSL, 24 September 2012
The recent ministerial endorsement of the Australian Teacher Performance and Development Framework and the Australian Charter for the Professional Learning of Teachers and School Leaders signals an exciting era in education. I doubt any of us would disagree with the Charter’s contention that “Professional learning will be most effective when it is relevant, collaborative and future focused, and when it supports teachers to reflect on, question and consciously improve their practice.”
The emphasis on collaboration throughout both the Framework and Charter is driven by the need to connect teachers not only to their colleagues within and across schools, but also to external experts. But what does it really mean to collaborate? More importantly, what does this collaboration look like, feel like and sound like? Is there more to it than swapping war stories? How do we identify true collaboration as something distinct from just working together? These questions no doubt mean different things to different people.
I was inspired recently whilst watching Alma Harris speak about ‘disciplined collaboration’ at the Flagship Professional Learning Program: Local Leadership Conference in Melbourne. Alma makes the salient point that “high performing organisations have leaders who use collaboration... in order to raise performance and keep performance high”.
At AITSL, I believe our role in catalysing collaboration amongst the profession rests with enabling, influencing and promoting best practice. We’ve begun to do this with the Illustrations of Practice. The Australian Professional Standards for Teachers have introduced a common language for all schools and articulate what good teaching looks like but we realise we’ve got some work to do to describe, identify and exemplify disciplined collaboration in action and what culture needs to be established in order for them to survive.
The main point of any professional collaboration is ‘to connect to learn’ but often little thought is given to the establishment of those connections and scant attention is paid to the fact that to be most productive and effective, some professionals need to ‘learn to connect’ - Harris and Jones, 2012
So I ask you:
- What does disciplined collaboration mean to you?
- How do you know when it’s working in your school?
- How can we best support teachers and school leaders to “connect to learn”?
I’d love to hear your reflections in the comments below.