Collaboration amongst staff is the foundation and the prerequisite for any and all continuous improvement amongst educators and on behalf of students. The expectations placed upon schools and students are too great and the challenges too complex to continue to act autonomously and reject collective responsibilities – All staff for all students. It will take time; it’s worth it, so let’s dedicate ourselves to embedding authentic, systematic collaboration into our professional days and our professional practice.
In addition to the questions presented in Part 2 of this Blog Series, collaborative teams of administrators, specialists, and teachers work within an organized system to address the following questions and complete the following tasks – all for the purpose of improving teaching practices and student learning, particularly our most vulnerable students:
- About which students do we have concerns?
- In which areas do we have concerns?
- What are we currently doing to support the student and meet the student’s needs? What supports will we be providing in the future?
- Has the student responded to the instruction and interventions we have been providing? (Hierck & Weber, 2014)
In other words,
- We can predict that we will serve students who are vulnerable. Knowing who these students are as quickly and efficiently as possible will allow us to begin preparing for the differentiated supports and intensive interventions that they need to be successful.
- The best differentiation is targeted differentiation; the best intervention is targeted intervention. We must diagnose the causes and antecedents of student difficulty to specifically target needs.
- The only wrong differentiation and intervention is the complete absence of differentiation and intervention. We must do our best to target supports based on our diagnoses and make adjustments as necessary, based on…
- …our frequent, efficient, and specific checks for student response to differentiated supports and intervention.
Excellence in education requires that teachers work in collaborative teams to clarify the learning intentions and success criteria of their lessons, gather evidence of student learning, and discuss the effectiveness of their teaching based on that evidence. Teachers…share evidence about their teaching with their colleagues; in fact, the key question is whether teaching can shift from an immature to mature profession, from opinions to evidence. The education profession will not mature as a profession until professional dialogue focuses on evidence of student learning rather than opinions.
Hattie, 2009, p 252 & 259
A commitment to working interdependently is the right thing to do, and as noted here, it’s research-based. It may also be uncomfortable. It will represent a different way of doing our jobs. We will need to make compromises to our own preferences because collective decisions are better for kids. Our colleagues will know what we’re doing, and not doing, and how those actions or inactions are impacting student outcomes. And that’s ok. That’s the professional thing to do. An important note: Trust and transparency are absolutely critical. Any sincere efforts at collaboration on behalf of kids that are tainted by draconian evaluative techniques will fail. Teams of educators engaged in authentic efforts to continuously improve their practices on behalf of students will be undermined if evidence is gathered for judging, and not for discovery. The goal is learning from one another so that student learning improves.
In the final analysis, only collaborative systems of support will allow us to provide personal learning pathways for all students and will ensure that they make the progress necessary to succeed as citizens and adults. It will also transform the role of educator – our experiences, and our colleagues’ experiences, working within collaborative systems of support inevitably result in the same conclusion: “I’ll never work in a school or in a situation in which there is not the time, the expectation, and the benefits of working in a highly collective manner with my fellow teachers and administrators on behalf of every single student.”