01 SES 07 B, Collaborative Approaches to Professional Learning
This proposal supports the fifth focus of Network #1, ‘conditions and practices that improve and encourage professional development’. The proposal has two components. Firstly, international literature is used to establish key actions and strategies showing what is deemed necessary for the development and sustainability of collaborative workplace cultures. Secondly, implications for practice are shared using findings from an online survey trial which offers individual schools a tool for ascertaining commitment to collaborative values and practices and a dialogical process for setting improvement agendas.
Given the significant shifts in concepts of leadership towards more fluid forms of distributed leadership and the concomitant need for robust collaborative practices, there is a growing body of work providing an engaging backstory to what school principals and teachers need to do if collaborative learning cultures are to thrive. This presentation contributes to that backstory. Because the word ‘collaboration’ is now appearing so frequently in the professional learning literature, it is time to unpack what it takes to make it work in practice. This is no simple task, easier in the saying than the doing.
- To establish starting points from which teachers and principals can enhance collaborative learning cultures;
- To report on the results from the trial of a values survey tool and its use as an aid for professional discussions aimed at enhancing collaborative ways of working.
Research Question: To ascertain how strongly staff members rate each of four values related to collaborative learning cultures.
A description follows of each of the four values and the sources from which they are derived. Sources from countries as diverse as United Kingdom, the United States, Ukraine, Lebanon, Malta, China, New Zealand and Finland were examined:
Value 1: Professional Discretion features items related to how a school keeps its focus on students and their learning despite other pressures. International research supporting this value includes work by Coleman (2011), Hargreaves (2011), Cooper, Stanulis, Brondyk, Hamilton, Macaluso and Meier (2016).
Value 2: Collegial Obligationemphasizes the importance of collective meanings of practice so that professional strength is gained from being part of a larger whole rather than leaving individuals to act alone. Authors who contribute to the importance of this value are: Tschannen-Moran (2001), Hallam et al. (2015), Cutajar and Bezzina (2013), Kutsyuruba (2013), and Duffy and Gallagher (2014).
Value 3: Reflective Inquiry & Discourserecognizes the need for trusting relationships and opportunities to make sense of practice together. Authors such as Ghamwari (2013), Nicolaides and Dzubinski (2016), Kaser and Halbert (2014) were reviewed.
Value 4: Evidence-Based Professional Practiceis about having robust data sources to inform teaching and learning. Marsh and Farrell (2015), and Cosner (2012) suggest this is more than merely collecting data but being able to use it to plan for improvement strategies.
From an extensive review of research and scholarly writing explaining each of the four values, the kind of actions that demonstrate these values in practice were formulated as the basis for items in an online survey. These are explained in the methodology section which follows.
A twenty-six item survey was prepared and trialed following an earlier pilot and review. One hundred and fifty-nine teachers responded to the survey from nine schools. Each of the items employed the same stem seeking responses on a four point Likert Scale ranging from ‘to a great extent’ to ‘not at all’. Four examples (one from each of the four values) show the type of practices derived from the value set. Value 1: To what extent does the staff of this school adopt a continuous improvement mindset for one’s practice? Value 2: To what extent does the staff of this school create a culture of sharing where there is a willingness for mutual vulnerability? Value 3: To what extent does the staff of this school invite others to observe in one’s classroom as learners? Value 4: To what extent does the staff of this school discern what to consider as important and what to dismiss as irrelevant? Given that this study is about the use of values information in creating collaborative learning cultures, dialogue about those values was intrinsic to the research process. A partnership with a principal coach then enabled each of the participating school principals to receive a coaching session about a process called ‘disciplined dialogue’ (Swaffield & Dempster, 2009). Each school took responsibility for processing its survey responses. Following this, each principal undertook the disciplined dialogue process with their senior leadership team. The disciplined dialogue process requires dealing systematically with three fundamental questions: 1. What do we see in these data? 2. Why are we seeing what we are? 3. What, if anything, should we be doing about it? Reports on the outcomes from these disciplined dialogue discussions provided further qualitative data for the study. The schools were provided with a template for recording key points from their discussions taking each question in turn. The template included the three questions and their accompanying purposes. Nine such reports were received.
