Schools and colleges are busy places with many colleagues 'pedalling’ hard to keep on top of the requirements of their role. Collaboration can just seem, to some, like an additional task to add to their workload, but for colleagues in many successful schools, collaboration is the key to success. Working collaboratively, instead of individually, helps improve outcomes and gives colleagues a sense of purpose. It also becomes a process to share thoughts and ideas to solve existing issues. Colleagues are unique with differing skills, expertise, and talent. When all the team collaborates together they are able to pool their experience, knowledge, skills, to find innovative solutions. An issue that would have taken a colleague possibly weeks to resolve, might be solved through collaboration within a few hours, as everyone is able to employ their unique skill set and viewpoint to get things done faster.
Working collaboratively also allows colleagues to develop a greater understanding of others. How they think, work, and operate. This, in turn, allows colleagues to form important professional and personal relationships, learn from each other, and build upon their strengths. As a result, collaboration proves to be mutually beneficial for both the individuals and the organisation.
“It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) that those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” Charles Darwin
The most common challenge of effective collaboration is a lack of time to focus on working together. Many colleagues feel like there are not enough hours in the school day. When tasks and issues increase, colleagues have a tendency to feel anxious causing a tendency to default to be more risk-averse, resulting in being less likely to seek out differing perspectives. They feel safer, as they have more control, to go-it-alone, in isolation, focusing on self-preservation. A tendency to default back to actions and solutions that have worked in the past to attempt to get a different outcome.
Developing a culture of collaboration, in particular, collaborative professional development impacts positively on a colleague’s well-being. They feel less isolated and alone, and become more enthusiastic as their confidence increases. They are more responsive to guidance and advice and show a greater commitment to change their practice and try new ideas. Successful collaboration is based around a culture of trust and positive relationships, where colleagues feel empowered. It’s not just a ‘tick box’ task to complete then move on. Collaboration is all about building relationships and taking the time to get to know your colleagues and relate to them on a personal level. Strong collaborative cultures develop over time and require effort and commitment to the development of the process.
To cope and self-improve, colleagues need to work with, learn from, and support one another to develop solutions to the challenges they are facing. It takes time, effort, and the right online tools to collaborate well.
Staff benefit from collaborating for many activities such as:-
Critical Friends Groups
Professional Learning Communities
Creating a collaborative workplace takes time and effort, but the outcome is well worth it.
"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." – Helen Keller
How can iP support the development of a collaborative culture?
Teaching has been integrating the collaborative model for some time now and you may be very familiar with using iP to support the concept. However, it is always good for teams to review the tools available to make this an easy and streamlined process.
There are several tools, features, and functionality in iP to make this a streamlined, paper-free, and well-oiled process:-
Adding a Collaborator
Let’s imagine we are setting up a Work Area called ‘ECT Support Group’. The line manager of this group would be the ECT Mentor. The ECT Mentor would then add all of the ECTs and other appropriate staff into this group. Collaborators can then be set up to view and edit selected sections of a staff member’s ‘My Work’ area.
Collaboration can now occur in the areas they have been given permission to view/manage.
The blog section provides an ongoing activity feed/conversation between all ECTs and the ECT Mentor alongside their regular professional discussions.
When a blog entry is added to the system, an email will be sent to the recipients. The benefit of this over emailing is that all relevant information is in one place and can be linked to any Work Area objectives and Areas for Development etc.
Sharing of documentation and resources
Information sharing is an important aspect of all school/college professional life, but especially if a member of staff is an ECT. Many iP schools and colleges are using this functionality to give total clarity and to keep all relevant information in the correct place; the Work Area.
Complete the details…
Areas for Development
The Areas for Development tool keeps all developmental suggestions in one place and gives total clarity to the ECT team.
All can contribute to the Areas for Development list if they have the correct collaboration rights set.
Recording the progress of a collaborative project using the Interim Review tool
The interim review tool can be used at any time during a project in order to take a ‘snapshot’ of all of the data in the collaborative Work Area. By default, the ECT Mentor has the right to start an interim review and can use this tool to record casual catch-ups or for more formal record keeping.