What is Collaboration?
Collaboration is a concept that everyone is aware of and participates in, but has a hard time defining. My working definition of collaboration is:
A reciprocal exchange of information during the process of two or more people working together in order to achieve a common goal.
In the education sector, there are many forms of collaboration, such as: teacher-teacher collaboration (working to improve practice, share strategies for supporting students), student-teacher collaboration (providing information and sharing strategies to help guide learning experiences), student-student collaboration (working to solve academic challenges and goals), and teacher-parent collaboration (discussing ways to best support student).
The article “Collaborative Teacher Inquiry” from the Capacity Building Series outlines 7 characteristics of teacher Inquiry:
- Relevant → Student learning guides inquiry
- Collaborative → Teacher inquiry is a shared process
- Reflective → Actions are informed by reflection
- Iterative → Progressive understanding grows from cycles of inquiry
- Reasoned → Analysis drives deep learning
- Adaptive → Inquiry shapes practice and practice shapes inquiry
- Reciprocal → Theory and practice connect dynamically
There are correlations between my working definition of collaboration and these characteristics of teacher inquiry. Collaboration is relevant in that the individuals working together have a common goal; they both have something invested in the process, such as a teacher and parent both wanting the learner to succeed. This, in turn, makes it a very reciprocal experience as all individuals have something to contribute and/or gain from participating in the collaboration.
It was interesting to consider reflection as an ongoing part of the collaboration process, as we typically think of reflection as an action after the collaboration process has been completed. However, we know that learning is an ongoing process and therefore, there will be many moments of reflection throughout in order to guide future actions. It is especially important for educators to find time to reflect with each other, whether that be with another classroom teacher, Special Education teacher, administrator, educational assistant, or a consultant. “When engaged in collective reflective practice, teachers question, reason and probe ideas in order to push thinking of the group further” (Collaborative Teacher Inquiry, 2010, pg. 4).