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How collaboration can maximise the impact of professional learning

1 November 2017

Effective professional growth is vital for school leaders and teachers, both for their personal career development and also because it advances practices in the classroom which improve student outcomes.

During the many years I worked as a teacher and then senior leader I saw time and time again that school improvement can only really succeed if you truly engage your major asset: your staff. I am convinced that effective collaboration within and across schools can maximise the impact of professional learning on teachers, making it easier for senior leaders to promote improvement in their classrooms.

Effective collaboration strategies within and across schools bring multiple benefits and ultimately lead to an increased and higher quality pedagogical dialogue, and improved student outcomes. They can even help to reduce teacher workload -

- crucial in the current climate of problems around teacher retention. According to the latest figures from the National Audit Office, almost 35,000 qualified teachers (34,910) left the profession for reasons other than retirement last year and half of teaching posts in the UK were filled with unqualified teachers last year.

By encouraging collaboration senior leaders maximise their biggest resource - staff. Working in collaboration, the skills of a school's best practitioners can enhance the performance of other staff. Using an online service to support staff performance and development makes it easy for individual or group expertise to be shared with others.

A silo mentality reduces efficiency and can be a sign of a failing organisation, so effective networks are essential. They can also be a real lifeline for a teacher – if for example you are the only modern languages leader in your school, then being able to network and collaborate with your counterparts in other schools can reduce that isolation.

Collaboration has a big impact on professional knowledge and understanding and invariably increases the dialogue around teaching and learning with a resultant positive effect on practice. It can be effective within a school and also between schools, allowing individual and departmental expertise to be shared with others. This can be within one school, across a federation or a chain of schools and can include anything from sharing training to sharing roles.

Collaboration will help any school develop outstanding practice through innovation in teaching and learning and build professional capital through reflective practice and peer-to-peer observation. Collaboration promotes change beyond individual classrooms, resulting in whole school improvement. When school staff gain additional expertise by learning together, all students benefit from better outcomes.

*A fuller version of this article appears in the October issue of Education Today – please click here and scroll to page 26.