Much that goes under the name ‘collaboration’ isn’t. The term is often used to describe almost every imaginable combination of individuals with an interest in education. “In fact, the term has been used so ubiquitously that it is in danger of losing all its meaning.” “. . . much of what passes for collaboration among educators is more aptly described as coblaboration,” ineffective or unproductive team meetings that are not closely related to teachers’ real work. (Learning by Doing, 2nd ed., DuFour, p. 128)
True collaboration requires a team of people committed to working interdependently toward a shared goal. Each participant’s contributions are sought and valued and each participant assumes responsibility for implementing key decisions and owning subsequent results. In true collaboration, participants co-labor for the benefit of the whole much as the varied parts of our bodies work together to sustain health and wellbeing.
Why should we collaborate?
Well-documented research shows that collaboration surpasses other ways of working together – or not working together – in its potential to reach common goals and positively impacting those served. Teacher collaboration becomes a powerful tool for professional development and a driver for school improvement by providing “opportunities for adults across a school system [and across schools] to learn and think together about how to improve their practice in ways that lead to improved student achievement” (Annenberg Institute for School Reform, 2004, p. 2).
When researchers discover ‘what works’, they, whether they acknowledge it or not, are really uncovering glimpses of the way God intends his world to work. From the beginning God has asked humanity to collaborate with him in the development and preservation and, now, in the development and reconciliation of his world. This task is not yours or mine; it is ours. Repeatedly in the New Testament, we are called to work like a body in which all parts are valued and necessary. Such work requires a complex interplay of gifts of the Spirit. Commitment to a common goal requires humility and self-control. Soliciting and valuing each member’s contribution speaks of generosity, hospitality, and encouragement. Accepting responsibility to carry out the plan and to own the subsequent results requires patience and faithfulness . . .
Co-laboring is rooted in self-giving love – the kind of love God demonstrated and demonstrates toward his world, particularly in the giving of his son. It requires a dying to self so we can work together intentionally and interdependently, not for individual recognition or career advancement, but for the glory of our LORD and the benefit of his people.
Collaboration is one outward expression of what it means to be fully human in God’s world.