Building a collaborative culture has proven to be a difficult but rewarding goal. Students benefit when we work together.
My goal through my PLT was to create a culture that would make a difference for student learning. I have learned that the following four factors are critical when establishing a collaborative culture.
- Purposeful and Meaningful: the collaboration needs to be purposeful and meaningful. Teachers need to understand and “buy in” to the process. Teachers are more likely to see the benefit when they find the activity purposeful and meaningful. That is why I asked teachers to invite another teacher in, rather than force an observation. I felt that when teachers invite another teacher in, they are able to set the purpose of the observation. This allows the teacher and observer to provide valuable and specific suggestions or feedback.
- Reflective: I asked the teachers to reflect on the process. The teachers who participated found value in reflecting. As educators, we are very busy so we struggle to find the time to reflect. However, when we take the time to reflect we allow ourselves time to learn and change our practices. Through reflection, we challenge ourselves to become better.
- Time: Time needs to be provided for this collaboration to happen. Time is always a factor for teachers. The VP and I offered to cover classes to allow for this to happen. We covered for the observation but also for the discussion and reflection that followed. If we truly value the discussion and reflection, we need to provide time (in some form) for it to occur.
- Critical: Collaboration is critical for education. As Hargreaves and Fullan state, “Teaching is a profession with shared purposes, collective responsibility, and mutual learning.” (Professional Capital). We need to open our doors, push down our walls so that we are working as a collective rather than as individuals.
What would I change in the future?
As I reflect back on this experience, I would make some modifications to the way that we worked through this process.
- I would hold our teachers more accountable. I would have a monthly sign-up sheet accessible to all teachers. Reminding teachers about the observations and that we are willing to cover classes each month. I believe this would keep the process on their minds. I would ask teachers to complete at minimum 2 peer-observations in a year. This allows for teachers to improve on their practice based on feedback by two of their colleagues.
Collaboration has a positive impact on student learning. This year, teachers made adjustments or changes to their teaching practice based on these peer-observations occurring. Teachers are looking for ways to improve, peer-observations are one way to assist them. Moving forward I would continue to facilitate collaboration between all of the teachers in a building, focusing on teamwork and building relationships beyond the school with parents and the community.