Sunday, June 7, 2015

Collaborative learning is the preferred platform for educators who are interested in augmenting their professional development programs.  In this regard, the objective is to create a cooperative, inclusive, and community-based meeting of minds.  The PD groups in our school fall into line when it comes to collaboration.  They are generally comprised of teachers, teaching assistants, and counselors. They create goals, allow all members to air their views and collect and examine examples student work to inform their decisions.  There is however, room for improvement. We can strengthen these collaborative venues in the following ways.  First and foremost, the facilitator should establish a trusting and safe environment which ensures mutual respect and support for all (Garmston, & Wellman, 2013).  Members should then create and share a common purpose and goal.  Further, they can establish a set of agreements in which they decide who does what and why (Garmston, & Wellman, 2013).  Each constituent is accountable to each other, to the group, and to the designated outcomes (Garmston, & Wellman, 2013).  Importantly, these set of agreements, while flexible, should serve as guidelines for the entire process. Next, the facilitator creates a practical schedule and identifies individual roles and responsibilities (Garmston, & Wellman, 2013).  Finally, everyone shares leadership.  This allows each member to promote diverse perspectives and enables the group to tap into a communal pool of expertise. 
During the first week of this course we were asked to create a school-based team.  It was to be comprised of at least three individuals.  Furthermore, we were expected to collaborate, consult, and share ideas about the professional development efforts and needs at our school.  Finally, we were asked to evaluate our school’s progress in incorporating effective professional development practices.
My team is comprised of a reading curriculum specialist, a librarian, and a fifth grade teacher with many years of experience.   Initially we all had questions about the goal of meeting our school’s professional development needs. We also wondered about the merits of our personal contributions.  We soon found common school-wide PD issues on which we could agree. Three issues caught our attention.  First, there was a need to carve out more time for professional development. Next, we need to access outside expertise to help further develop the facilitators’ skills.  Finally, workshops that stress the learning of social skills such as impulse control, strategic listening and speaking were deemed desirable.   As to this last point, the resulting enhanced social abilities would ensure a smoother flowing dialogue, as well as cue members when to self- assert and when to align their views with others. This, in turn, would abet consensus building which is an important step in problem solving.
I found the team members to be patient with my requests for time and willing to speak openly about their concerns. I just wish there was more time in the day to explore these issues.
My hopes for the team are aligned with the list of recommendations we made to improve the professional development program in our school.  I believe they are meritorious since we need expanded opportunities for PD as well as inculcating outside expertise to further facilitate our meetings. My concern is that budgetary and scheduling constraints will hamper our efforts.
Garmston, R. J., & Wellman, B. M. (2013). The adaptive school: A sourcebook for developing
         collaborative groups (Rev. 2nd ed.). Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.

1 comment:

  1. I have worked in several schools, and have found that professional development is often a point of contention. In my experience, educators want to keep learning and improving. However, they are also very busy and protective of their time. So PD that is not done well winds up being resented my most of the participants. I think your recommendations are excellent and would solve most of that problem. The only thing I would add would be some element of choice. If people could self select a PD topic of interest, then everyone would be more engaged. Thanks for the thoughtful post!