Do you collaborate at home?

Last week I attended a history teachers’ conference.

One panel session, led by Professor Erica McWilliam discussed the ideas of 21st century curriculum. It followed her keynote address where she raised several ideas surrounding the ways that teachers view change in practice and the ways that pedagogy has changed.

Professor McWilliam asked the audience what they thought they could do with “less” of in order to accommodate room for innovation. Whilst the audience was quick to jump on the usual proponents “technology” / “assessment” the conversation did not refer to an idea that was touched on in the keynote address: collaboration.

Collaboration in education, on a simplistic level, is often seen as “sharing resources”. Certainly, emergence of communities of practice over the last 5 years can be seen in those areas that involve information and communication technologies but what about collaboration for creation? Project based learning (PBL) proponents may argue that this sort of collaboration occurs in their method of designing learning programs. In the same vein, I think there are many examples of collaboration in terms of international partnerships – schools working across borders learning from each other, forging new relationships consolidating learning but I still think there is still much more room to look at collaborating at school level in order to create very exciting, innovative learning programs.

Maybe it’s because the ‘innovators’ in some schools are isolated, working within a system that is slow to change that we see the collaboration occurring across state, sea and country borders, but I still feel that the single school structure could benefit from learning to collaborate within its own institution.

If I was leading in a school I would certainly be considering how I was going to make the Australian Curriculum work in a sustainable and meaningful way. Schools should use their human capital more wisely – use subject expertise, use technological expertise – marry the two where possible. I realise there are so many extenuating factors, not least the sector shortage of teachers, which prevent schools from realising such structures, but the days of the English faculty working exclusively outside of the ‘History’ faculty or ‘Science’ faculty, for example,  is probably limited.

In the next couple of years schools will need to be more ‘inventive’ regarding whole school planning. Traditionally behind other public sectors – education needs to look at the collaboration that is occurring all around them in the community, relinquish some of the control that they so desperately grasp onto, and allow amazing things to happen.

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