“Only education gives us the power to go further. Learning is a source of dignity and an important element of human flourishing”
Teacher retention is a topic at the top of most country’s education agenda. Research consistently reports that teachers who can create high-quality learning experiences for children and young people, i.e. high-quality teachers are the best determinant of pupil learning and progression. But for children and young people to thrive and progress, their teachers must also be able to thrive and continue to learn and progress in their own learning journeys. Collaborative professionalism can help teachers create excellent learning opportunities for all learners in their learning community.
So why would I collaborate?
Collaborative professionalism offers teachers opportunities to continue to develop and practise their skills. It supports teachers to develop the attributes, skills and knowledge needed to be ‘adaptive experts’ in building relationships and learning experiences to support all children to succeed. For teachers, time in the classroom learning about learning and teaching is invaluable.
How does it help me as a teacher?
This time in the classroom learning about learning and teaching, and working collaboratively with colleagues, helps teachers to build their own ‘internal databases’ of both social and academic aspects of teaching so that these can be pulled on at a later date. The collaborative element enhances the performance of all teachers and in schools, where teacher expertise is deliberately grown, it builds opportunities for learning with and from each other, contributing to a positive culture of learning, creating synergy and a collaborative accountability for ‘our children’.
Why collaborative professionalism?
Collaborative professionalism helps teachers to deliberately practise and get feedback which they can use to improve their practice. John Hattie talks about the importance of feedback: this is equally important for children and young people, and teachers. Effective feedback is critical to improving teaching and learning. However, it needs to be precise and offer something constructive to change or improve. In a supportive collaboration, expertise of all participants is cultivated and valued, evidence of progress for teachers and pupils is respected and feedback is welcomed if it can lead to a change or refinement to improve practice.
Collaborative professionalism creates stronger and better professional practice by doing something deliberately and together with other teachers. The teachers in the collaboration may be linked by the stage they teach, or by the topic of collaboration or a particular pedagogical approach, but the important thing is the shared goals for working together to improve each other’s practice. It should not be a cosy conversation but should entail sharing, talking, trusting, co-operating and learning but also challenging, critiquing, including, empowering and debating.
Hargreaves and O’Connor in their book ‘Collaborative Professionalism’ (2108) discuss the 10 tenants of Collaborative Professionalism, outlined below:
- Collective autonomy
Teachers have more control of their own work and work interdependently with each other, which is informed by evidence and open to feedback, inspiration and assistance.
How do you build collective autonomy in your context?
- Collective efficacy
Teachers improve when they work collaboratively.
In what ways can you collaborate? With whom?
- Collaborative enquiry
Teachers systematically enquire into their own and others practice in order to improve outcomes for children and young people.
Some resources from the GTCS website to get you started on practitioner enquiry are available:
- Collective responsibility
Teachers engage with ‘our’ students and not ‘my’ students.
What are the barriers to collective responsibility in your context? What needs to change?
- Collective initiative
Teachers determine their own professional learning and are not held back by other agendas.
How do you engage with current policy to determine your own professional learning needs?
- Mutual dialogue – ‘talk is the work’
Difficult conversations are not shied away from as the feedback is honest and appropriate and leads to improvement.
How do you create the time to build relationships and have honest conversations?
- Joint work
Working and thinking together, creating synergy.
How do you create the time to ‘talk learning’?
- Common meaning and purpose
The common purpose of the collaborative group is the work.
What is your common goal for the next 6 months in your context?
- Collaborating with students
Students are active participants in the improvement process.
How can you involve students in the process of improvement?
- Big picture thinking for all
Everyone leans into the big picture of education.
What literature and research can you read to highlight current policy direction?
The GTCS website has a range of journals and ebooks that may help, and a guide has been created to help you:
- Hargreaves, A. & O’Connor, M.T. (2018) Collaborative Professionalism: When Teaching Together Means Learning for All (Corwin Impact Leadership Series)