Collaboration is a core value of the Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation, as reflected by the following statement, “Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation embraces the core values of collaboration, leadership, character, and achievement.”
During last year’s strategic planning process the TVSC Strategic Planning Committee developed a value statement specific to collaboration, “We value collaboration amongst students, staff, parents and community.” The value statement for collaboration is accompanied by four belief statements which further define collaboration:
1) We believe in shared decision-making
2) We believe in seeking feedback and input
3) We believe collaboration is a lifelong skill
4) We believe that together we can accomplish more than we can on our own.
So, what is collaboration? Merriam-Webster defines collaboration as “to work with another person or group in order to achieve or do something.” Wikipedia’s definition reads, “Collaboration is working with each other to do a task and to achieve a goal.”
In the school setting collaboration occurs when a team of teachers engages in a systematic process in which they work together, interdependently, to analyze and impact their professional practice in order to improve individual and collective results. Teachers work together to achieve the common goal of ensuring high levels of learning for all students for which team members are held mutually accountable.
Despite compelling evidence that teachers working together collaboratively represents best practice; teachers in many schools continue to work in isolation. Educators must stop working in isolation and hoarding their ideas, materials, and strategies and begin to work together to meet the needs of all students. The power of collaboration results from the systematic process in which teachers work together to analyze and improve classroom practice. Teachers working in teams, engaging in an ongoing cycle of questions that promote deep team learning, leads to higher levels of student achievement.
In working collaboratively, teachers shift from a focus on teaching to a focus on student learning. As our schools move forward with collaboration, every professional in the school must engage with colleagues in the ongoing exploration of four crucial questions that will drive the collaborative efforts of teachers committed to higher levels of learning for all students:
- What is it we want our students to learn?
- How will we know if each student has learned it?
- How will we respond when some students do not learn it?
- How can we extend and enrich the learning for students who have demonstrated proficiency?
By working collaboratively teachers will develop coordinated strategies to respond when some students do not learn. The response will be timelier and will be based on intervention rather than remediation, providing students with help as soon as they experience difficulty rather than relying on remedial classes or summer school. Additional help will be provided until the student has mastered the necessary concepts.
Teachers working collaboratively will judge their effectiveness on the basis of results. Results-oriented professionals not only welcome data but turn data into useful and relevant information. Data will become a catalyst for improved teaching.
Collaboration is a powerful way of teachers working together that profoundly affects the practices of schooling. Effective collaboration requires hard work as the school’s staff focuses on learning rather than teaching, works collaboratively on matters related to learning, and holds itself accountable for the kind of results that fuel continual improvement.
Throughout the course of the 2014-2015 school year monthly Valley Insight articles will be written by members of the Tippecanoe Valley Administrative Team. Each will focus on the core value of collaboration and how it impacts what happens daily in the schools of the Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation.
Sources: “Learning by Doing” by Richard DuFour, Rebecca DuFour, Robert Eaker, and Thomas Many; “What is a Professional Learning Community” by Richard DuFour.