There’s a growing body of research out there that shows collaborative time for professional learning is critical to school improvement. But it turns out jumping the hurdle to make time for collaboration doesn’t ensure that it will work.
“Time alone is not going to fix it. . . . You need to have specific protocols—a focus in your conversation. . . . Yes, collaboration, time are important, but there are essential elements that are very critical to have as part of your culture.”
—Francisco Escobedo, Superintendent of Chula Vista Elementary School District
My husband hates to collaborate. He’s a 6th grade science teacher with 20 years under his belt in exclusively high-needs schools. He’s lived through several experiments with the concept of collaborative planning time – all of them enforced by a top-down mandate and developed under the assumption there are problems with the teachers that need to be fixed. His frustration is not unusual, this deficit-based approach doesn’t build trust. It undermines it. And it ignores the real assets ALL teachers can bring to the table – regardless of their level of experience or struggle.
Luckily there are ways to foster a collaborative school culture. The research suggests that there’s more to it than providing the time for collaboration. Schools need to consider questions like:
- “Do we have shared agreements about what effective teaching and learning looks like?”
- “Are we having the hard conversations about what’s working, what isn’t, and how we know?”
- “Do we share responsibility for determining the learning we most need to do together?”
- “How are we using evidence from our classrooms to inform the work we do together?”
Collaboration that is driven by the strengths of educators rather than compliance to mandates gives groups a much stronger foundation to stand on.