Over the last decade or so we have witnessed some disruption to education the way we have known it. This disruption has taken place for a number of reasons; further research into our understanding about how the brain works, globalisation, advancements in digital technology and the way we retrieve and store information and changes to society in general (Osbourne, 2016). An area which has also seen change is that of the design of the buildings within which education takes place. Aging architecture no longer suits the changes we are seeing in society but more importantly, the learners’ of today. The ‘assembly line’ model of one teacher teaching many children one subject area in a set amount of time was never equitable for all learners (Osbourne, 2016).
Moving into an ILE in 2017 after teaching in a single cell for many years will be challenging not only with further changes in mindset and pedagogy but working more closely with colleagues who too will have the interest of all the students at heart
An ILE is a culturally inclusive space (Osbourne, 2016). Although our inquiry is about how we as educators are working together we are fully aware of the fact that the space is about everyone in it, including our students. When a community of learners effectively work together ako, whanaungatanga, tuakana / teina are fostered during this collaborative process. Teaching and learning in a collaborative space is not only about us as educators it is about everyone in the space. This reciprocal nature of practice aligns with kaupapa Maori; embedding ako. Responding to Maori learners in this way is empowering and allows Maori students to achieve as Maori (Riki, 2014).
There were many questions which arose from our initial discussions. Three which stood out for us were:
Will compromise be one of the areas that we will have to address on a daily basis?
How will de-privatising our practice feel?
How do we prepare and plan to teach and learn in a collaborative environment?
In trying to find answers to our three questions we re-worked them as we continued to critically re-evaluate what we were actually wanting to know. Four key questions were developed from this thinking.
(NOTE) As this inquiry is being completed during the Summer holiday period, we were unable to engage with colleagues and our community face-to-face so our information gathering went online.
Creating a Google Form with our key questions on it we shared this link to; Personal Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter, into the Mindlab Google+ Community and our Mindlab Peak Study Google+ Community, and lastly added the questions into the Virtual Learning Network (VLN) Group: Innovative Learning Environments.
The target audience of this Community Engagement Plan are educators and school administrators; not only in New Zealand but also on a global level.
We decided that gathering qualitative data would be the most useful to us. We did this using the self-report method using a questionnaire via a Google Form. We used this method as we were wanting to gather respondents own views directly. Although the main disadvantage of using this method is validity; respondents being untruthful and looking to deceive themselves, we believe that this is unlikely in this case and we trust that respondents commented truthfully on the questions put forward. The advantages for us gathering information via a self-report questionnaire are that the questions are standardised, it allowed respondents to fill it out in private, in their own time, and it was confidential (Barker, Pistrang, & Elliot 2002).
We used open-ended questions so respondents were able to explain their answers using their own spontaneous language. We wanted respondents to share their personal stories. The disadvantage of our open-ended questions was that we risked generating large amounts of data. These types of questions also can sometimes result in answers left blank as they require more effort to complete (Barker, Pistrang, & Elliot 2002).
The feedback we received after engaging with our chosen communities was insightful, valuable and lead to further questioning. The conversation diverted our thinking to include deeper considerations about the personalities of collaborators; specifically, how will an introverted teacher manage in a collaborative environment? This conversation took place on both a Google+ and in twitter community.
Helen also shared two really valuable usable resources via the Google+ community to help us as we move forward in our ILE. These helped in clarifying some of the things we need to think about as individuals before coming together as a collaborative team.
The first shared resource is a set of questions teachers can complete individually before coming together to discuss the responses. We think the responses to these questions would lead to honest and more robust discussions about our own expectations, fears, responsibilities and day-to-day happenings.
The second shared resource is a table of ‘teacher actions during co-teaching’.
This table has inspired us to be innovative and create a guide of our own to assist us during co-teaching sessions; supporting more effective collaboration.
Ngaire shared some valuable insights via the VLN group.
The information collected from the Google Form was valuable and confirmed a lot of what we were thinking already. Many respondents shared similar thinking as the one below.
The idea of creating a document which includes our shared vision beliefs, principles and practices about ‘being a team’ for reflecting on is something we will pursue.
The comment below confirmed the need for similar ideas about management of classroom happenings.
However the collated data did reveal this interesting piece of advice also. Visiting others who are already working in an ILE is an important part to the preparation. We wonder whether we should have sought more opportunities in preparation for moving into our collaborative environment thus ensuring we were more confident about the shift.
The response below summed up the general feel for answers to this question: How do you and your colleagues ensure you are all equally involved / respected by the students?
As a team we discussed how our days will start so it was interesting that one respondent mentioned this small detail about ‘starting the day together’. To create a culture where there is mutual respect we think this is a very important, if not small, routine to embed. It was also interesting that this respondent mentioned the student having some voice over who they are sharing their learning with and asking for help from.
‘What, if anything, would you suggest to any teacher moving into a collaborative environment for the first time?’ The responses to this question were helpful and one in particular raised our interest and we feel this is worthy of further investigation.
What is the ‘opportunity tree’ method? And how can this help us as learners?
The impact of engaging our community in discussions around collaboration in an ILE has resulted in us confirming some of the ideas that we were already aware of. It also brought up some deeper thinking around personality differences and finding balance in the collaborative process. We will consider these factors daily as we progress along our journey. Another important factor was the sharing of useable resources that we can recreate and use as a guide to assist in our own practice throughout the year.
“ The most valuable resource teachers have is each other, without collaboration our growth is limited to our own perspectives“
Robert J Meehan