Building a Collaborative Environment Within the School Community

Instructor: Cory Haley
In this lesson, we will discuss effective steps towards building a collaborative environment within a school community. Also, we will explore different forms of communication to aid in the collaboration process.

What is Collaboration?

In today's society, managing a successful organization requires true grit and teamwork. The success of an organization depends on the culture and ethical practices that have been established by the organization. A school is an organization designed to provide learning opportunities for students, parents, and the staff of the school. The school's success depends on the academic achievement of students, staff morale, and parent satisfaction. The successes of a school can be accomplished by building a collaborative environment. Collaboration is a process of two or more individuals working towards a common goal while respecting the ideas of all involved. Collaboration practices can transform a school by including the students, parents, and teachers in its collaborative efforts.

Collaboration

Establishing Professional Learning Communities

A professional learning community (PLC) is a group of educators who meet frequently within the school to work on school or department-related tasks (e.g. Special Education Department). A PLC can foster collaboration.

Professional are the members of the school community who operates under ethical standards and performs the functions of teaching and learning.

Learning is the purpose of increasing the teachers' abilities to become more effective in their work with the students.

Community is the group of individuals that meets regularly, shared interest, and practice collaboration.

PLC

In the picture above, we see two individuals. We can infer that ideas are being shared and supported by each other, which is essential in building a collaborative environment. Within a PLC, shared values, beliefs, and vision are critical to sustaining a professional learning community. A successful PLC that practices collaboration has the following benefits:

1. Increased staff morale.

2. Supportive environment.

3. Gives staff a voice.

4. Solution oriented approach.

5. On-going learning experiences.

The benefits and overall success of a PLC creates a culture of collaboration, ensures academic progress for students, establishes commitment from teachers, supports the school vision and mission, and supports school improvement.

Effective Communication Skills

Lisa Delpit, an American educationalist, author, and Executive Director of the Center for Urban Educational Excellence at Florida International University, stated, 'Listening requires not only open eyes and ears but open hearts and minds. We do not really see through our eyes or hear with our ears, but through our beliefs.' Take a moment and look at this picture. Which category do you fall within?

Communication

There is no set communication style when building a collaborative environment. All individuals and styles create a dynamic and unique collaborative environment. The use of effective communication skills is critical in school, teacher, student, and parent relationships. Naturally, when individuals engage in conversation with one another, they are exchanging information and constructing the meaning of the conversation.

Peter Senge, the founder of the Society for Organizational Learning, lists four modes of conversing that most likely occur in an organization:

  • Raw Debate is a form of communication where the individuals hold to their predetermined position. This form of communication results in winners and losers.
  • Polite Discussion is a form of communication where the individuals semi-agree with each other to avoid conflict.
  • Skilled Discussion is a form of communication that is productive, which allows the individuals to express their viewpoints but understand the other individuals' viewpoints.
  • Dialogue is a form of communication where the individuals gain insights and bridges the individuals' ideas to achieve the organization's goals.

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