Sharing your ideas where your contributions are valued

What is Collaboration?

Collaboration is how people work together, not what they do.

Collaboration is voluntary -

It is a personal choice to want to work with others. To collaborate effectively each person must share their ideas and participate readily. The choice is yours.

Collaboration is based on parity-

You must believe that each person's contributions are valued equally. Each person's knowledge and skill allow them to bring expertise to the conversation and each is integral to the whole effort.

Collaboration requires a shared goal-

Bringing together knowledge and resources to jointly reach a goal. The goal needs to be clearly defined to ensure each person is working to meet the same outcome, if the goals vary then the efforts will be divided and no outcome can be met.

Collaboration includes shared responsibility for key decisions-

You should share equal parts in the decision making about the activities each person is responsible for completing. Working together to decide the key problems, different strategies, ways of execution and effects of the solution. If the tasks are divided and completed individually miscommunication and misunderstanding could be the result.

Collaboration includes shared accountability for outcomes-

Shared accountability is a direct result from shared responsibility. When working together to reach decisions, whether the results are positive or negative they are shared among the group. If the outcome is not as expected or less than positive, the group will share in the effects and the need to change plans.

Collaboration is based on shared resources -

Each person involved in the collaboration effort contributes some type of resource. This can include, expertise, equipment, time and energy. The contribution creates a deeper commitment and sense of involvement. Sharing resources allows for a broader knowledge base and increased pool of resources to help students and reach goals.

Collaboration is emergent-

The process of collaboration requires trust and respect and as you become more experienced in working in a collaborative environment, these grow within the relationships established. Shared decision making and behaviors of team members believing in the potential of collaboration, aid the establishment of respect among team members and an increase in trust over time.

How to Support a Collaborative Environment?

In order to best meet the needs of students, teachers need more opportunities to collaborate. A number of factors can help in supporting that collaboration.

Time- Teachers need time to work together and interact with each other professionally. Experiment with scheduling to find more time for collaboration. Educators could benefit from additional opportunities to talk and collaborate with each other to best serve students and to make work more meaningful.

Trust- Teachers are often isolated from each other. Regularly scheduled times for collaboration will encourage community building. Getting to know your co-workers and their professional philosophies will help create a network for team work and support. Consider working with other educators across academic departments and disciplines.

Shared Goals- Teachers need to play a stronger role in setting education and professional goals.Collaborative planning at a school, district and state level would allow your input to make a difference in the decisions made at each level. The goals and values of the organization should be effectively communicated and clearly defined for collaboration methods to be effective.

Collaboration Can Be Complex

Disagreements are an inevitable by-product of collaboration. There are challenges with collaboration, different points of view, differences in work ethic, and different personalities.

Conflict provides opportunities to create new and better options for students.

Tips for responding to disagreements:

1. Try to understand the perspective of the other person or their frame of reference. Considering their point of view allows you to see things they way the other person sees them and allows you to get closer to resolving a disagreement

2. Creative solutions can help reach a resolution. Agree to try one idea out and reassess the effectiveness or agree to revaluate the solution at a later date in order to come to a temporary solution.

3. Take responsibility for your part in the disagreement or conflict. Be aware if you tend to insist on your ideas so that you can work towards giving other ideas a fair chance.

During collaboration it is important to engage in constructive conversations and remember the ultimate goal is to help students. How each person behaves and their attitude toward reaching the goal determines the success of the process. If any one person is not fully engaged the success of the collaboration will be limited. Each member should have the responsibility of the success or failure of the teams efforts and should share in the responsibility of the groups outcome.

In true collaboration feelings may get hurt when disagreements arise, acknowledging when you have hurt another team members feelings by making things right is an important part of gaining and maintaing respect. Hard feelings will discourage effective collaboration. Practicing self control and holding a genuine desire to hear others opinions will help in a constructive communication process. Understanding others feelings and perspectives will allow you to listen better and separate emotional responses from critical thinking and productive input.

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Dillon, P. (n.d.). Teachers Network. In Policies to enable teacher collaboration. Retrieved July 17, 2014, from

Friend, M., & Bursuck W. (2009). Building Partnerships Trough Collaboration. Including Students with Special Needs(7th ed., pp. 71, 72, 73, 88, 89). Upper Saddle River: Pearson.

Tyson, B. (May 19, 2011). Bright Hub PM. In Characteristics of effective collaboration. Retrieved July 17, 2014, from