Alright Stop, Collaborate and Listen: Strangely, Vanilla Ice may have said it best almost 20 years ago. This month we look at how collaboration continues to change the landscape of education.
The word collaboration gets tossed around quite a bit these days. Businesses emphasize cross-department collaboration, community organizations see the value in it, and district offices use it as a battle cry. But how does it translate on a school campus? For the answer, check out Stovall Academy for Environmental Studies in Aldine ISD.
"Collaboration is part of our DNA. It's what we do—whether it's a grade level meeting or a summertime leadership meeting," explains reading skills specialist Chamelia Robinson.
The Stovall team doesn't leave this collaborative atmosphere to chance, and all of the collaborative efforts seem to be paying off. The school has been named a TEA "Recognized" campus for the last five years, and the teacher turnover rate is lower than 5 percent.
Teachers spend time in collaborative planning meetings four days per week, and administrators support this by scheduling common conference times during the school day. Robinson and Assistant Principal Kelly Eckenfels attribute Stovall's success in forming a collaborative culture to professional development in Critical Friends Group coaching provided by Houston A+ Challenge.
The Power of the Network
Ask 10 people in the A+ office to define collaboration, and you may get 10 different answers. And at A+, that's just what we want.
Since its inception in 1997, Houston A+ Challenge has worked to make meaningful collaboration a part of the everyday practice among diverse educators and others passionate about education. Whether it's the Preparing to Dream initiative connecting local educators with National College Access Network (NCAN) expertise to get more kids into college, or the Principal Leadership Academy developing educators at all levels into powerful leaders, Houston A+ seeks to bring a sense of shared purpose around important education issues.
Spend Seven Minutes with A+ National Speakers
To share our learning with the wider community, Houston A+ Challenge has begun compiling a video library featuring brief interviews with national speakers who have recently spent time with our principal and teacher networks.
Let us know what you think about these new video clips:
- Michael Fullan, internationally renowned education researcher and author, on the value of 'collaborative competition' in public schools.
- Lorraine Monroe, author and founding principal of Harlem's Frederick Douglass Academy, on instructional leadership.
- Kent Peterson, Professor of Education Leadership & Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin, on building positive school culture.
- David Conley, University of Oregon professor, on how public schools can prepare more students for college and career.
People work best when they work together. Check out how the future of education is collaborative:
Where Do Educators Collaborate?
Online, for one. Here are two great places for educators to collaborate on real work — one national, one local:
Student Survival Skill: Collaboration
In The Global Achievement Gap, Harvard educator Tony Wagner points to seven survival skills that students need as they become adults in the rapidly changing global marketplace. Ranking second on his list, collaboration doesn't just mean people sitting together in a room, brainstorming ideas. For Wagner, collaboration is a global process that requires personal and technical skills to work with people in different time zones, of different backgrounds, with different ideologies. Read more on the book here.
The "How to" of Learning through Collaboration
As Wagner points out, the call to collaborate doesn't stop with the teacher. Students need to learn the skills to collaborate -- but how do you teach it? Throwing kids in a group and asking them to work together isn't enough. Increasingly, the call to collaborate is being replaced by the call to teach how to collaborate. Check out these articles from a special edition of Educational Leadership:
Want Teachers to Collaborate?
It takes commitment from the top. In her article, "Making Time for Teacher Collaboration is Crucial," Suzie Boss explores how in West Virginia, time and resources have been dedicated so that teachers can work together to improve their practice. See the full article here.
Teacher-Centered Professional Development
Gabriel Diaz-Maggioli's above-referenced book, Teacher-Centered Professional Development, is a must read for anyone providing professional development to teachers. Diaz-Maggioli outlines how adult learning should require teacher-to-teacher collaboration.