Friday, December 13, 2013

Teacher Leadership Challenge | December 13, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-08-31 at 5.01.03 PMThis is a multipart series of posts intended to help teachers grow their leadership practice and ignite conversations about education online and in person. The goal of a teacher leader is to improve the learning of all students through their efforts, collaboration, and influence. The 2014 Teacher Leadership Challenge is a weekly installment activity that poses a prompt on an educational topic or issue. Your challenge is to respond within one week to the prompt via a post you publish to your blog. Responses to the prompt that you publish to your own blog should be around 500 words or less. The aim is to get more teachers thinking globally about their classroom practice and their own connection to the wider education community. You can subscribe to this blog to get the weekly challenge sent automatically by email.

You can share your post to Twitter using #TLC2014 and spark conversation with educators. In addition to posting on your own blog, you can elect to include your post in the weekly collection showcase blog. To do this, simply email your completed response post to the showcase, at Make sure that you include the title of your post with the week of the prompt for proper tagging (e.g., "My Post Title | September 6, 2013") in the subject line (without "re:") of your email, and the full post laid out in paragraphs in the body of the email. Posts are automatically published from sending the email. You can embed images and URLs into the body of your email, and the post will publish while maintaining your formatting and layout. Check out others' responses in the response collection or on Google+ each week, leave them your comments, and get the conversation rolling ahead for teacher leadership.

This Week's Challenge:

What are the hallmarks of effective collaboration?

U.S.S. Merrimack
U.S.S. Merrimack
Over the past several years, the word "collaboration" has become a staple in education. It is associated with what are known as 21st century learning skills and modern teaching. The workplace today is characterized as being an environment where individuals collaborate. Many education speakers, authors, and advocates posit that collaboration is an essential element of career and college readiness.

Is collaboration a new idea or a reiteration of a pre-existing notion that already permeated schools? 

Education increasingly seeks to bring people together in learning. We encourage collaboration between colleagues, schools, policy makers, and especially students. We enact programs and policies against anti-collaborative acts, such as bullying, and herald the fact that collaboration can now be accomplished online in realtime using web tools and apps.

In all areas of education though, we seem to rather loosely use the word collaboration when we speak about it in teaching and learning. Although it has become more popular in use, but it has also become somewhat interchangeable with "teamwork." In fact, the use of the word in writing has skyrocketed in recent years, especially in education, despite the fact that collaboration's cousin, "cooperation," has longer had a presence in classrooms with "cooperative learning" and opportunities for group work. However, with classrooms and schools shifting instructional practice to methods like project-based learning, has collaboration become more valuable than mere cooperation? If so, why? What is it about collaboration that makes it so great? 

If collaboration is such a high-merit skill, then we must be able to define its beneficial attributes. In all fairness, it's unclear whether collaboration is something that could be pointed to if it were happening. This leads to a wondering: what is collaboration and what does it look like in practice?

How do we get students to work together in a meaningful way; furthermore, how do we get them to want to work together? Does collaboration simply mean working together or alongside others? Does it mean everyone has defined tasks, or can there be overlap in the roles that collaborative partners have?

Does collaboration look different for students than it does for educators themselves? Do we hold the same standards for working together collaboratively that we expect from our students? If not, how do we achieve effective collaboration with our colleagues? Can collaboration be taught to students if teachers know how to do it themselves?

Is collaboration the product of what we create when we work together, or is it something greater than the sum of our individual efforts, like synergy?

It seems education has advanced from cooperation to collaboration; perhaps coopetition will be next...

Image Credit: USS Merrimack Cardboard Boat by Judy Griffith, 2013