Collaboration is, in my mind, the most fundamental shift for the 21st Century learner and learning environment. Not to say that there have not been elements of Collaboration throughout education but it has been traditionally a function of experiment, sitting on the fringes of education. Think about much of the recent secondary school reform from the ministry in which the idea of true collaboration was in fact discounted. The ministry said that you could not give a group mark for fear that one student could dominate the work and then the others would not get a mark reflective of their abilities. This works under the premise that schools’ function is to single out individuals and put them on an examination table and see what they ALONE could do.
This is fundamentally flawed and in direct opposition to the world that all of us have to live in. Think about it: if you know nothing about how your car works, and it breaks down, are you expected to figure it out yourself? Do pop open the hood and tinker around until you either figure it out or resolve to buy a bus pass? Of course not, you take it to someone who knows what they are doing and in no time you are back on the road. One may look at the jam packed 401 every morning and observe a sea of collaboration between the people that are going to work that they are skilled at doing in vehicles that others are skilled enough to maintain and build! That is what we need to seek out in our schools, but I think it has been such an elusive goal because of one issue: TRUST.
This TED talk speaks to the need for trust in leadership and collaboration.
What an amazing perspective on trust and leadership. Think about how this applies to schools as well. Educational leaders, (I use this term to include everyone from superintendents to principals, teachers and students), must trust not only their staff but themselves as well and that can be a daunting thing. They must have a resolve that their ideas are sound and then trust that the individuality and creativity of the people they work with will add to and enhance that original vision.
But trust must also been shown in the reflecting upon and revision of original ideas. We can make schools and learning environments so much more rewarding but listening to the ideas of others. Robert Heinlein once said, “I never learned anything from someone who agreed with me”, and I think this speaks to the central point of collaboration and makes the hard work that goes with it rewarding and necessary. We can make things so amazing as a collective.
This is echoed in another TED talk that is a favourite of mine called “Want to Help Someone: Shut Up and Listen” by Ernesto Sirolli.
This is where I see collaboration coming in schools. We cannot go into a school or a classroom or even into an individual student’s head and presuppose the answers and the solutions. We have to collaborate and that means LISTENING to what they have to say, EVEN IF what they say makes your blood boil. We have to trust.
We have to be stewards of every individual’s creativity and contribution. This is tough as it can be an enfuriatingly non-efficient style of doing things, but I cannot help but see that the end result may just be a wonderful orchestra of learning and growth.
The Catholic Graduate expectations call us to do this as they seek:
I do not presume any of this to be even remotely simple or quick but the world is already there, (we are 13 years into the 21st Century afterall), and so our educational institutions need to become places that celebrate the collaborative efforts of the whole instead of places where individuals are segregated and left to stand on their own.