Whole school approach
Education today is facing a number of challenges brought about by dynamically changing processes which take place in the globalised world and the constant criticism of the business community related to the mismatch of graduates’ skills and competencies and the growing demands for teachers’ professional development. Teachers’ professionalism is linked not only to the competence of teaching their specific subjects and organising students’ learning and development within an isolated study discipline but also in terms of teachers being able to influence ongoing processes in the entire school and society; if needed, even stepping out from the formal study environments and going into the community, making decisions and solving real life problems acting entrepreneurially, networking, leading and working in interdisciplinary environments. The multifaceted nature of all these demands changes the scope of expectations from teachers, as well as the character of organisation of teachers’ professional growth, shifting the emphasis from individual to collaborative learning. This can be realised by promoting networking and professional collaboration not only between teachers and other education related stakeholders – i.e. their colleagues who teach different study disciplines, school administrators and teacher educators, but also between teachers and their students, the students’ parents, entrepreneurs, professionals from different fields, municipalities, local communities, researchers, and policy makers.
Collaborative teacher learning (CTL) networks were created within the EFFeCT project, aimed at promoting teachers’ professional competencies in creating an interdisciplinary study environment and working in it for solving pedagogical and real life problems. The full landscape of the multilevel collaboration was under continuous analysis to evaluate the impact of this approach on teachers’ learning from different perspectives.
The research question was:
- Who should be engaged in collaborative teacher learning?
The research methods:
- Analysis of literature to answer the research question on who should be engaged in CTL.
Individual and group reflections of teachers participating in the EFFeCT project in Latvia, and qualitative content analysis of reflective texts to explore their experience while collaborating with the CTL network partners.
The Latvian pilot programme was organised in four schools, the leading researcher and evaluator was Karine Oganisjana, Dr. Paed. assoc. prof. Riga Technical University & Institute of Lifelong Learning and Culture “VITAE”. The collaborative teacher learning pilot focused on enhancing teachers’ professional competence in creating interdisciplinary (ID) study environments and working within this framework to solve school and local community related problems.
The following forms of collaboration were identified in advance and the full study provides detailed description about each form of collaboration:
- crucial role of school administrators to creating a collaborative learning culture
- teachers’ collaboration with each other
- teacher – student collaboration
- teacher – parent partnerships
- teachers – local community collaboration (entrepreneurs, municipality and local community representatives)
- teacher – teacher educators and researchers collaboration
- teachers – education policy makers collaboration
The Latvian pilot model - focus on the school community
A Network model of data collection on teachers’ collaborative learning was the core of the evaluation process, in which the horizontal rows show all the stakeholders who the teachers collaborated with within the project, while the columns reflect on realised activities, in chronological order.
- Teachers’ interschool collaboration
- Teachers – NGO collaboration
- Teachers – municipality collaboration
- Teachers – entrepreneurs collaboration
- Teachers – local community collaboration
- Teachers – parents collaboration
- Teachers – school administration collaboration
- Teachers – other colleagues collaboration
- Teachers - students collaboration
- Teachers – project team collaboration
- Teachers’ intragroup collaboration
- Solution for a school-related pedagogical problem
- Solution for a community-related problem
- Elaboration and realisation of ID activities
- Joint analysis of the work done
- Elaboration of the content and forms of realisation of the conference, workshop
- Elaboration of teachers' programme for work in competence-based ID study environment
- Organisation of the leisure time together
- Joint work at the seminar in "Ķoņu dzirnavas"
The teachers’ reflections on the challenges faced and benefits gained within each collaboration channel showed that teachers managed to:
- use the opportunities offered by the collaboration with the stakeholders successfully;
- overcome difficulties related to the creation of interdisciplinary study environments when solving school and community related problems, enhancing their professional competence;
- motivate the stakeholders to overcome formal attitude and lack of interest, and apply their efforts towards making the ideas come true;
- research, plan and organise all the human, intellectual and time resources in order to realise their projects and to analyse their own learning experience.
The whole study is available in the EFFeCT paper.