What is Collaboration (part 1)

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As I wrote earlier , I had the very fortunate luck of attending  a mini-session at the Project Zero Summer Institute 2013:   “Effective Professional Learning Communities:  Supporting Learning in Staff Rooms and Classrooms” by Daniel Wilson.  The session aimed at identifying the key features of learning communities while discussing the common roadblocks that impede progress.

Group work and collaboration can be chaotic, frustrating and laborious.  Done well, it produces better products that are more responsive to group needs than those created by a lone cowboy.

True collaboration is not simply

  • communicating your plans without care for others
  • coordinating parts in an additive fashion that is not fluent
  • cooperating in a passive fashion without discussion and agreement on the big ideas
Daniel Wilson:    Effective Professional Learning Communities:  Supporting Learning in and Staff Rooms and Classrooms  Project Zero Summer Institute 2013,   Harvard Graduate School of Education

Daniel Wilson:
Effective Professional Learning Communities:
Supporting Learning in and Staff Rooms and Classrooms
Project Zero Summer Institute 2013, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Ideally, collaboration is the highly developed and dynamic process whereby more than one person comes together to create something truly unique and creative.  This process is democratic; with everyone’s voice heard.  The parts are reciprocally interdependent and the outcome a melodic blend that fits together well. Individuals design together, as equals, for the greater good.

This is true for all groups.

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Collaboration: (doesn’t have to be ) a four letter word

Original+Dixieland+Jazz+Band

Now here is a tribe; REAL collaboration.  Five humans working toward a common goal.  Each member participates, not in an additive manner, but in ways that blend the magic of the individuals into one amazing melody.  True collaboration toward a goal is harmonious.

Ever feel like collaboration (and innovation) can’t happen fast enough in education?  Is change feared in your school?  Are people reticent to embrace new ways to design thinking and learning in their classrooms?  If collaboration is required to make it happen, by grade or content, do you feel like team dysfunction keeps you from moving forward toward a shared goal?

In Why Collaboration Matters ,  Ron Ricci addresses the complexities of collaboration and the problems that can arise when teams are formed within an organization.

“I’ve yet to meet a CEO who didn’t want his or her company to move faster.  But how many times have you ever heard a CEO say –My organization moves as fast as our markets do” or “I’m confident my company can adapt to any unforeseen market shift”?  Moore’s Law states the speed of a semiconductor chip doubles every 18-24 months; what if your people’s ability to change moved as fast?

In education, change  happens slowly.  This can be due to team dysfunction or individual reluctance.  It is frustrating for those wanting to innovate.  The team suffers.  Students suffer.

Ricci goes on to say:

“A culture of shared goals minimizes hoarding and competition by creating an environment that shares information, diagnoses problems, raises concerns, coordinates efforts and identifies possible initiatives and transition points – all of which ratchets up the pace of an organization’s ability to execute.”

Shared goals, well defined.

Within this, it seems wise to allow opportunities for each person to experience autonomy, mastery and purpose.    This means  people  own pieces of work that creates the whole.  This can happen if goals and roles  are well defined.

                  The music is ineffable when the team collaborates well.