Friday, April 8, 2011

The continuing trouble with collaboration: Teachers talk.

Leonard, L. and Leonard, P. (2003, September 17). The continuing trouble with collaboration: Teachers talk. Current Issues in Education [On-line], 6(15). Available:

Collaboration is increasingly seen as good organizational practice, not just in business but in education as well, suggesting that students benefits from teachers who reject the “traditional norms of isolationism and individualism,” two of the biggest obstacles to collaboration. Collaboration is supported/encouraged in a learning community “based on shared conceptions of vision, purpose, and means.” In other words, collaboration flourishes in an environment where adults as well as students are seen as learners and where there is a shared attitude and understanding about learning and working together. The benefits to such an environment are many, according to research done by the authors: “teacher empowerment, collegial trust, and organizational change, and school improvement” (Hall and Hord, 2001; Maehr and Midgley, 1996; Stoll and Fink, 1996).

Although the article cites the benefits of collaboration, the main focus of the article is to illuminate the obstacles to collaboration and some possible remedies for those obstacles. A few of the obstacles the authors noted from previous studies were “ time constraints, fragmented visions, competitiveness, conflict avoidance, and lack of administrative support.” The authors then add to the list with their own study, looking at both the amount/kinds of collaboration as well as the obstacles. The biggest factor that their study noted was time. As one teacher noted: “We have a lot of responsibilities and not a lot of free time.” Other factors included negative attitudes toward collaboration, a lack of commitment to collaboration, personality conflicts, lack of administrative support (scheduling often noted) and a lack of compensation for time spent outside of the school day for collaboration.

Suggestions for administrative support of teacher collaboration were also included. Some that seemed worth pursuing were to arrange common planning time, provide substitute teachers, better utilize staff days, and provide collaboration training for teachers

Evaluation/response: This was useful in pinpointing some of the traditional obstacles to collaboration; however, as I work at a non-traditional school where some of those obstacles have been addressed (time for collaboration is built into our schedules, collaboration is an accepted and understood part of the school culture, competition is now for the best collaborative project rather than kept in the classroom) that would leave fewer obstacles for me to look at. There are still time issues (even with the built in meeting time), and there are still personality conflicts, conflict avoidance, negative attitudes toward shared work (control issues?), and varying levels of commitment, so these seem like good issues to explore.

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