Saturday, November 15, 2014

An experiment in collaboration

We started a new interdisciplinary PLC at E. O. Smith High School, and I feel like we're on the cusp of something big.

Several of us had been experimenting with tech-facilitated differentiation and mastery-based learning, so we started to get together regularly after school to share stories, challenges, and ideas. We use a show-and-tell format, with a different teacher presenting each month. They share what they've been doing. The rest of us listen, then ask questions.

It's been exciting, encouraging, and refreshing. The things these teachers are doing are bold and progressive. The effects of new strategies on students are always hard to predict. We've seen lots of promising results. We've also faced lots of challenges. That's why we need each other.

Thanks to the work of Andy Hargreaves and others, this kind of collaborative culture is growing in schools nationwide, and the power of collaboration is in this:

1) We get new perspectives. It's easy to walk around blinded to what's really going on by confirmation bias, etc. By opening yourself up to other, you get fresh, clearer perspectives on the situation.

2)  We get moral support and encouragement. Change is hard. Teaching is hard. Put them together, and you need moral support and encouragement.

3) We get synergy of ideas. It's what author Matt Ridley calls "when ideas have sex." The recombination of ideas that occurs through cooperation and collaboration is what Ridley says gave birth to civilization. Just imagine what's in store for education!

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