How to Effectively Collaborate with Colleagues

To collaborate with colleagues requires intention and a systematic approach. Collaboration, if done well, is a powerful technique that can support the growth of teachers.

how to effectively collaborate with colleaguesCollaboration can:

  • Increase one’s knowledge-base
  • Model skills and strategies
  • Multiply innovative ideas
  • Bond a team together

The problem is many schools require teachers to collaborate without providing training in how to do so effectively. Establish norms so teachers know the both the expected behaviors and possible accomplishments achievable by working together. An example of norms are below.

Collaboration means we aren’t:

  • Talking at – Instead of talking at each other, educators need to listen, process, and respond on topic. It is more about flushing out ideas than sharing our own unrelated ideas. Especially with efforts to be the loudest or most agreed with person in the room.
  • Tuning Out– Oftentimes when someone else’s problems don’t relate to us, we tune them out.  Collectively, we are powerful. So if we ignore our colleagues concerns or obstacles, we diminish the power of the group. We need to use our own experiences, skills, and knowledge to provide potential solutions. Eventually it will be your turn to need help. You’ll want people in your corner helping you grow, not tuning you out.
  • Working Against Each Other–  Collaboration should have a firm beginning and end time in order to honor other responsibilities of each group member. However, collaboration can happen anywhere at any time. Informal collaboration means everyone is supporting each other in all the nooks and crannies in their day. Working together is an ongoing process.
  • Focused on self- We need to focus on the collective efficacy of the group, even when we hone in on a particular problem one member is facing. If we are selfish worrying about what we can get rather than give, we limit our own growth and that of others.

Even if schools are doing collaboration right and avoiding the pitfalls mentioned above, they might not be doing collaboration correctly on a consistent basis. The constant support of each other is how individually and collectively strengths can grow to fruition.

Build Collaboration By:

  • Setting goals– Decide as a group what it is you want to achieve together
  • Setting norms– Establish behaviors that are expected at each and every formal collaboration
  • Establishing procedures/protocols– Create a format and flow for a collaborative meeting so that it is focused on the end goal and supportive in nature
  • Meeting consistently– Put it on the calendar on a repetitive basis and honor that time so that it does not get taken away for other meetings that come up
  • Holding each other accountable– Whether you said you would bring materials to a meeting, watch a colleague teach, review data, or take a risk in your own role, everyone must support each other so that we do what we say we are going to do.

If you want to experience the power of collaboration to increase effectiveness and grow your own professional learning network, join the Teacher Leader Mastermind.




How are you ensuring your collaborations with colleagues are effective?

About the author, Gretchen

I am a teacher trainer and coach. Working elbow to elbow with teachers and teacher leaders to ensure instructional proficiency and student achievement soar lights me up. We have a real need in our nation for strong educators to remain in the field. My blog, book, podcast, courses and instructional materials are geared towards empowering teachers (and those that lead them) to receive the support needed to grow and thrive today, tomorrow and always.