25 Jun

(Adapted from Teaching and Learning from the Inside and Out: By Judy F. Carr, Janice R. Fauske, Stephen Rushton, pp. 59-62)

While the very basic human need for belonging to a participating in a group is met by partnerships that are congenial, truly collaborative partnerships move from being congenial to being collegial (Barth, 1990). Consider the congenial partnership:

The principal, teachers, and university faculty members are friendly and laid back, often moving in and out of the school visiting for a variety of meetings. They are all well liked and get along. Partners readily congregate in the lounge before and after school and frequently meet off school grounds to socialize. Partners enjoy the latitude that they have in lesson plans and testing in their own areas. The halls are filled with discussions of football games, homecoming, and other extracurricular activities. Partners here meet in departments about once per month to coordinate issues assigned to side of the partnership. Overall, the partnership is a happy and a pleasant place to work and study.

Collegiality, on the other hand, requires the presence of four specific behaviors. The adults in collegial partnerships:

1. Talk about practice in conversations that are frequent, continuous, concrete, and precise;
2. Observe each other engaged in the practice of teaching and administration;
3. Engage together in work on curriculum by planning, designing, researching, and evaluating curriculum; and
4. Teacher each other what they know about teaching, learning, and leading (Little, 1981, as cited in Barth, 1990, p. 31).

Now consider a collegial partnership.

The partners all sit in meetings working together. Partners work side by side one another in many ways. They observe each other and offer training when required in the areas that they have been trained as trainers. Together, they are planning professional development activities for the rest of the year building on both their unique and shared expertise Energy is high.

Congeniality can depict a situation where people cooperate and are respectful and cordial to each other. Pleasantness and lack of conflict prevail. People are accommodating to others’ beliefs, and they allow for each other’s individuality and freedom of expression. All of these factors are important to maintaining a comfortable workplace and positive outlook. However, our work is not always comfortable nor should it be. In fact, discomfort or disequilibrium is exactly what produces learning (Piaget, 1991). It is only when we experience disequilibrium that we make adjustments or accommodations our thinking in response to assimilating new information. In this sense, conflicting approaches, ideologies, and values can precipitate learning under the right circumstances. Lack of disequilibrium, in fact, can cause people as well as whole organizations to become stale and stagnate. The congenial partnership, while a pleasant place to work, can promote mediocrity by consistently failing to push the partners to think reflectively about their work and to disagree or decide among tough choices. Conversely, a collegial partnership encourages collective reflection on practice and open discussion of choices—a setting where examining one’s work is expected routinely, new ideas and risk taking are encouraged, and there is a focus on shared purposes. This process includes deeper, “inner” learning and shared, “outer” learning (Fullan, 1993) that can reshape a school and redirect its resources and energy through true collegiality as a school learning community.

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