We pose the key questions that schools can usefully answer to get the most out of collaboration for CPD

Naturally, as time passes different aspects of continuing professional and personal development in schools become important. Increasingly, collaboration both within and between schools is featuring in CPD and is becoming a national priority. But how can we ensure that collaboration actually works in practice rather than just in theory? There are some clear features of effective collaboration that are worth keeping in mind when adopting this approach for CPD purposes. These ideas will help.

  • Make sure that all collaboration is built on solid foundations of shared, or at least mutually acceptable, goals and values.
  • How will effective communication between collaborating bodies be ensured?
  • It is important for each stakeholder to be equally committed to the collaboration. Is it clear what each party is contributing to the process and what each can expect to draw from it?
  • How will participation be encouraged? Are there foreseeable obstacles to eliminate before the process can begin? How might ‘team mentality’ be assured?
  • What commitment is there to evaluating the collaborative process when it gets underway? How will adjustments be accommodated?
  • How will equality of opportunity be ensured? In general, collaboration needs to support and be supported by every dimension of a school community, particularly where professional and personal development is concerned.
  • Stimulating energy and enthusiasm is a natural by-product of effective collaboration, but there’s no harm in making this an overt aim!
  • Success criteria need to be determined in the planning stage. How will you know whether the collaboration is deemed successful? Will you be giving any particular weighting to improvements in pupil outcomes above development in staff, or will these two goals be treated equally?

It’s always worth keeping in mind that collegiality and collaboration can only be successful and yield positive benefits for teachers at all stages of their careers − as well as pupils − if there is an interdependence regarding CPD within and between collaborating schools. These kinds of benefits don’t happen by chance; they need to be pursued with commitment and under the guidance of clear (perhaps distributed) leadership. By all accounts, though, those schools which do put effort into collaboration are finding it more than worth the investment.

Read about the London-wide regional CPD network, which promotes and facilitates collaboration, here.

Over to you…

Are you currently involved in collaborations with local schools, colleges and higher education institutions for professional development purposes? How do these work in practice? Do you have any top tips to pass on to other schools currently considering such an approach? Post your comments below and we may feature you and your school in a future issue of CPD Week.

eMentoring in action

Are staff members at your school struggling to learn the skills they need to work with new technology? One college has found the answer and it doesn’t cost the Earth! Oaklands College in Hertfordshire has developed a system of eMentoring that makes the most of young people’s technology skills in assisting teachers with any issues they have in connection with technology in the classroom. In addition to the obvious benefits of having such expert support readily on hand and on site for teachers, other pupils also benefit. This has greatly encouraged peer learning, giving valuable transferable skills to both ‘tutor’ and member of staff.

Find out more

If you are interested in adopting a system of eMentoring in your college or school, take a look at the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust website for information on the eMentoring project.

Oaklands College website can be accessed here.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in October 2007

About the author: Elizabeth Holmes qualified as a teacher at the Institute of Education, London and is the author of several books specialising in the areas of professional development and teacher well-being.