Collaboration in Schools

Collaboration, a global imperative in an increasingly complex world. That doesn’t mean it is always easy…or necessary. My ongoing research in this area has looked at what works in many different organisations. This post shares some of the ways in which collaboration in schools can be enhanced, presented as an infographic and expanded further below.

Collaborative Mindsets

The three mindsets needed to collaborate are:

Nested Layers of Collaboration

Collaboration occurs in nested layers, a little like Russian dolls. At the centre is the individual ‘me’. It is the work we do to really understand ourselves that is at the heart of all collaboration. Any collaborative endeavours must start with supporting individual reflection. One of my favourite tools for thinking about our preferences is the Whole Brain Thinking model.

Day to Day Collaboration is tightly linked to those within our organisation that we collaborate with most regularly. This requires ongoing conversation about what helps and hinders learning. I have taken this from the viewpoint of the adults in the community collaborating. Of course everything is interwoven and the ways of engaging in your class, learning commons or team require clear, shared understandings of how we will work together as collaborators, and as individuals. Intentional displays of ways of working together, regular connection to these displays and fail-safe fail-fast feedback loops are just some ways of creating meaningful day to day collaboration.

Organisational Collaboration connects to the overall vision and values of the school. Everyone needs to understand their role in supporting and challenging every learner. This learning connectedness intentionally supports teams to develop flow in learning, with specialist teachers still having a deep understanding of their subjects, but also connecting to the different lenses of other specialists and generalist teachers and growing transversal skills in themselves and their students. Intentional collaboration across the organisation can include crossfunctional teams, stand up meetings and creating spaces that allow for the serendipitous rubbing of shoulders across the school.

Associate Industry Collaboration extends thinking beyond a school to other schools and educational places of learning. Christchurch is a ‘hotbed’ for collaboration, with schools increasingly working together and sharing ideas. At its best there are opportunities to support learners from a community perspective. In reality the tension between collaboration and competition is still the elephant in the room. There is also much to be learnt from how Associate Industry Collaboration has been achieved in other industries within the city. SCIRT is a great example of this.

Outer Collaboration is the realm of the networked leader. In this nest of collaboration people “look out and bring in”, working with others from many different industries, backgrounds and experiences. This helps develop fresh ideas and also links education to the wider world. EPIC Innovation provides an outstanding example of outer collaboration action. The hub fosters a collaborative environment for Christchurch business and social communities to work together.

Keys to Collaboration

These keys are still a work in progress, developed through conversations with leaders from many different industries. They are all important, but the compelling reason to collaborate has to be there. If the ‘why’ can’t be answered collaborative efforts become irritating noise.

Cultural technology is a key part of collaboration. The underpinning technology of an organisation is based on relationships. Loomio, a Wellington start up that has created a stunning online decision making tool, unweaves cultural technology as focusing on people, place and practice.

Are there any keys you think are missing? If so please respond to this post or add your thoughts to our googleform.

How Might We… 

Finally, the four questions are meant as provocations  for conversation. I’d love to hear your feedback.

This post has focused on how to collaborate. It doesn’t mean that collaboration works every time or is always necessary. But that’s another section of my book on Collaboration!  I am hoping to have the book finished in July so if you want to be kept in the loop please register your interest here.


3 comments on “Collaboration in Schools
  1. Pingback: 16. Innovative Learning Environments – 23 Teaching Things2

  2. Pingback: 16. Innovative Learning Environments – 23 teaching things

  3. Hi Cheryl
    Any hints, processes, frameworks for creating fail-safe fail-fast feedback loops? I need to know more!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *