Five keys for cultivating a culture of collaboration

“The lone genius is a myth. The most interesting mysteries lie at the intersection of minds.” Stuck in my head is this quote overheard and jotted down during the Thinking Collaborative conference last April.

Implementing the MYP reflects the constructivist approach the IB holds at the heart of its pedagogy: the facilitation of sense-making built collaboratively, each designer and co-constructor reflecting on personal learning and significance, and the intersection of thought becoming shared understanding. Our approaches to implementation mirror the approaches to problem solving that we teach to our students.

Understanding is at the core of implementation. Merely reading a subject guide or the From Principles into Practice gives the educator knowledge, but not necessarily understanding, that deep internalization of principles and the consequent practice in action. More than comprehension, understanding and taking action on understanding means the educator applies through problem posing and problem solving; synthesizes what is understood in a series of actions; evaluates and reflects each step of the way; and creates elegance in integration and implementation.

All this is guided by the leadership of the MYP Coordinator. The programme works well when all practitioners share understanding of it, when barriers to shared understanding are dissolved through the work of the MYPCo.

Such complex work, and work that perhaps is most successful when it is not driven by the lone genius, but inspired through the intersection of minds.

Knowledge, as it is, essentially lives isolated in a mind. Without being communicators, our knowledge remains hidden in our brains. What allows knowledge to deepen is when it is exposed to interactions with other ways of thinking. Whether challenged, affirmed, or states in between, this tug and pull on knowledge creates tensions and pressures, which allow new knowledge to emerge. Isolated, knowledge does not become shared practice; collaborative thinking  produces shared understanding, and shared understanding means coherence and consistency in practices that create a MYP.

The MYPChat on Oct 30 addressed some of our questions about collaborative cultures in the MYP.
The MYPChat on Oct 30 addressed some of our questions about collaborative cultures in the MYP.

What might be keys to implementation? How do we create our MYP together? And what resources might a MYPCo cultivate in him or herself and facilitate for other minds so that together, they might craft a successfully implemented programme?

Decades of work and foundational research by Art Costa and Robert Garmston names these resources. These resources might be keys to how a pedagogical leader cultivates a collaborative culture in schools.

Craftsmanship names how thinkers strive for precision and mastery, refinement and specificity, accuracy of thinking and thorough considerations of all aspects before taking action. For example, if we want a coherent approach to Research Skills in the MYP student experience, a person taps into craftsmanship to co-construct with colleagues well-designed learning engagements through the use and rehearsal of research skills. A person high on craftsmanship is constantly honing his or her craft by keeping up to date, for instance on the OCC and through learning networks, deepening understanding through publications and other resources, such as dialogs with colleagues.

Interdependence results from a collaborative approach to implementation. It is a key to the quality of being an independent practitioner, but also one who is collegial and collaborative. An interdependent MYP educator engages groups of educators and students in collaborative, constructivist learning. Some models of interdependent educators in the IB world are workshop leaders, who are able to independently learn nuances of programme practices, but are highly collaborative in their approach with both workshop participants and other IB educators.

Interdependence requires flexibility, the ability to see through others’ perspectives, being able to engage with multiple solution designs. The flexible educator uses tools and skills according to the situation and context, giving them an innovative stance toward implementation. This is the state of mind used as a resource in collaborative work; attention to self and others means that there is thoughtful engagement in dialog and discussion, allowing the collaboration to be respectful, effective, fruitful.

Flexibility is facilitated by what Costa and Garmston termed the state of mind of consciousness. The term denotes a state of awareness of self and others. Reflective educators are high in consciousness, mindful of learners and learning. They engage in metacognition often, and their high awareness and reflective approach allows them to empathize effectively. A lot of MYP work involves professional learning; the complex work in designing, planning and carrying out implementation requires supportive environments for the adult learners tasked with making the MYP happen. A leader high in consciousness pays attention to how others learn and finds ways to support each learner so that he or she is able to engage and find meaning and pathways to action.

The state of mind of efficacy results from consciousness and craftsmanship. Efficacy manifests in someone being deliberate in word and action so that intentions become outcomes. Efficacious individuals are resourceful and hold an internal locus of control, and this gives them a deep resource for problem solving to address the complex implementation of the programme. Those with high efficacy are characteristically optimistic; we speak of them as always thinking that challenges are only opportunities to get better at what we do.

Costa, A. L., & Garmston, R. J. (1994). Cognitive coaching: A foundation for renaissance schools. Norwood, MA: Christopher Gordon.

Costa, A., Garmston, R., Ellison, J., & Hayes, C. (2013). Cognitive Coaching Seminars foundation training: Learning guide (9th ed.). Highlands Ranch, CO: Thinking Collaborative.

Drago-Severson, E. (2009). Leading adult learning: Supporting adult development in our schools. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Author: alavina

Cognitive Coach and author. I simplify personal power so you can use mental resources and find pathways to your goals, be more productive and feel in control every day.

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