Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Commitment and Compliance: Curious bedfellows in teacher collaboration

Jarzabkowski, L (1999, Nov 29-Dec 2) Commitment and Compliance: Curious bedfellows in teacher collaboration. Paper presented at the Australian Association for Research in Education and New Zealand Association for Research in Education joint conference.

This paper challenges some assumptions and assertions about teacher collaboration and collegiality, arguing that there is a great deal more collaboration and collegiality than commonly assumed; in addition, the author argues against Hargreaves’ assertion that there are two kinds of cultures in teaching: either “contrived collegiality” or “collaborative culture.” As a result of a year-long study that looks at these two models, the author comes to the conclusion that this is too simple and rigid a definition, that this is not an either/or dynamic, and that both can exist in varying degrees in the same organization.

A very helpful part of this paper is the time spent on defining both collegiality and collaboration, as neither seems to be clearly defined in previous literature and are often used interchangeably. For the purposes of this paper then, the author offers a definition for each. Collegiality is defined as “involvement with their peers on any level, be it intellectual, social, or emotional”; whereas collaboration “relates only to professional activities conducted with peers.” The author therefore sees collaboration as a subset of collegiality, but collaboration is more highly valued in current literature with previous authors discounting the social/emotional benefit of collegiality – which this author argues makes teachers more flexible, more supportive and more energized, which in turn benefits the students at the school.

At the same time however, the author notes that although collegiality is seen to be the “solution” to teacher isolation and individualism, teacher individualism is not bad, since it prevents “groupthink” and encourages creativity and reflection, among other things. In addition, other critics of the push for collegiality argue that collegiality “is a form of central control disguised as authonomy,” that it can endanger the efficiency of the school, slows down the decision-making process, and that it can undermine the position of the principal

“the welfare of the children [is] intimately bound up with the well-being of the adults who work with them. If the latter did not feel accepted as people in the staffroom, they would not be fully at ease in the classroom. Besides it [is] philosophically inconsistent to treat children as “whole” and “individual” but to ignore the personhood of teachers” (Nias 1998, p. 1262)

1 comment:

Stacey said...

Pam, this article sounds fascinating! I especially appreciate that it challenges some of the other ideas/authors you have been reading about and provides perhaps a slightly more nuanced view. The distinction between collaboration and collegiality is an interesting one to think about. You may also be interested in some of Elisabeth Soep's work on Collegial Pedagogy - she is a friend who works at Youth Radio and has done great work on critique and how adults and kids can build not just collaborative cultures with one another, but collegial cultures. She also sees an important distinction between the two, particularly in terms of the power relationships between the participants. Let me know if you have trouble finding her stuff, but there is also a great article in UnBoxed where she is interviewed and talks about this!

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