• Theme: Organizing collaborative professional learning
  • Media:Answers to typical questions

Collaborative learning

Collaborative learning involves interdependence between the success of the individual and the success of the group, requiring both personal preparation and teamwork. Asynchronous work, in combination with group interaction and problem-solving, differentiates collaborative learning from other interactive teaching methods. Important rules, in this case, are : (a) familiarity with collaborative learning, (b) relationships, (c) benefits, (d) motivations, and (e) design and process.

Read more: Falcione , S., Campbell, E., McCollum, B., Chamberlain, J., Macias, M., Morsch , L., & Pinder , C. (2019). Emergence of different perspectives of success in collaborative learning. The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 10 (2). https://doi.org/10.5206/cjsotl-rcacea.2019.2.8227

Familiarity with collaborative learning

The best starting point for teacher co-operation is the same or similar views on aspects of co-operation. We believe that then the cooperation is more successful and the learner fits better into the learning process. It is very difficult to work with colleagues who have opposing views, i.e .they do not want to meet the needs of each child in the learning process. For successful cooperation with colleagues, you must be able to express your thoughts, views and needs in an understandable way.

Relationships

Creating a positive microclimate among colleagues that is focused on cooperation requires mutual trust, no fear of making mistakes, and a desire to share knowledge and experience. Must be able to give and accept feedback on the work, be able to accept constructive criticism and discuss professionally. It is important to maintain a positive relationship among teachers, because learners see, hear and feel the relationship among teachers.

Motivations

We believe that in terms of inclusive education, the greatest emphasis should be placed on those needs that are more important for the child's development and successful learning. In order to ensure that children learn according to their abilities, needs and behavioral characteristics, it is necessary to regularly cooperate with teachers of all subjects, support team specialists. Each educator expresses his or her personal thoughts and views.

Design and process

Positive exchange of ideas, priorities are set for each child. It is being explored where more needs to be done to improve learning outcomes in general, and which cross-cutting skills need to be addressed individually. It is very important that everyone adheres to the same requirements.

Benefits

Collaboration promotes the emergence of new ideas that result in everyone being involved in the learning process. Mutual communication, the ability to listen and cooperate, the desire to help, promotes the learner's more successful integration into the educational process.

Mirror: how to explore needs, make choices for the professional development programme and involve the whole team?

Before starting a professional development programme (PDP), it is necessary to explore what it could mean for you and your school. To this end, you usually plan a consultation or intake meeting with your management and other relevant stakeholders, e.g. one or more interested teachers, colleagues from your care team, possibly a coordinator, mentor, policy supporter, etc.

The following guiding questions can start the conversation about this.

Goals:

  • To what extent do the objectives of the professional development program match the needs of our school and team?
  • Do we want to commit to creating inclusive learning environments, valuing a diversity and collaborating interprofessionally? In what ways?
  • For whom would it be important to work on these goals?
  • Actions:
  • In what ways are we already working on inclusive learning environments?
  • What actions, measures and/or reasonable adjustments are we already taking to create inclusive learning environments?
  • What are the different steps we are already taking or took? How exactly do we approach it?
  • How does our school support teachers in doing so?
  • What examples or situations illustrate this? Is there anything we are proud of? Is there anything that we might want to deepen, extend,...?

Policies:

  • What is our pedagogical policy or care policy, reflecting our vision and actions?
  • What does our school vision say about diversity and/or inclusion?
  • What is our policy in dealing with diversity and inclusion?
  • How does this policy translate to the classroom floor? What examples or situations illustrate this? Is there anything we value in this? Is there anything that we might want to deepen, expand,...?

Collaboration:

  • How does our team work together to meet the needs of all pupils?
  • Specifically, how does collaboration between teachers take place?
  • What promotes and what sometimes hinders that cooperation? How does our team experience this?
  • What examples or situations illustrate this? Is there anything that teachers, part of our team or our whole school team strongly tackle together? [iv3] Is there anything we might want to deepen, expand,...?

Professional development:

  1. How is professionalisation on inclusion, diversity and/or collaboration addressed?
  2. What professionalisation needs does our team experience in terms of inclusion, diversity and/or collaboration? What competences are we already strongly deploying? Is there anything we might want to deepen, expand,...?
  3. What professionalisation opportunities do we see to work on this?
  4. How do we organise our pedagogical study days and staff meetings?  
  5. How do we exchange expertise and experiences on classroom practices? How do we share what we learn during in-service training and other forms of professionalisation? How do we broaden and anchor what we learn sustainably?
  6. How do we look at collaborative learning in a core team and in our wider school team?
  7. How do we look at guiding, supporting and coaching this journey? Who might we turn to as an internal or external coach to facilitate this learning process?

Based on these reflections, you decide on the approach of your professional development programme. These guiding questions help you weigh up the extent to which these choices match your own professional learning needs.

  • To what extent does this professional development programme appeal to us? What do we think about it? To what extent does the pathway fit our needs?
  • What do we want to focus on (arrive at sharp goals from our reality, learn to deploy resources and actions and/or broaden and anchor them)? What do we want to tackle or possibly adapt?
  • How much time do we want to set aside for this? How many meetings can we schedule? How do we spread them out in time, over one or more school years? How do we make it feasible?
  • Do we want to create a professional learning community for it or embed the process in an existing working group, subteam, in staff meetings and/or pedagogical study days?
  • How do we motivate colleagues to participate? Is there any compensation possible for their efforts, e.g. by scheduling and/or temporarily releasing them from other intensive processes, projects, engagements...?
  • Who do we ask to guide and support this learning process as internal or external coach?

After the (management) team decides to start a professional development programme, it is necessary to inform and involve all teachers in the school. This is best done about

  • the objectives in terms of inclusion, diversity and cooperation,
  • the focus of the pathway,
  • the way the pathway encourages joint reflection and action and
  • the guidance, support and coaching approach provided with it.

Above all, transparent communication is needed about the trajectory's coherence with the school's policy. For example, you can answer the following guiding questions in this regard.

  • Why does our school want to embark on this?
  • How does this trajectory fit with our school's vision, policies and actions?
  • Who can participate in what way? Based on what criteria, if any, will this be decided and by when?
  • How do we want to honour this extra effort to grow together towards inclusion?

Once there is clarity on this, you can think together about the needs your colleagues experience in this respect. In this way, all colleagues can take ownership of this professional development pathway and you will arrive at a shared responsibility to realise the goals.