The Case For Collaboration In Education
A plan of attack is as essential to education as to any military campaign but the comparison ends at that point. A military campaign requires a sergeant or lieutenant to give orders that carry out a plan developed by their superior officers. However, this process of planning and implementation is inefficient when applied to education. Collaboration leads to buy-in which leads to success in schools.
A study of many schools that successfully motivate and inspire students to achieve at higher levels points to the positive effects of collaboration. Is the idea of shared-governance meant to be a criticism of educational administrators? Absolutely not, on the contrary, administrators have a vital role to play as facilitators in every planning process. An effective leader seeks the ownership of a plan and this is achieved through collaboration with all sectors of the staff. One who owns a product is more likely to take care of that product.
Does the collaborative process take longer? Probably, involving others in a decision-making, planning and evaluation process can be time-consuming but this time investment yields a big dividend. Indeed, collaboration is a powerful force for effective change in education. Evaluating the outcome of a new plan the staff has designed can be much more productive and less expensive than assigning this task to outside experts.
Public schools in America face the growing problem of keeping students motivated to learn. Such motivation seldom results from a student’s desire to achieve high test scores. Energy focused on the raising to test scores may actually work against our efforts to enhance the love of learning. It would be interesting to know if state-wide testing would play the same role if teachers had been involved in designing methods of school accountability. Teachers understand that a student recognized exclusively for achieving high scores may not be motivated by engaging with the subject matter of a class.
How do students become inspired by subject matter? The answer to this question is not rocket science. The teacher is the driving force behind student motivation and learning. One thing we all have in common is the influence of teachers. The vast majority can remember a teacher whose influence had a major impact on our lives. Other than medical personnel, there are few other professions that can make this claim. For me it was Mrs. Wienstock, my 12th grade English teacher, who believed in my ability to write. Her encouragement was implanted in me for years after leaving school and led to the publication of my first book. I would gamble that you, the reader, also have a Mrs. Weinstock in your life.
Nationally, nearly one-third of all public high school students fail to graduate with their class. Tim was a young student headed for the drop-out abyss. “I really didn’t see any reason to stay in school” he says, “Every day led to a bad experience. Then I met Mrs. Atkins.” The science teacher saw Tim’s potential. Her encouragement and support became a key to his future. Tim graduated from high school and will soon graduate from the University of California with a degree in business administration. He is the first college graduate in his family.
Tim’s success is not because a teacher prepared him to pass a test. Mrs. Atkins gave him the attention, support and encouragement he needed. Passing tests became a by-product of the motivation to learn.
Collaboration with teachers and empowering them to become an integral part of plans involving the performance of their students is good judgment. Any plan for school success would prosper if teachers like Mrs. Weinstock and Mrs. Atkins were part of the design team.
Jim Leatherwood is the author of Facing the Future Together:Forming Successful School-Business Partnerships Having worked in the school system as a Teacher, Counselor, Administrator – k-12, and Dean, Community College, when Jim retired he was asked to come into the business sector.