Collaboration in education: it is a skill and we can learn how to do it

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Lowe, Katrina
This study was conducted because of both a lack of literature on and practice in building cohesive teams and fostering collaborative skills among educators. Current pressure on educators to produce innovative curriculum design requires collaboration to become more sustainable. Although educators are encouraged, and sometimes even expected, to work together, not only are they not being shown how, but it is not even being acknowledged that collaboration is a skill that can (and should) be learned and improved upon. This qualitative study followed up with attendees of a workshop series on collaboration. This paper seeks to answer the question: How will engaging in the purposeful development of collaboration as a learned skill improve effectiveness within collaborative teams? Both interviews and focus groups were conducted to gather information from the participants about their collaborative experiences after having attended the workshop series. It was found that educators who attended the workshop series felt more effective in their collaborative experiences after having participated in the workshop series. Increased effectiveness was expressed in a variety of ways including improved awareness of self, understanding of teammates, trusting team environment, engaged team members, and capacity for both utilizing conflict effectively and overcoming personal conflict more easily. Considering much of the literature on team building and learning the skill of collaboration is directed towards other professional fields, mainly business, the activities and techniques offered in the workshop were modified, by the researcher, for educators. Educators have a lot to gain by engaging in the purposeful development of the skills of collaboration and can learn to work more effectively and sustainably together by doing so.
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