Effective Collaboration

For this week’s module on Developing Coaching Skills, we looked at two standards from ISTE. The first was 1D from Visionary Leadership “Implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms” and the second was 2f from Teaching, Learning, and Assessment “Coach teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences”. With these standards and using the guiding question of what roles communication and collaboration play in successful coaching, I wanted to learn more about effective collaboration skills. This leads me to ask ” What are effective collaboration tips for successful peer coaching?”

According to Merriam-Webster, collaboration is “to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor”. Knowing what collaboration is the first part of making it successful. In an article published on Scholastic by Kriscia Cabral “In collaborative working environments, teachers have the potential to create professional development schools, teacher study groups, teacher-researcher partnerships, professional learning communities, peer-coaching, collaborative problem-solving, and teacher-mentoring.” This statement brought me back to my original question of what are effective collaboration tips? Plus what can we do to create a collaborative working environment?

Creating a Collaborative Work Environment

Kriscia Cabral who wrote Strategies for Effective Collaboration developed some tips for teachers and coaches to create effective collaboration environments.

Creating a Working Agreement– This is created in a collaborative setting where every voice shares expectations and then as a team four to seven expectations are agreed upon. These agreements are powerful in that they are created as a group and created with the group in mind.  It reminds everyone all of what is expected of others and ourselves when meetings take place. Below is an example of what a working agreement might look like. This is what my Kindergarten team and I review each year.

Have an Agenda– Before starting a meeting, set an agenda that can realistically be followed. Again, have this posted on a whiteboard or poster paper. The agenda is a guide for the time you have together as a team. It is a visual reminder of what is planned for discussion and decision-making. The agenda also helps to keep the time spent together somewhat guided and on topic. The screenshot below is an example of an agenda. This is the agenda my team and I use each week for our meetings. To make it easy for all members to contribute topics or ideas it lives on our OneNote where we collaborate together.  Cabral stated in her article that her team uses a “parking lot” system to keep track of ideas and questions that they would like to discuss at any given point. These items might not be immediate issues but it’s a good way to keep track so those thoughts can be revisited.

Communicate– One curial part of successful collaboration is communication and how to communicate well.  Have trust in your team and be willing to share your thoughts often. Actively listen as colleagues share their ideas. Come up with a system that works for your team when it is time to make a consensus. One strategy from Cabral’s article is the “Fist to Five” strategy. Team members show a five all the way to a fist to show how strongly they feel on the given topic. This is a strategy that can be used among peers, as long as it has been agreed upon by the entire group.

Find Other Ways to Connect– There is so much to be said about nurturing strong relationships and how that helps us accomplish goals. If possible, plan a more social gathering with your colleagues. Try and connect outside of the workplace and gain an understanding of where others come from. Not only is it nice to get out and talk about something else besides work, but it also gives you and your colleagues an opportunity to build upon the already established relationship.

Conclusion

For effective collaboration to take place coaches and peers need to work together to build relationships and trust. This can take place by having open communication, norms, and agenda based around a topic the peer wants to work on.  This inspires peers to deepen their thinking.

3 Comments

  1. Kelsey,
    This post is so helpful to me as I work in a similar team setting. I am impressed by this work you have put in and I imagine your meetings are very efficient because of this! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks for sharing a powerful set of resources your team has used to promote effective collaboration. It would be valuable to learn more about how the team’s use of these tools has shaped collaboration, and how that collaboration is shaping teacher practice and student learning.

  3. Kelsey, I really enjoyed how your married the theory (i.e. what would create a positive, collaborative environment) with practical application demonstrating how you use these concepts with your own collaboration team. I was curious, based on your own experiences, what communication advice do you have for those looking to start their own collaborative teams?

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