This chapter (the EFFeCT paper was written by Philip A. Woods and Amanda Roberts) puts forward principles that help in developing and sustaining collaborative teacher learning. They foster conditions and actions that generate a synergy between the individual freedom of the teacher to think critically and act with some autonomy in service of learning and the collective freedom of teachers to work together and achieve shared aims to which they have committed themselves. These principles encapsulate the kinds of values and aims which guide policies and the everyday interactions that give rise to successful collaborative teacher learning. Formulated within the framework of the four features of good practice set out in Chapter 2.1, the principles are guides intended to stimulate and orientate reflection, enquiry and action. They are interpreted, negotiated and made real in distinctive ways by teachers and others in local settings through their practice. The principles can also be used to evaluate the state of collaborative teacher learning in a given setting by asking to what degree they are being enacted.
FOUR PRINCIPLES OF CTL DEFINED UNDER THE EFFECT PROJECT
- participative professionalism
- deep level collaboration
- deep learning
(…) We define principles as values and aims which guide local interactions and are significant in enabling collaborative teacher learning to emerge. The principles in the chapter are not a comprehensive set, but ones that have emerged from the process of case study analysis and discussions and feedback through the project. They do not form a blueprint or a set of rules for effective collaborative teacher learning. Our proposition is that where collaborative teacher learning works well, these principles encapsulate the kinds of values and aims likely to be guiding the policies and everyday interactions that give rise to collaborative teacher learning. They are guides intended to stimulate and orientate reflection, enquiry and action aimed at creating or enhancing successful collaboration. The principles are interpreted, negotiated and made real in distinctive ways by teachers and others in local settings through their practice of collaboration. They can also be used to evaluate the state of collaborative teacher learning in a given setting by asking to what degree the principles are being enacted.
Before putting forward the principles in this chapter, the complexity of phenomena such as collaborative teacher learning is highlighted.
Putting the principles into practice is not a linear process of intent followed by action. Numerous contextual factors - national, cultural, regional, local and at school level - impact upon plans and efforts to forge collaboration. These affect things like the resources, relationships and culture of expectations, values and ideas in the settings in which collaborative teacher learning takes place. The kind of collaboration and learning that is created emerges from a myriad of local interactions. What unfolds, as complexity theory suggests, is significantly affected by unpredictable outcomes arising from these ongoing interactions.
This can be likened to the neuron web in the brain. Neurons are cells within the nervous system which transmit information to other nerve cells. They are part of a web of connection, but do not touch one another. Instead, they form tiny gaps across which they pass signals to bring about thought or activity. This notion of interconnection acknowledges the interrupted nature of connection. The interruption in each gap or space across which signals pass is itself important for the thoughts or actions which subsequently occur.
If we think of collaboration as having something of this character of the neuron web, signals relating to collaboration vary widely in their nature. They include signals of meaning, intent or emotion; signals that convey information, questions, support, doubt or other communications; signals arising from participants’ perceptions of their context, which includes the group they are part of, the institutional arrangements, patterns of interconnection and the physical dimensions of the setting. Interruptions similarly are myriad in nature, as signals criss-cross the gaps and spaces and affect (or interrupt) each other. Consequently, there are both patterns of interaction and there is unpredictability in collaboration, due to the vast number of variables and the web of intense and countless interconnections in continuous operation.
The principles explained in the EFFeCT paper highlight key aspects of practice that tend to help in making collaborative teacher learning possible and effective. Facilitators of collaboration - teachers, school leaders, policy-makers, students and others - can translate them into action that is appropriate to the context of practice. The principles need to be interpreted locally and consideration given to how local factors may affect them (Roberts and Woods 2017: 158-159). Rather than being capable of a neat process of implementation, in the spirit of the metaphor of the neuron web, principles in practice are ‘messy’ and require continual reflection and flexibility by participants as practice unfolds.