A Research Report The Shared work of learning: Lifting educational achievement through collaboration, http://www.mitchellinstitute.org.au/reports/the-shared-work-of-learning/
written by Tom Bentley and Ciannon Cazaly was published by the Mitchell Institute. The Mitchell Institute is an independent thinktank that works to improve the connection between evidence and public policy reform.
The report defines collaboration as “the sharing of effort, knowledge and resources in the pursuit of shared goals – is created through a wide range of flexible, trust-based relationships.”
Using a case study methodology a number of high impact schools featured in this research who:
- actively seek connections and resources that create value for students;
- develop ‘local learning systems’ to translate connections and resources into concrete actions; and
- apply a consistent rationale, focused on student learning, to choose and priorities collaborative projects and relationships
The researchers define seven key features of collaboration for learning which explain the positive impact of collaboration.
- Shared purpose: The strength of commitment to student learning is a distinguishing feature in case study schools.
- Combining longevity and energy in staffing: All case study schools showed a distinctive combination of long-serving senior teachers with younger, newer staff.
- Collaborative leadership: Schools displayed sustained leadership commitment to growing collaboration in ways that further a coherent direction for schools and communities.
- Community trust, professional trust: All sites invested significant time in building trust and social capital among both professionals and their wider communities.
- Drawing on external expertise: All the case study schools reached out to find and draw on specialist knowledge to build up the skills and effectiveness of their own teams.
- Permeable boundaries: Schools maintained clear structures and routines that were also open to wider ideas, people and contributions.
- Co-evolution of wellbeing and attainment: All case study schools work to create a positive long term relationship between wellbeing and attainment.
There are many technologies which can assist in increasing the capabilities of schools to collaborate.
At the student level, for instance it is possible for teachers to use project based learning and collaborative learning projects to engage students. Using Google docs, social networking tools and learning management systems students can collaborate to solve problems. They can also use gaming technologies such as Minecraft.
In a classroom context teachers can share their desk tops for collaboration using tools such as Prowise Connect which enables teachers to share their screens with any BYOD student device.
Using video conferencing teachers can also break down the walls or create permeable boundaries drawing on external expertise by accessing for instance cultural institutions such as the Sydney Opera House, the Australian Museum, Questacon , the Australian Centre for Moving Image and the Great Barrier Reef.
At the teacher level using social networking tools like Twitter teachers can create a PLN (professional learning network) where they can collaborate with educational academics and influencers nationally and globally. At the school level, using IRIS Connect the 21st century professional development system teachers can video their practice, and share the video with peers to improve student achievement.
Teachers can build a community of professional trust. Experienced teachers can mentor inexperienced teachers with IRIS Connect as the videos of practice can be shared and observed. Experienced teachers can also provide in -ear coaching. A shared library of best practices can be created as an evidence based for teachers to use to improve student achievement.