I was recently talking to a colleague about a professional learning opportunity she had attended. She mentioned the presenter had noted that some of the terms we use in education can inadvertently set a less than welcoming tone in our work together on behalf of students. This presenter suggested we use the term“partner” to describe those collaborations on behalf of learners and learning. I found myself returning to the idea of partners and partnerships again and again during meetings and my own professional reflection time. What is it we could learn about being “partners” that could shift and strengthen our approaches to larger collaborative efforts? Throughout these thinking expeditions, a musical backdrop emerged: Fred Rogers singing “Won’t you be my neighbor?”
We talk a lot about collaboration as essential in education because IT IS. And in addition, as we move to embrace more “future ready” ways of thinking about education, we talk about more rapid cycles of change through co-creating and then co-curating models and approaches, rather than going through multi-year development and implementation processes, all in an effort to be more nimble in our work on behalf of our students. And it’s all really hard. Because of the complexities of change, having a partner to share meaningful work with is not only rewarding but necessary. When individuals and groups seek to partner together on behalf of improving the learning lives of students, they can make the most of their assets and resources.
In education, we are fortunate that we have multiple sources of partnerships. Schools and teachers partner with parents and families to improve learning. School communities partner with businesses and organizations at various levels. Teachers partner with teachers to address student learning needs. Teachers partner with students to create and curate learning opportunities. Despite the myriad of collaborations in education, not all of them are successful. Partnership is a term that implies a closeness and a personal investment in the work. The word actually comes from the Latin “partitionem” which can mean “a share or sharing.” To have a share in something implies tremendous investment. In partnership, aspiration and inspiration can join together to create that “share” and propel us forward to achieving goals that a single individual would struggle not only to move forward, but to achieve, scale up, and sustain.
One of the most critical components of collaboration is shared beliefs. In order to make an investment in a partnership, a strong belief that things can change for the better is necessary and is often how partners find each other and partnerships begin. In his analysis of the kinds of practices that have the greatest impact on student learning, John Hattie found that “collective efficacy” has a 1.57 “effect size” on student achievement.THAT. IS. HUGE. Collective efficacy is defined as the belief that “by doing things together, you can make a difference.” Working with people who share your beliefs is so important.
So how can we develop partnerships and make the most of collaboration? The answer is deceptively simple: by learning together. What makes these alliances so strong is not coming in with answers, but sharing the questions, curiosities, and possibilities that allow us to learn and grow together.
Here are resources to help partners learn more about the information and ideas shared in this post:
- Three Ways to Model Collaboration and Partnership in Schools and Classrooms
- A Guide to Creating Key Partnerships with Parents
- School-Community Learning Partnerships: Essential to Expanded Learning Success
- How Teacher Partnerships Work
- The Power of Collective Efficacy
- 4 life lessons we learned from the Mr. Rogers movie that are especially relevant today
Linda Keating is the Director of Curriculum at FWSU. She is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY.
You can follow her on Twitter @Educate4ward