Collaboration in education: linking schools, teachers, parents and pupils

15/03/19

In an ideal world, everyone within a school would work in harmony. But in reality, for a school leader, keeping everyone happy and on the same path is a careful balancing act.

A silo mentality is one of the biggest barriers to educational success. Productivity, engagement and attainment can all suffer when different groups within a school don’t work collaboratively. In response, head teachers must have the mindset and the tools required to break such silos down.

Greater collaboration between school staff

A teacher in one department quite often has distinct needs and objectives compared to their colleagues in other departments, and nobody is suggesting that every subject or year group has to work the same way. However, some teachers can be reluctant to open up and share what they are doing (or not doing) with the rest of the school for fear that it will invite scrutiny.

But if you want to create an honest and open culture, regular meetings between department heads is a must.

If subject leaders and head-of-years know what other departments are working on, this will create new opportunities for enhanced collaboration – for example, arranging joint activities or sharing school equipment – and school-wide improvements.

As well as greater collaboration between teachers, it’s also crucial to improve cooperation between teachers and their schools, because there is still some way to go. For example, our 2018/19 State of Technology in Education report found that over a quarter of teaching staff are not aware of any clear strategic vision in their schools – and where a strategy is in place, only 7% of teachers took an active role in formulating it.

As well as greater collaboration between teachers, it’s also crucial to improve cooperation between teachers and their schools, because there is still some way to go. For example, our 2018/19 State of Technology in Education report found that over a quarter of teaching staff are not aware of any clear strategic vision in their schools – and where a strategy is in place, only 7% of teachers took an active role in formulating it.

Without playing a role in devising a school’s strategic vision, it can be challenging to secure buy-in from all stakeholders when it comes to educational priorities. And this can have a negative impact on morale and overall school success.

It’s all too easy for head teachers to find themselves removed from the frontline of education. As such, teachers’ insights are invaluable, and processes must be put in place to enable greater collaboration between school leaders and classroom teachers. Regular meetings, open-door sessions and other ways to provide feedback will empower teachers, boost school morale and improve relationships.

Greater collaboration with parents

Communication is essential when it comes to creating positive partnerships with parents. When you make an effort to communicate with parents, they feel that their input is valued. Here are some ways to help boost parental/school communication:

  • Establish preferred contact methods with each parent
  • Adopt a two-way communication approach and make it as easy as possible for parents to contact your school using a range of different means (phone, email, etc.)
  • Encourage your teachers to share positive comments and updates about your pupils with their parents (and provide them with the means to do this)
  • Likewise, also enable them to proactively let parents know of any concerns they have about their children, and encourage parents to work with the school to find a solution.

Greater collaboration with pupils

Educators can continuously improve the quality of the feedback they give to pupils. For example, tools for real-time assessment allow teachers to provide immediate feedback in a constructive manner – and when it is provided straight after showing proof of learning, pupils respond more positively.

But, it’s also essential to let pupils know that you are interested in what they have to say. Two-way collaboration between a pupil and their teacher can help to boost their self-esteem and promote mental wellbeing.

To drive more engagement among pupils:

  • Encourage teaching staff to let students give feedback on lessons
  • Make it easy for pupils to provide feedback anonymously and in a way that won’t cause embarrassment for either person
  • Let students give feedback on the direction they want their school to take and the improvements they would like to see
  • Encourage teachers to hold short one-to-one meetings to provide students with the opportunity to ask questions – and these should be positive meetings that pupils look forward to
  • Invest in technology that encourages student feedback – for example, for young children, the emoji can be used to help them to share how they are feeling, because these symbols provide access to a living language that enables them to express themselves in ways that words cannot always do
  • Educate pupils on how to give feedback to each other in ways that are positive and helpful.

How technology can improve collaboration within a school

Technology can play a key role in improving communication and collaboration between everyone in your school. For example:

  • You can use tools for real-time assessment to provide instant feedback to pupils – boosting pupil attainment and morale
  • Apps, online forms and video conferencing (e.g. Skype) can be used to keep the lines of communication open while also reducing the time spent on face-to-face meetings
  • The use of behavioural apps can improve the school’s communication with parents, keeping them informed on how their children are progressing
  • The use of lesson-planning tools enables teachers to customise and share lesson content with each other
  • Regular emails can be sent to all staff members on the strategic direction of the school; this an effective way to keep everyone informed about the bigger picture beyond individual functions or teams
  • Using social media can provide helpful updates to parents and pupils
  • The Promethean ActivPanel can be used to create collaborative learning spaces – find out how one school in Scotland achieved this.

Today, head teachers who are committed to the goal of increased collaboration must look at how they can deploy a combination of communication technology and more traditional meetings and feedback tools to create an open culture. Where successful, this is one of the best ways to inspire excellent performance, improve morale, and foster a warmer, more positive environment.

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A quick guide to encouraging teacher and student collaboration
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A quick guide to encouraging teacher and student collaboration

How can collaboration transform teaching, pupil attainment and whole-school performance? This guide explores the impact of collaborative working in schools and contains practical tips for effective collaboration – both inside and outside the classroom.

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