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close this bookTeacher Training: a Reference Manual (Peace Corps, 1986, 176 p.)
close this folderChapter 3 collaboration
close this folderCollaboration skills
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View the documentOrganization
View the documentCommunication
View the documentFeedback/ critiquing
View the documentWorking in groups
View the documentLeadership
View the documentNetworking


While the need for collaboration might be self-evident, the means by which it is achieved is not. An idea alone is not enough; to transform an idea into reality requires a coordinated effort which involves defining the objective, determining the availability of resources, formulating and monitoring a plan of action.

1. Define the objective. Identifying an area of need is easy; deciding what to do about it is more difficult. Say, for example, students at one level do not have workbooks to accompany in-class textbooks. The need might be thus stated: students need workbooks. The first question you should ask is: Is this truly a need? By checking with colleagues and students you can determine if others perceive this AS A need that deserves attention. If the need is felt by others you will be ready to decide what to do about it. A statement of the problem above implies a base objective: workbooks must be made available to students who need them. But what do you want to do about it? Write your own book? Establish A book-writing team? Request books and/or funds from the government? Each idea suggests another question: Why do you want to do it? If the reason is because you feel a need for the standardization of learning materials, then a standardized workbook must be obtained. If on the other hand, the reason is to help students understand their in-class textbook assignments, perhaps something other than a workbook might suffice, like special study sessions, supplementary lessons, or tutoring. In other words, it is important to provide a rationale as a type of "litmus test' for all possible alternatives before the objective is finally defined.

2. Determine what your resources are. The best litmus test in any collaborative effort will always be the opinions of other people. By asking involving colleagues in the process of defining problems and possible solutions, the chances of addressing a clearly felt need are greater; participation will also increase a hundred fold, as will the project's chance of success. Hence, instead of asking: How can I do this? the question should be recast: Who can help me do this? In order to be sure that ale potential collaborators have been considered, it is wise to brainstorm a list of potential resource people. The key here is to defer judgement; some names might not seem immediately relevant, but in the process of generating such lists, one name might suggest another, or the objective might change altogether. After generating a list of potential collaborators, it is time to determine who can do what. A merchant probably will not want to talk about the Weimar Republic, but he would probably wax eloquent on the subject of buying and selling produce --an excellent application of basic mathematics. It is also all too easy to assume that the local carpenter probably knows nothing about eastern religions. This may be true, but until he is asked, who knows? It is better to flatter someone by assuming they know a lot than to Lose the benefit of their expertise by assuming they know nothing. Once potential collaborators and duties have been determined, it is necessary to discover what material and financial resources are available. This is the beginning of the research stage, at which all relevant power structures and potential funding agents are identified and analyzed from the local to the national level. The overriding assumption should be that all persons, groups and official agencies have access to some material and financial resources, so it is important that all relevant parties be included in the research process: colleagues, school administrators, ministry officials, parents' groups, civic groups, subject committees, educational institutes, etc. (See the section on Comparing Educational Systems for more information on this approach.)

3. Develop a plan of action. Now that you have a list of human, material and financial resources, a plan of action must be devised to identify the whos, whats, whens, and wheres. This can be done most easily on a step-by-step basis. For example, Step 1 for the workbook project cited above might be "soliciting help": Over the next month (when), John and I (who) will ask 10 people from our school (where) if they are interested in co-authoring a workbook (what). While developing a plan of action, it is advisable to identify a key resource person who is knowledgeable in the field. This can help not only to keep the process moving forward, but also to avoid some of the difficulties that inevitably arise for sheer lack of experience. Finally, once a plan of action has been drafted, create a detailed timeline of activities. This will serve not only as a criterion against which you measure your progress, but also will help in additional planning (for example, when certain materials should arrive, when to arrange for meetings, etc.).

4. Monitor the implementation. The biggest enemy of successful collaboration is low morale. It is quite common to get discouraged when plans get scuttled, when people do not respond favorably, or when nothing seems to be working. If you keep lots of written notes, it is possible to take a break, then return to the task of assessing who is appropriate for what. Keeping written notes also provides a means by which you can build in an evaluation system. Using your plan of action as a reference, decide what criteria you will use to determine the success of your project. Should it be accomplished in a month? A year? Should it result in improved student responsiveness in class? In improved grades? Specific indicators should be established so your progress can be evaluated both during and after the project. If some criteria are not met, a decision must be made either to change the way in which the project is being pursued, or change the criteria. In other words, you might want to revise the project and/or the project criteria as needed. If original plans prove to be unrealistic, it is better to revise expectations than to become discouraged that all problems were not foreseeable or that the project turned out to be bigger or more difficult than planned.


1. Ask the teachers in your school: "If you could do anything to improve educational standards at your school, what would it be? What efforts have been made in the past to make this happen? Who would know?"

2. Make a list of five colleagues, five administrators, and five community members who might be able to and/or interested in working for the improvement mentioned in activity #1.