The following are excerpts from the feedback I gave to students about their video on "My Growth So Far", as part of their final reflections in the course.
Comments about Trust
You discuss breaking down barriers and I guess that gets to the issue of trust, which has been a big topic of discussion in many module 5 reports. There is no easy way to establish trust, as many of your classmates have commented, but I hope that you find some strategies that will work for you among the many proposed by your classmates.
I thought you also gave some great comments about encouraging risk and inspiring trust among the participants. You have to have a degree of trust before you start to take risks in the community. By risks, I am thinking of perhaps, sharing a new or dissonant idea? Disagreeing with someone? I would like to see some examples of risk.
That was a great video. I liked your comments about social presence as the force to create trust, highlighted by the literal process of reviewing your partners’ social presence online. It’s always interesting to Google yourself!
In your video, you talk about accountability. That is an aspect of trust in that we need to believe that our work is being valued and that we are working with those who will reward our own work. I do not believe that is a selfish issue, but rather one of equity.
I think using the term ‘idiosyncrasy’ with collaborative inquiry is a great adjective. There are so many factors – as many as there are personalities.
I liked the phrase “many and varied complex processes” involved in PLCs. Yes, that about sums them up! When you are dealing with people in the heart of their work, PD, you will get along of emotion and a lot of social interaction.
Comments about Professional development
I was intrigued by your comment that teachers might see their profession as something separate from themselves. That gives rise to a different view of development. We always talk about 'leaving the office at the office', but PD always seems to span the two worlds.
I noted your comments about ‘value-added’ PD. I think that is a crucial element. I have been to so many sessions and activities where the PD was great for the presenter, but not so great for the recipients. I think that is where a PLC is a good answer in that they help to keep the PD relevant to the teachers.
Your comment about vulnerability is also crucial. Another of our students comments similarly that the emotional aspect of being in a PLC is not to be toyed with and that teachers might see the PD as an object or thing separate from themselves. This may help to address issues of seeming or admitting to not already being good enough.
Comments about inquiry within Collaborative Inquiry
I also liked your comments about 'happenstance' versus intentional collaboration. I think opportunistic collaboration is great, but I have found a bit of intention goes a long way.
You have touched on a very important point. Collaboration will be more rewarding if you have some intention (goals, focus, etc) in your interactions. That is what drives any community. Katz (2013) talks about doing the “right work”.
I liked your example at the end about the unfortunate deletion of work. That they came back for more shows that the work itself was intentional and driven by purpose.
You noted that teachers often felt powerless to effect change in their work or professional lives, but that through PLCs they can begin to share and help each other in ways that are responsive to their needs.
I think you are correct to describe it as a fluid activity. There are so many factors to consider, not least of which is leadership as you mention. How do we keep the PLC focused and moving forward with good leadership, but leadership that does not overwhelm or subsume teachers’ own goals?
I think you are spot on when you discuss that many people like to think that collaboration is somehow an organic interaction, whereas in reality you simply don’t get very far organically. A bit of structure and purpose goes a long way.
You are correct to note that established goals need to be negotiated and to ensure understanding. Otherwise, finding out that you have gone off on a tangent is almost more demoralizing than not having a clear goal in the first place.
You comment that it is the inquiry, as opposed to the collaboration, that is the secret to this work. In a community of inquiry for example, as espoused by Garrison and Anderson et. al., the inquiry is what gives guidance and focus to the community.
You commented about being in a PLC as a participant. That highlights the benefits of reading the ‘Facilitator’s’ guide to PLC. From the other side, you can really appreciate the fine balance of keeping people motivated and focused on their work.
You discussed appropriate problems. This speaks to the need to a clear focus on the inquiry aspect of collaboration. You go on to mention intentional choices. That is another form of having a good focus on the inquiry and the process of conducting the inquiry.
Comments about Personal Growth
I was pleased to read your comments about becoming a lifelong learner. I have always felt that one way to be a good teacher is to continue to be a student.
Thanks for your honest appraisal of your work. I was pleased to hear that you feel you have progressed and are able to manage the process and contribute more meaningfully now. Much of facilitation, if not all, is really about process.
Comments about the use of technology
I loved your comment about using technology to help break down some barriers to collaborating. As several people commented in the Module 5 work, working face to face is not without challenges and often some technological intervention can really help a community move along towards common goals.
I liked your comments about using technology to remove barriers. Several of your classmates have noted similar points and I think that is an important element to share with those who might be resistant to collaboration due to similar barriers.
I liked your reflections on using technology. While I think that being in a room together is the best way, I also think that technology opens a world of possibilities that simply are magic to me. The possibilities of social justice in the sense of how many people can benefit through the use of technology to enhance their learning is a great thing.
Have a look at http://www.unesco.org/new/en/unesco/themes/icts/m4ed/ to really be inspired!
As I have mentioned to others, technology is a great tool for social justice. It allows many of us to access education and resources that otherwise would forever be out of reach. Regardless of your location in the world, technology can open so many doors to education and the enrichment of our lives.
Comments about the nature of teaching and learning
As teachers, we still need to know our stuff – the content. But what we really do, is help others interact with that content and do something with it. In our knowledge economy, we are not expected, nor can we be fonts of knowledge anymore.
I thought your discussion of the post-Gutenberg readings were very insightful. I wonder if children really do think in more complex ways. I think they do because the tools at their disposal give them the chance to access information and combine and recombine it in ways that we never could before through reading. I think of the British term for doing an under-graduate. They would say that someone was ‘reading at Oxford’ to say that they were doing their degree there. That is no longer the case.
I thought your reference to your classmates’ work was very revealing that your valued their input and learned from them. I hope they know that!
Your comments about cognitive dissonance were very much appreciated. I think that the comments from some of the readings which state that we work best with like-minded individuals are true. However, I also think that this is not a setting that will encourage growth because there will be less cognitive dissonance. That is good when you just want to get something done, but not so good when you want to develop your skills and knowledge.