How Can Schools Help Build A Collaborative Culture To Improve Student Outcomes?

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Having a Collaborative Culture in your school can enhance learning for everyone. With the sense of teamwork, a school can work together towards the common goal of better education for all.

Collaborative reform shows great promise for ensuring the development of effective, inclusive programs that change teaching practices and improve student outcomes. These changes require a school culture that develops a collaborative culture with all staff members, the delivery of high-quality professional development, and strong leadership within the school. School psychologists, counselors, special educators, and other professionals will play critical roles in these school improvement activities. The collaborative system of learning is an effective means of creating a school culture that enables such dreams of inclusive learning a reality.

Schools may follow certain strategies to build a collaborative culture and develop school reform. These include:

1. Distributed Leadership

The nature of distributed leadership is a new concept for most schools. In a school with a collaborative culture decisions are not made by one individual, but by a team of individuals working together for the sake of the school. These dialogues form the core of distributed leadership as the principal of the school empowers school personnel to share responsibility for the decision-making process.

Distributed leadership may include persons to provide leadership regarding the process of school change, changes in curriculum and instruction, the use of evidence-based practices in basic skill areas, classroom and school wide behavior management, and other areas. A principal supports the development of distributed leadership by being explicit regarding his/her willingness to share leadership responsibilities with other staff members and by empowering them to share in the decision-making.

2. Supporting a Collaborative Culture

It is helpful when creating a collaborative culture to establish specific goals that the entire school is then able to work towards together. As these goals are being addressed, a principal might present data regarding the extent to which students with disabilities are included in general education classrooms and academic outcomes for these students. After discussing this data with teachers, the principal then empowers teachers to work collaboratively to identify goals for increasing inclusive placements and improving student outcomes and then determines how this will be achieved. By working collaboratively with the school staff to determine these goals, the principal not only models collaboration, but also empowers other school personnel to make decisions.

3. Ensuring Coherence

A major responsibility of a principal in a school with a collaborative culture is providing direction and coherence in decision-making. This ensures that school improvements engaged in by school staff are coherent and manageable and focus on decision-making that improves teaching practices and student outcomes. It is important to focus on established goals and use resources effectively and efficiently. Consistency of focus allows for more time and resources to be focused on carefully circumscribed professional development activities.

4. Building School Capacity

School capacity refers to the infrastructure and resources available within a school to address student needs. Capacity includes concrete and tangible elements such as finances, personnel, and scheduling as well as intangible elements such as school climate and vision. A critical role of the principal and other leaders in collaborative reform efforts is to ensure that the focus of change stays on building school capacity to address student needs. Materials and resources, professional roles and responsibilities, scheduling and time are some of the components of school infrastructure. Changes to infrastructure serve to support changes in classroom practices. This is especially important when general and special educators work to develop inclusive programs.

With a strong leadership team willing to work together, schools can see improvement in teaching practices and student outcomes. A school should be able to serve its students by leading them in an efficient and coherent way towards better learning.

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