Source: Globe, Clker, http://bit.ly/1CVSonk; Thinking Person, Clker, http://bit.ly/1EmDSQV; Map of RI, Wikimedia Commons, http://bit.ly/1T2cp1U; Coffee Shop, Pixabay, http://bit.ly/1KfIfV7; WE, Pixabay, http://bit.ly/1Jt06bV; Chairs, Pixabay, http://bit.ly/1RR0iTV; Twitter, Pixabay, http://bit.ly/1cCNzUY
Hello there, and welcome. Today's topic is one that I have a personal connection with. I've always felt I was a better learner when I was learning with others. So with that, let's get started on exploring collaboration as it relates to you, the adult learner.
A few years ago, I had a unique job. I was an induction coach for my State Department of Education. That meant I had a case load of 15 first year teachers throughout the state that I spent two hours a week with observing and debriefing and coaching. There were about a dozen of us who covered the entire state.
Yes, I live in a very small state. I was coaching, but at the same time I was learning to coach along with my colleagues. I often think back to when I learned so many of the strategies that I still use today. I think back to the rich conversations I had about the field and our practice. I think back to all the learning I did.
And it wasn't in a classroom or a conference room. It was in a coffee shop. The group of coaches was constantly learning from one another and reaching out for support. We didn't have classrooms or offices, so we met in coffee shops. It just goes to show that a PLC is about collaboration more than anything else.
Let's begin by defining the term. Collaborative learning is when teachers are working together with other professionals. This can take many forms. It can be as small as a couple of colleagues getting together to conduct a book study or an entire school or district organizing an event like an "unconference" or ed camp.
In PLCs, it's all about groups of teachers tackling relevant subjects together. Collaborative learning experience can have a long lasting and profound impact on a learning community. The research describes collaborative learning experiences as active, social, contextual, engaging, and student-owned, thus leading to deeper learning.
Some of the benefits of collaborative learning include development of higher level thinking skills, improved oral communication, improved self management, development of leadership skills in teachers, an emphasis on the importance of teacher to teacher interactions, in increase in teacher empowerment and self-efficacy, and an increased understanding of others' perspectives.
These are all traits and characteristics that are more likely to occur when collaborative learning is taking place among colleagues. Let's get into some of the specifics you might see in a collaborative learning environment. So here are some examples of how collaborative learning can lead to those benefits that we just listed.
Example one, professional book discussion. When teachers select a professional book on a topic they want to learn more about, it forces them to self manage their time. Also, the discussions offer the learners with the opportunity to improve upon their oral communication skills.
Example number two, observing a colleague. Whenever you have the opportunity to observe a colleague, take it. This is an example of a learning opportunity that increases the understanding of others' perspectives since you might get to see a new spin on something you already teach. The debrief following the observation increases the amount and depth of each teacher to teacher interaction. Furthermore, the teachers involved will certainly feel empowered to make changes to their own practice.
Example number three, action research. Many teachers engage in action research to improve their practice. Doing this requires a great deal of higher level thinking and often culminates with teachers sharing out their findings with stakeholders, thus developing their own leadership skills.
Collaborative learning can take place anywhere at any time. In fact, much of it happens virtually now through ed chats on Twitter and other online forums. It can be one to one, peers, small or larger groups. Professional learning communities have become the place to discuss concepts and find solutions to problems.
Rick Dufour considers collaborative learning an ongoing process within a PLC where educators engage in cycles of collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for their students. He also contends that one of the keys to a student's success is the job-embedded learning that takes place and the expectation for teachers to work collaboratively.
Let's go ahead and summarize what we covered in this lesson. The focus was on collaborative learning for adults and the impact it has. We looked at three examples and went over collaborative learning in the context of a PLC.
And now for today's food for thought. We've talked about the many positives that are associated with collaborative learning. What are some of the hurdles that you may need to overcome when learning with others?
To dive a little deeper and learn how to apply this information, be sure to check out the Additional Resources section associated with this video. This is where you'll find links targeted toward helping you discover more ways to apply this course material. Thanks for participating in this lesson. We'll see you next time.
(00:15-01:09) Learning on The Go
(04:10-04:52) Summary/Food For Thought
All Things PLC
This useful website includes planning resources, articles, and templates for professional learning and collaboration.
Made for Each Other: PLCs and Professional Development
This brief article explains the connection between PLCs and professional development at Montgomery County Public Schools. This is a good example of theory in action.