The changing landscape of 21st century education requires all of us to continually focus on the future needs of our students. While the emphasis has traditionally centered on helping our students obtain knowledge and retain facts, nowadays, the complex and evolving nature of what we do means we have to think more broadly. At Christian College, the teachers and staff are working every day to give our students a combination of both. We want our students to effectively learn about topics and subjects that are important to them, as well as learning the dispositions and real-world skills that will be transportable into their future lives.
Our College has maintained a key focus on what is ‘good work’. Not only doing but also teaching, identifying and celebrating ‘good work’.
I am excited to report that the ‘Good Work’ Project, instigated by the Harvard Graduate School of Education through their ‘Project Zero’ Team, has produced a specific 'toolkit' to assist organisations such as ours in this task. This toolkit has all the elements of a student’s learning skill set – the dispositions they might bring to a variety of learning scenarios they may possibly encounter during their educational journey.
One of the skills I want to shine a spotlight on is ‘collaboration’.
Research over the past two decades has clearly shown that time spent in effective collaboration increases the output of any organisation, and a College such as ours is no different. There are technologies, such as email, social media or even specifically designed software, that help organisations achieve this effective collaboration. However, there is also the need for face-to-face interaction when you are working so closely with other people, as happens at our College; the partnerships and efficiencies that flow from this process being vital.
The other important aspect for a College, and indeed why students come to school, is that our young people get to learn with and from one another; complementing each other’s skills sets whilst also observing people who might be more capable in one particular area, and supporting those students who are not. This happens in so many contexts, whether it is as part of an orchestra, playing in a sporting team or, of course, in the classroom when students are working together on a common project.
The toolkit from Harvard breaks down eight essential elements that they believe successful collaboration should develop. They use the acronym ‘E.L.E.M.E.N.T’ to present it. According to the 'Project Zero' team, good collaboration is:
Excellently Executed (not haphazard or amateurish in process)
Leadership Driven (not without a vision, but not leader-dominated or unnecessarily hierarchical)
Engaging for Participants (not without meaning, not narrowly-focused)
Mission Focused (not all over the map, not with contradictory goals)
Ethically Oriented (not self-serving, not based on power)
Nurtured Continuously (not neglected or left to a whim)
Time Well Spent (not time wasted, not reliant on impulse or rigid routine)
Solution Inspired (not aimless or without a specific goal or product)
I want this type of language to become a part of what we do at our College.
The goal for us is to try to replicate for our students as many opportunities as possible for them to display these critical behaviours within their learning activities. Just as importantly, we want to do this for our Staff. Developing effective and quality teachers is something we are renowned for, and this remains a key focus for us. We know that teachers do their best work when they work together; when they collaborate on a unit of work for their students, or when they collaboratively own and nurture a level of students.
We have strong evidence of this happening already - where organised teaching teams do research-based investigations and come up with an action, improving something in our College.
I believe our College is working towards creating an environment that very much celebrates collaboration and understands the need for it, yet also delivers it in a way that is meaningful and effective for our students and staff.
And I am confident that embracing these eight 'ELEMENTS' of collaboration will promote even more of this 'good work'.
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