Teachers are under constant pressure to stay on top of developments in their own fields. They read blog posts, books, and magazine articles. They attend seminars. They keep themselves apprised of current research and discoveries, often sharing what they are learning with colleagues who teach similar subjects. Because this process is often time-consuming, many teachers find little time left over for collaborative professional development.
This is a shame, really, because collaborative development offers benefits that cannot be found any other way.
Three Benefits of Collaborative Professional Development:
1. The Encouragement of a Broad View. Very rarely are any scholarly fields pursued in a bubble. Literary scholarship requires an understanding of history. Social sciences require the proper handling of data and an underlying understanding of statistics. Likewise, the study of economics makes little sense without historical and societal context. In the real world, the neat boxes of school subjects dissolve into a messy overlap of disciplines. In order to prepare students to face this reality, teachers themselves will find collaborative professional development quite helpful.
2. The Chance to See Through New Eyes. Old problems and seemingly-unanswerable questions are best faced by adopting a new viewpoint. By engaging in lively cross-disciplinary discussions, teachers may find old confusions or fuzzy explanations clarified by their colleagues across the hall.
3. The Lessening of Corrosive Competition. In some schools, there exists a sort of rivalry among departments, with each discipline tending to look down on the others as less prestigious or less intellectually-developed. This is a shame. Collaborative professional development not only helps educators to leave these prejudices behind, but it also models for students the importance of mutual respect that is so important to the development of good citizenship. Furthermore, it fosters the sort of healthy educational environment that makes true discovery possible.
With such rich gifts in the offing, it would be wise for more educators to participate in collaborative professional development!