Posted on 22 May 2017
I once heard ‘Collaboration’ explained in the following way:
"it is not a group of people coming into a room and agreeing, but leaving a room with new ideas”.
This description of collaboration is very appropriate for the Endeavour context. As a school, we are one of the first ‘Innovative Learning Environments’ in New Zealand. There is currently no dominant model for how ILEs should function so it requires us to work collaboratively to develop an approach to teaching and learning that works for our teachers but more importantly for the children. All elements of Endeavour School have been collaboratively developed involving all our ‘stakeholders’.
One of the outcomes of collaboration is ownership; if a group have developed some new thinking together, they are more likely to invest in it and make it work. It aligns with the Coaching philosophy of doing something "with a person” rather doing something "to a person”.
So how does ‘Collaborative Teaching’ work? In the Endeavour context, we have 4-5 teachers working together in the same space. It means all the teachers get to know the learners well and so are able to contribute to a conversation about how to get the best out of each learner. The teachers quickly identify what works and what doesn’t and can share this with their colleagues to ensure consistency and success for the learner. When a child is not progressing as expected you have the collective wisdom of 4 teachers to explore strategies to accelerate learning. Teams are also able to utilise the various strength that each teacher brings. Each teacher can lead an area where they have a strength or passion and support their colleagues and lift the performance of everyone in the team.
Collaboration is not limited to teaching, it is central to how our students learn. Endeavour School uses a social constructionist approach to learning where students learn together to develop a deeper understanding of the concepts they are exploring. Working in a diverse learning environment they are challenged to consider a range of perspectives and thinking, this means they gain a deeper understanding of what they learning than if they were working by themselves. It also means the teacher is no longer the catalyst for new thinking, the ideas increasingly come from the students themselves. To assess this, Endeavour School uses SOLOs taxonomy which measures the depth of thinking and the connections made rather than quantitative scores of right or wrong.
The Collaborative approach to teaching and learning is driven out of the need for our children to be happy and effective contributors in the 21st Century. The need to learn how to build strong learning relationships, which is clearly described in the Key Competencies in the National Curriculum, is what employers want in their workers and what people look for in their leaders.
Collaboration is not just a way of teaching and learning, it is a way of living.
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