Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Teacher Collegiality and Collaboration:

There is an increasing need to improve the quality of education in Bhutan. Research consistently highlights the quality of teachers as a key determinant of quality of education (Ferguson & Ladd 1996; Wenglinsky 2000; Darling-Hammond 2000, Hattie, 2009; Sanders & Rivers, 1996).

The need to improve the quality of education confronts teachers with ever more and various demands. Teachers need to make teaching and learning process more dynamic. The traditional teacher fronted teaching, becomes no longer relevant. They need to practice innovative teaching techniques. New knowledge about teaching and learning keeps emerging. Teachers need to keep abreast of the new knowledge base and use it to continually refine their conceptual and pedagogical skills (Owen, 2005). These are expected to culminate in increasing teacher effectiveness and raise student learning outcomes.

This situation signifies the importance of continuous teacher professional development (PD). Research affirms that engaging teachers in continuous professional learning (CPD) as the most successful way to improve teacher effectiveness (Greenwald, Hedges & Laine 1995; Guskey & Huberman 1995; Elmore & Burney 1997; Hawley & Valli 1999; Elmore 2002). Professional learning supports teachers to develop their understanding and implementation of effective practice, and ultimately lead to improvement in student learning outcomes.

Most teachers in Bhutan look for out of school PD programs organized by higher authorities and other relevant organizations to improve their professional skills. But the paucity of out of school PD programs makes it unavailable to teachers. Also the sheer weight of its number (teachers make up 35% of the country’s total civil servants) makes it difficult for teachers to avail PD program opportunities.

While out-of-school PD programs are scant, teacher collegiality, a school-based PD activity can be an effective PD avenue for teacher. In fact, Owen (2005) claimed that it is even more effective than teachers attending one-off out-of-school PD programs. 
 A high level of collegiality among staff members is associated with successful and effective schools (Fullan & Hargreaves, 1991; Gossen & Anderson, 1995; Telford, 1996).

A significant body of research literature also suggests teacher collegiality and collaboration as one of the effective means of professional development. There is a widespread acceptance of teacher collegiality as an essential component of any effort aimed at improving teaching. Teacher collegiality refers to cooperative relationships among colleagues; ‘sharing responsibility in a group endeavor’ and ‘cooperative interaction among colleagues’ (Shah, 2011). Jarzabkowski (2002) and Little (1999) defines collegiality as the professional relationships whereby teachers openly and continually investigate and critique school/classroom practice with a view to improvement.

It is opposed to the culture of teachers working in isolation. Fulton (2006) argued that teacher isolation is the enemy of a healthy school culture. Teachers working in isolation see and understand little of what their colleagues do and are shielded not only from criticism, but also from support and praise (PSEA, 2011). Isolation not only cuts teachers off from crucial emotional and professional support from colleagues, it creates a splintered experience for students: five different teachers can mean five different sets of expectations and five different approaches to teaching and discipline. At many schools, teachers resemble independent contractors more than members of a faculty with a common mission (Fulton, 2006). But when teachers work in collegial atmosphere and supportive communities, they receive support, learn from each other, and gain confidence to try new things ( ).

In this era, more than ever before, teachers need to do their work differently. It is important for teachers to change the way they work to improve their professional skills. The traditional image of school teachers working independently and all alone in their classroom with closed doors is no longer relevant (Fullan & Hargreaves, 1991; Gossen & Anderson, 1995; Telford, 1996).

A large number of researches also demonstrate a positive correlation between teacher collegiality and student academic achievement (For example McClure, 2008). Teachers working in collegial and collaborative work environments have more positive attitudes and outlook towards their profession (PSEA, 2011). It has also helped in teacher retention. In many countries like US where there is a high rate of turnover, collegial supports and quality relationships among staff has influenced teachers to choose to remain in teaching. Teachers working in collegial and collaborative working environment have also been found to be highly motivated and have a positive outlook on their profession.

To be continued............


dumcho wangdi said...

Please see my post on Liebster Award. I have nominated you.

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