Organizational Learning and Collaborative Structures

I just read this article and it reminded me of our last staff meeting. We were getting set to looking more closely at the new school reform in ground made based on subjects taught this year. English, Norwegian, history, math, science and so on. After a short introduction they were all hard at it. Or so I thought, until my colleague told me. And it makes perfect sense. Because in this particular setting, they just don’t see the value of working together. They know they know their profession, they have taught many years and they are comfortable in the classroom. And any school reform that comes their way will be solved by using a new textbook sure to be published soon. In other words no need to worry.

We want teachers to work together just as we want students to. We want teachers to solve problems together, not on their own. We believe that it is the only way to improve school and learning for all. If you are a genius and always succeed with your students, year after year, why wouldn’t you want to share that with your colleagues. Why wouldn’t you consider that at duty? To treat all the students as a collective ours instead of mine?

The time we have to work collectively and collaborate is precious and scarce. That is why I get so frustrated when it is spent on social media and making fun of the tasks given. But I’m not surprised. And it is just a small group of teachers I’m talking about. I blame myself for not taking into consideration the points argued here. I will next time and I’m sharing the article here. I think it is difficult to disagree with this. It just makes sense.

Merely placing staff into teams will not necessarily lead to improved learning. There is the problem of contrived collegiality, where the collaboration is promoted as a means of achieving executive purposes, rather than the goals of the teachers. Communication and interdependence are methods of overcoming the balkanization of the silo-like subject-based teams in high schools. Developing cross-disciplinary curriculum structures is another possible method of overcoming the problem of balkanization.

Organizations learn collectively in groups and collaborative structures enable people to work together in teams to accomplish collective purposes.

Learning is a social enterprise and people learn best in groups. Collaborative structures help to decrease teacher isolation, codify and share successful teaching practices, increase staff morale, and open the door to experimentation and increased collective efficacy. Collaborative environments are also likely to attract talented staff who thrive on interactions with like-minded talented individuals. High levels of collaboration are likely to exist when the leadership marks it as a priority, when common time and physical space are set aside for collaboration, and when teaching and learning are seen as a team responsibility, rather than an individual responsibility

The most important outcome of teacher collaboration may be that teachers learn how to improve their teaching practice. When teachers collaborate, they share experiences and knowledge that can promote learning for instructional improvement. A team focus on learning helps teachers to discover causal connections between teaching and student learning and encourages collective questioning of ineffective teaching routines. High levels of teacher collaboration are also likely to improve teaching and learning, student behavior, and student achievement on high-stakes tests.

Teachers who work collaboratively think and behave on the basis of an understanding of teaching as a shared responsibility. The scrutiny of peers is welcomed. Collaborative structures enable teachers to learn from the experience and expertise of their peers. However, just because teachers work together does not mean that the outcomes will be positive, as there needs to be an appropriate knowledge base from at least one teacher for it to be worthwhile.

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