The data from the survey trial are presented and discussed in Lovett (2018). This presentation includes a discussion of one school’s data by the principal and two deputies following the three question sequence of disciplined dialogue. This led to identifying five matters to be aired with junior, middle and senior teacher leaders: • to ensure how well and widely data are understood by teachers; • to examine the effectiveness of current data management practices; • to affirm which reporting and assessment systems teachers believe are most effective; • to identify those student recording systems that are being fulfilled as compliance, rather than making a difference for learning outcomes; and • to clarify next steps. The trial also revealed insights into how leadership teams may embed widespread collaborative practice as the school’s modus operandi. Finding ways forward from the survey tool therefore requires continuous attention to collaborative processes rather than to the exercise of positional authority determining lists of tasks. Assuming that collaboration will occur at all levels is insufficient for a school to claim it has a collaborative learning culture. This trial has shown that data collected on values associated with collaboration can serve a very useful purpose in broadening positional leadership approaches to the inclusion of teachers in evidence-based decision making. Without teachers’ inclusion, hierarchy prevails, collaboration fails. The overall conclusion from the study indicates that there can be a wide variation in the views held by staff of a school in relation to the values survey items. Such variation produces an edgy stimulus for further discussion about shared and different perspectives. Working towards shared understandings is a forerunner to the development of authentic collaborative learning cultures. Structured conversations open differences to debate and possible resolution with strategies that seek staff cohesion.
Coleman, A. (2011). Towards a blended model for school-based collaboration. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 39(3), 296-316. Cooper, K.S., Stanulis, R.N., Brondyk, S.K., Hamilton, E.R., Macaluso, M., & Meier, J.A. (2016).The teacher leadership process: Attempting change within embedded systems. Journal of Educational Change, 17(1), 85-113. Cosner, S. (2012). Leading the ongoing development of collaborative data practices: Advancing a schema for diagnosis and intervention. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 11(1), 26-65. Curry, K.A., Mwavita, M., Holter, A., Harris, E. (2016). Getting assessment right at the classroom level: Using formative assessment for decision making. Educational Assessment, Evaluation & Accountability, 28(1), 89-104. Cutajar, M., & Bezzina, C. (2013). Collaboration: joint working by individual state-maintained schools in a new statutory system in the Maltese Islands. Management in Education, 27(1), 19-24. Duffy, G., & Gallagher, T. (2014). Sustaining school partnership: the context of cross-sectoral collaboration between schools in a separate education system in Northern Ireland. Review of Education, 2(2), 189-210. Ghamwari, N. (2011). Trust me: Your school can be better- A Message from teachers to principals. Educational Management, Administration & Leadership, 39(3), 333-348. Hargreaves, D.H. (2011). System redesign for system capacity building. Journal of Educational Administration, 49(6), 685-700. Kaser, L., & Halbert, J. (2014). Creating and sustaining inquiry spaces for teacher learning and system transformation. European Journal of Education, 49(2), 206-21. Kutsyuruba, B. (2013).Teacher collaboration in times of uncertainty and societal change. The case study of Post-Soviet Ukraine. European Education, 45(1), 25-49. Lovett, S. (2016). Values for New Zealand School Leadership: Literature Review for the Te Ariki Trust. University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand. Commissioned by the Te Ariki Trust. http://hdl.handle.net/10092/14982 Lovett, S. (2018). Core professional values for school leaders and teachers: Piloting an online tool. Journal of Educational Leadership, Policy & Practice, 33(2), 72-89. Marsh, J.A., & Farrell, C.C. (2015). How leaders can support teachers with data-driven decision making: A framework for understanding capacity building. Educational Management, Administration & Leadership, 43(2), 269-289. Nicolaides, A., & Dzubinski, L. (2016). Collaborative developmental action inquiry: An opportunity for transformative learning to occur? Journal of Transformative Education, 14(2), 120-138. Swaffield, S., & Dempster, N. (2009). Shared leadership (principle 4). In J.E.C. MacBeath., & N. Dempster. (Eds.). Connecting leadership and learning: principles for practice. (pp.106-120). London: Routledge. Tschannen-Moran, M. (2001).Collaboration and the need for trust. Journal of Educational Administration, 39(4), 308-331.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
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