School Name: SET-BC
School District: SD#39 Vancouver
Inquiry Team Members: Lorena Duran: firstname.lastname@example.org
Adam Rattray: email@example.com
Nona Navin :firstname.lastname@example.org
Lillian Quon: email@example.com
Carly Herman: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kamelia Dousti: email@example.com
Monica Lee: firstname.lastname@example.org
Inquiry Team Contact Email: email@example.com
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Primary (K-3), Intermediate (4-7), Secondary (8-12)
Curricular Area(s): Other: Inclusive education
Focus Addressed: Other: consultation, collaboration, leadership.
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Developing standards and a framework for successful collaboration and consultation, in order to enhance our inclusion supports to schools.
Scanning: Next year, SET-BC will reorganize its delivery model for supporting students with complex learning needs across the province. This shift means working more collaboratively as a staff than was done previously. As we scan, we wonder the ways in which we can transition to a new model, bringing the best of previous practice, while also forging a new path through stronger collaboration. We also wonder how we will know we are having success in our collaboration efforts. In which ways does stronger collaboration benefit students with complex learning needs?
Question: What is successful collaboration? What do collaborative teams look, sound, and feel like?
Focus: We wanted to improve our collaborative capacity, both in the ways we collaborate as a staff and also how we collaborate with our school teams. While the benefits of a collaborative culture would seem self-evident, collaboration is actually quite challenging given the relatively short time frame of our interaction with teams, typically only one school year. If we want to enhance the collaboration and consultation process, we need to be intentional in our goals for collaboration. This intentionality and understanding of collaboration will benefit our learners.
Hunch: Our hunch is that establishing productive collaboration amongst ourselves shares the burden of improving learning for all the students in the province. While we recognize that every member of our team has a unique skillset and strength, we have not formalized processes that allow teams to work effectively during collaboration. We have a hunch that in order to improve student learning, we need to refine the skills required for successful conversation, collaboration and consultation.
New Professional Learning: We enlisted Bruce Beairsto, a former Superintendent and professor at SFU, to facilitate structured cross-tier conversations about our goals of improved collaboration and consultation. Often in education, the demands of the day-to-day lead to us working primarily as individuals. At SET-BC we are uniquely positioned to work collaboratively, and to model for teams what this could look like in their context. To this end, the notion of social capital really resonates – how can we truly work together and leverage everyone’s strength? How can we show the teams we support that this is more impactful that working alone, and that they have strength to bring to the team? If we are truly collaborating with our teams they must also be active contributors, so how do we support this level of engagement and shift away from SET-BC educators being seen as ‘experts’, but instead as ‘collaborators’?
As a group, we came to call “Collaborative Consultation” the process that empowers us and school-based teams, by acknowledging that success is possible with committed effort and assistance. It involves doing things with, not for, our students and team, foregoing authority in favour of influence. Collaborative Consultation succeeds or fails on three fronts: Process, Relationship and Substance.
Taking Action: One of the takeaways of our inquiry has been to understand that no one person is solely responsible for a successful collaboration – distributed leadership is important and leads to success. With current Tier 1 and 2 educators working with complex students next year, they will need support from current Tier 3 educators. The value of our inquiry was to frame our own responsibilities to the collaborative framework. Establishing group norms requires fulsome participation and adherence to these as one entry point to successful collaboration. Successful collaboration will require ongoing conversations between administration and teachers to reflect on successes and respond to challenges.
While the learning sessions and discussions were very valuable, we also ended up with a project summary of our work at the end of the school year. It was important to chronicle our progress and to use it next school year as a new milepost in our journey of continuous improvement.
Checking: We think that this year is our first step to see the difference collaboration can make for student success. Our feeling is that our ability to collaborate will develop over time, as we become more comfortable with moving from three tiers to one tier. Our combined strengths amplify the quality of the consultation that we provide to our school teams, but we still need to find a mechanism to self-evaluate and confirm our hunches.
Reflections/Advice: Learning together through a facilitated process with an inquiry-like structure allowed us to lower our defenses and examine our practices. Gaining more clarity about how collaboration should look and feel like will help us to improve our support to schools and be professionally fulfilled by our work. It is valuable to examine our practices and make visible the elements that go behind collaboration. It is a vulnerable process and we are better as an organization for having taken this risk together.