Friday, March 18, 2011

Collaborative models

It appears from the March staff meeting minutes that we will not have a choice about collaborative models at our April staff meeting other than inside/outside timetable. I am curious as to why we wouldn't use this opportunity to confirm or challenge the need for either timetable model. There is nothing in District Policy/Planning (see below*) that requires that we have an altered timetable to allow for a collaborative model, so a review of the need for formal collaboration time should be on the table -- without it we are stopping short of evaluating practice. There are, however, statements from the District Plan that confirm the importance of teacher driven and directed staff development (see below*), suggesting that choice to have any collaborative model should be a staff decision.

I am also curious as to whether the staff meeting decision is meant as a survey with binding results (which option do you prefer) or an actual motion on a collaboration model (which could be subject to amendment, debate, and points of order). I don't think we necessarily need Robert's Rules (we have tended to pick and choose parts of these in the past 6 years, with no apparent discussion as to criteria); but we may want to be clear about what is fair game for a decision and decision-making process and be ready with rationale to back it up. I think one of the reasons we've had a hard time finding a staff meeting chairperson is the uncertainty over protocol.

In some ways I do not relish a decision at all as I support the current model. I have derived some value from it, and have been active in pursuing a "works for D.P. Todd model" for many years, so I would prefer that it continue with some adjustments and reflection. It seems the least intrusive on classtime and is not burdened with some of the silliness we've seen at other schools. I know how my needs for collaboration are fulfilled and our current model serves a small but important role for me towards these needs.

However, I would also like to be principled about the decision-making process and so I am presented with a dilemma. Do I participate in the process given the lack of choice or program review, or do I abstain from the vote/spoil my ballot? I think this will depend on the research or evidence that is presented to justify the model choices, and the criteria that will be used to evaluate our choice. This is a difficult decision but necessary to consider when I measure it against my values as an educator, of which non-coercion is near the top of the list.

I realize that many people put time into evaluating collaborative and tutorial models, and yet the validation of their work and the strength of our selected model requires an unfettered school-based path of staff development (see below*). If we want a model to be fully owned and developed as a staff, the choice to implement it should come from staff. I think our current model deserves a longer run so it can be evaluated, but I am not seeing any evidence that it will be evaluated. Putting the need for any model on the table assures that evaluation is taking place.

My aim in sharing these thoughts in this forum is to apply critical thinking to all aspects of public education, something which is a shared responsibility among all educators.


from p. 11 of the 2010-11 District Plan for Student Success:
"The most effective staff development is that which occurs at the school level, driven and directed by teachers with the support and participation of the administrators. Many of our schools have developed timetables that allow for collaborative time for teachers, both within and beyond the regular instructional day."

[emphasis mine -- note Many but not All -- the presence and nature of models differ because staffs and schools differ]

from p. 36 of the 2007-10 District Plan for Student Success:
Continue to encourage and support collaboration within and among schools
Encouragement for schools to build in time for collaboration"

[emphasis mine -- encouragement but not requirement ]

[Note: the Plan listed 8 recommendations from an external review team and 45 actions planned in response, some of which were already part of practice in the district, some of which resulted in mandates, some as encouragement for actions, and some which did not happen at all]

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