This chapter’s author is the Czech partner’s leading researcher, Glynn Kirkham, who summarised his personal views and examination of some of the challenges around the question of “WHEN” collaborative teachers learning can be initiated and when facilitated in the EFFeCT paper. Some of the scenarios presented are based both on research carried out during the EFFeCT project and from other relevant sources. The key prerequisites and principles underpinning professional enabling of collaborative teachers learning are also implicitly (and, occasionally, explicitly) re-addressed here.
ChApters of the study
- Two heads are better than one!
- When? Throughout one’s professional life!
- When? Whenever possible!
- Chance encounters of the professional learning kind.
- Setting the tone: building the environment for collaborative learning
- Recommendations for facilitators of professional learning opportunities
- Developing in- and out-of-school opportunities for collaborative teacher learning
- Professional Associations
- Modern Technology
- In summary
Collaborative teacher learning occurs and prevails when there is a clearly-determined and agreed, common purpose; when there is a moral, professional purpose; when those engaged in professional learning take ownership both for their own learning and the process of learning together with consequent outcomes; when headteachers create regular scheduled opportunities within the school day and within teachers’ contractual annual activities; when reflection, research and subsequent reflexivity are an inherent part of the process; when there is a structured approach but flexibility is built-in and recognised as a contextual necessity; when challenging criteria for evaluation are built into the process at the beginning and when there is rigorous application of these criteria, including dissemination; when, in any programme, (self-imposed or mandated) time is built-in not only for corporeal refreshment but for individual and collective contemplation and reflection and sharing such; when communication is effected through focussed listening and professional non-judgemental feedback; when there is a culture of sharing, trust, equity and a desire for deep professional learning between collaborators.
Two heads are better than one!
Collaboration comes about when there is (what I am here calling) ‘situational realisation’. For an individual, situational realisation occurs when one recognises that, in order to understand better a professional concept or professional situation or to solve a personal, professional problem, it is necessary to find out more. It is a product of personal, professional reflection. Situational realisation may also occur during professional discourse, conversations or dialogue between individuals. The realisation may come about from an inspection or peer observation and reflection upon feedback from these. Such Eureka moments need to be followed by action in response to recognition, Kirkham (2003) terms this response, ‘reflexivity’. Reflexivity leads to changes in behaviour, the product of learning. The actual impetus may come about from a whole variety of different sources and at different times – sometimes through policy and practice and other times quite serendipitously but always connected to the individual educators’ personal desire to improve professional knowledge, understanding and practice and to the benefit of their students. (…)
There is no country anywhere in the world where the initial education and/or training course for teachers is sufficient to give the graduates of such the necessary knowledge, skills and attitudes for the whole of their career as educators. The nature of knowledge is that it is constantly changing and this is equally true of knowledge for the understanding and practice of and in pedagogy and didactics. (…)
Facilitating of professional learning opportunities
(…) Collaboration is visible when all participants are respectfully listened to equally. It is recognised that some very good teachers/educators do not necessarily seek to dominate discussion nor to participate in heated debate but listen quietly and reflect on what others are saying. Facilitators should seek (without embarrassing them) to draw in the silent colleagues and to bring in their perspectives on issues being addressed.
- When there is agreement about the form of feedback (for example, “What I liked from what you have said.” and “What I learned from what you have said.”)
- When ideas are challenged and discussed in a professional manner using evidence from research, from theory and from practice.
- When participants have understood that ‘Honesty is the best policy’.
(…) Collaborative teacher learning can occur when professional autonomy of the teacher is recognised as merely being an acknowledgement of the teachers’ professional knowledge and understanding being applied to the unique set of variables in every ‘physically-isolating’ classroom. Collaborative teacher learning means that each teacher will know or come to know and understand and to be able to develop common and complementary means of enabling students to attain the agreed and desired competencies.
The extent to which collaborative teachers learning can be implemented has today no physical boundaries. Collaborative teacher learning can thus be self-initiated, project- or problem-centred and, dependent upon the needs of the participants and the context in which they are operating, may or may not have reliance upon information and communication technology.
References to the EFFeCT project
Among participants in the countries involved in the EFFeCT project, the value of the coffee break was commented upon and emphasised by teachers as an opportunity for professional learning; “a chance to ask further about comments made by others in the room”, to share views and to engage with other colleagues and co-professionals in an informal and safe time allocation. (…)
As several EFFeCT project participants emphasised, professional learning includes:
- “Ensuring teachers understand what reflective practice looks like, feels like and how it can enhance their practice;”
- a “sense of fulfilment” - seeing goals and changes being achieved;
- “professional growth; include theoretical knowledge about reflection - Schön/Brookfield etc.”