EFL Resources / 勉強資料
- Reasons are Important May 13, 2012
- Academic Literacy Resources May 6, 2012
- Academic Literacy in Higher Ed. May 6, 2012
- International Students in Higher Education May 3, 2012
- Education and the Importance of Connecting April 28, 2012
- Education as it Is and as it Should be April 25, 2012
- Be Careful What You Believe April 21, 2012
- Game-based learning April 17, 2012
- Learning Styles: Fact or Fiction? April 15, 2012
Tag Archives: Teamwork
I’ve written quite a few posts with sub-themes on the numerous benefits of teacher communication and collaboration in education, and as is often the case, the more you think about a topic, the more references and associations to that topic that seem to pop up everywhere you look. This is only natural given that the deeper we delve into an issue, the greater our understanding and the greater the number of connections with our previous knowledge and experiences we can make.
A few weeks back I wrote about the problem of teacher turnover in education systems around the world, and how the turnover among new teachers makes up a disproportionately large part of that total. Several national surveys in the United States suggest that lack of communication and collaboration among teaching staff; lack of opportunity for professional development; and lack of support from school administrations are the most common reasons given for this high turnover. Much of the media attention seems to focus on a lack of training and support for ‘new’ teachers as the reason for the problem, as though the new teachers themselves are not sufficiently prepared to teach within the edcuation system. I think this is a very unfortunate and backwards way of interpreting the issue, since solutions based on this thinking would have broken teachers adapting to systems and school cultures rather than broken systems and school cultures being fixed because they are posioning education.
In addition to teacher retention, an integrated professional culture within institutions improves learning outcomes for teachers and students alike. In the absence of formal professional development, communication and collaboration among teachers can lead to shared learning, and the identification and resolution of teaching and learning issues. The results of numerous surveys and case studies seem to support this conclusion, as does research which empirically tests and confirms the cause and effect relationship between improved teacher collaboration and improved student achievement. Given the benefits of collaboration for teachers and students alike, why do so many teachers in so many schools continue to work in isolation? Surveys in the US suggest the number is somewhere between 50 and 65% of teachers (although this is likely to be the result of broken school cultures rather simply a matter of teacher choice).
Why does communication and collaboration among teachers lead to improvements in student achievement? I mentioned in a previous post on March 25th that there are certain potential dangers involved in decision making in teams such as ‘group think’ and over-confidence in group-made decisions; however, if these can be avoided the substantial benefits involve improved creativity; job satisfaction; peer review of ideas and practices; combining of skills; delegation of work; learning opportunities; identification of problems; and shared responsibility for resolving issues and reinforcing student learning. The other day I came across an interesting little video on YouTube by Steven Johnson (linked below) entitled “Where Good Ides Come From“. The theme of the video is that ’chance favours the connected mind’, and while it relates to innovation rather than issues in education specifically, you get the idea. Worth a watch:
One of the major themes of the articles and presentations I have posted here over the past few weeks has been collaboration in education: collaboration among teaching staff in institutions in identifying, acknowledging and acting on ideas, practices and issues which influence learning outcomes (positive and negative); and encouraging collaboration among learners in student-centred approaches to learning.
Collaboration is generally seen in a positive light, and there is no doubt there are many advantages to working in a collaborative environment; however, it’s essential to understand that there are challenges involved in group processes which can limit or negate the advantages if care isn’t taken. I remember leadership exercises in my senior year of high school which demonstrated the dangers of automatically choosing majority supported answers to problems over those which were perhaps better thought out. I have often had small groups in EFL classrooms brainstorm on topics for discussions from issues in Global Warming to activities for Christmas Parties, and found that group mindsets often form and narrow the variety of ideas. The potential problems are numerous and many are well-known: groups being dominated by strong personalities; a desire for consensus leading to groupthink and poor decisions; settling for the first solution which satisfies everyone (satisficing); or even just poor procedural management in meetings.
I came across an article on the Association for Psychological Science website a couple of weeks ago which discussed the results of a study on collaborative decision making. According to the research, another issue which can arise in teamwork/collaborative decision making (pairs in this case) is the increase in confidence in judgments which can result in dismissal of external input and a reduction in accuracy of conclusions reached.
The lesson? Don’t give up on teamwork- collaboration among teachers and students is an important ingredient in optimizing learning outcomes. Just be aware of the potential problems and work to avoid or mitigate them. Seeking out and valuing diversity of ideas, opinions and perspectives is a big step in the right direction.
Old paradigms vs new in education: Teachers engaging in teamwork, collaboration and relationship building:
“Earlier this year I looked at defining the ‘old paradigm’ classroom as compared with a new ‘learning community’ model. What was immediately apparent was the emphasis that is given to ‘separation’ in the one teacher, one classroom model. Separate and separated teachers work in separate classrooms, at separate desks, with separated class groups on separate programs with separate preparation – with students sitting in many instances in separate seats in separate rows. Get the picture? No wonder conflict so easily arises in a ‘separate’ model – tension rapidly escalating in confined spaces that can rapidly become a pressure cooker of emotions. It is not difficult to delve back into the origins of this thinking from the industrial era – separate actions in a production line gradually contributing to the finished product…”