We were pleasantly surprised at how valuable it was for ELA and Math instructors to work together both for project leaders and for participant instructors. The participants saw similarities among the math and English expectations, and saw similarities of expectations among the sectors. We value the collaborative inquiry process for improving our teaching in communities, and the use of the inquiry process to help us be systematic when examining our teaching. This value of community is especially true in improving transitions among sectors.
We have determined that the most important take-aways of a project such as this are:
- Designing a professional partnership, tailored to regional needs, allows new forms of collaboration to take-hold over time.
- Creating and sustaining communities of practice (cohorts) that work together to understand and articulate problems of practice has rewards and challenges.
- Providing dedicated time and resources for cohorts to conceive, apply, and evaluate solutions together are crucial to sustain momentum over three years.
- Including administrators to strengthen ties within and across sectors to facilitate cross-sector improvement practices allows for a faculty-led project with the possibility of sustainability beyond the grant timeline. Gives it visibility/allows the work to connect with the strategic priorities of each institution.
- Partnering with an outside group of educational consultants who support and facilitate the work is essential for consistency and success.
Additional Lessons Learned and Advice:
Lesson learned: One of the interventions that we tested was to try to bring a level of rigor and research methods to the cohorts. However, it may have been too high a level, introduced too late, or the cohorts may not have been ready for it. Cohorts had a difficult time defining the variables as they were working on defining their problems. Given our experience now, we would work with each cohort from the beginning to design the data collection and analysis before they collected the data.
Lesson learned: Three years is a long time to keep everyone involved, and the project experienced attrition because of this. With three meetings spread out through each year, cohorts did not always stay on track between meetings. If doing this again, we would consider ways to adapt the process and be flexible as a result of people leaving. We could also envision accomplishing this process in a shorter amount of time such as one school year with a summer meeting on either end.
Key advice: Select leaders of the cohort groups to raise accountability for completing work on time.
Key advice: Incorporate more virtual meetings through technology to encourage more consistent collaboration in between face-to-face meetings.