What a difference an exciting learning day makes! When we have had a chance to engage with our peers in dynamic interaction and co-learning as opposed to unsatisfying 'PD', we come to understand the importance of what I will call a sense of a learning legacy. The legacy of opportunities to learn together collaboratively reinforces our sense of purpose. It can remind us of why we become educators! It can model what we must do for our students as well as ourselves.
Energizing learning experiences touch our hearts, hands and minds. What might we see, hear and feel as a part of a collaborative process such as inquiry? Leadership is at the heart of a successful experience:
1. Engaged, knowledgeable leadership
Visible, approachable leaders bring staff to the table by invitation while maintaining the choice of volunteerism. Leaders stress commitment not compliance but manage to engage our interest and imagination. Leaders – be they formal or informal leaders in the school – participate as well as guide and facilitate as needed. Leaders are creative in finding time for reflective conversations while they assist the process by helping others to set shared SMART goals (specific, measurable, ambitious, reflective and timely) (Sharratt & Planche, 2016).
2. Clear focus Collaborators who work as co-investigators become focussed especially when clear parameters for collective work have been established. Collective learning goals are intentional and determined through the analysis and assessment of student data and actual work on our table. The needs of all learners are considered and success for each student and staff member is our inclusive goal.
3. Shared responsibility As the work unfolds, leaders help to distribute the responsibility of the collaborative project or inquiry to increase the feeling of shared ownership. Goals are clear and subsequent actions are well defined and purposeful. Diverse opinions are seen as a strength of the collaboration but consensus is built through working together. Collective co-learning helps to build relational trust and stronger learning relationships (Planche, 2004). Monitoring of our collective work is built into the process and discussed as we progress and move forward. Success is shared as is any challenge. Continuous improvement of our practice on the success of our students is an understood and common goal.
A learning culture where collaborative work can thrive is built through the work of challenging and strategic work of insightful leadership. In such a culture, as co-learners, we feel accepted and challenged which reinforces a strong sense of shared purpose. What a difference a learning day in such an environment can make! The best thing about a truly collaborative culture is that it does not take a leader with a formal title to impact the learning environment. Informal and formal leaders can all have significant influence and the opportunity to make a difference. However, formal leaders hold the reigns of time and resources and are ultimately responsible for creating the conditions for collaborative growth. Collaborative efforts wither without the legacy of strong learning leadership. So leaders....this is a call to make all days learning days to remember!
Planche, B. (2004). Probing the complexities of collaboration and collaborative processes. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Sharratt, L. & Planche, B. (2016). Leading Collaborative Learning-Enpowering Excellence. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.