Can you tell which qualities of good collaboration might have been missing?

Can you tell which qualities of good collaboration might have been missing?

Collaboration Qualities and You


Look back now at the list of qualities suggested by Pugach and Johnson. Which ones can obviously be attributed to the two teachers in the Field Notes? Can you tell which qualities of good collaboration might have been missing? What might have been the important thought processes of each of the teachers? Put yourself in the role of one of the two teachers. What might you have done?

Pugach and Johnson (2002) have more to say about collaboration that includes the different roles that educators will, at different times, take. These, as adapted, include:

· A supportive role. This might mean working with someone else who is the leader, but can also include the leader’s need to show positive support for the work of others.

· A facilitative role. Without sinking into bossiness, the teacher or caregiver demonstrates a skill, team teaches, or provides others with needed resources.

· An informative role. When the teacher or caregiver has knowledge that others need, it is shared with appropriate attention to being facilitative.

· A prescriptive role. At times it is essential that the teacher or caregiver share information or requirements in a directive fashion. This can still be done positively in most cases.

There are many opportunities for teachers and caregivers to engage in collaboration using one or more of these designated roles. For example, in creating a new room design, the teacher might be supportive of the teaching assistant who is experimenting with different layouts and scavenging for free local resources. The teacher might also be informative if she knows of sources for the materials and shares them.


Skill in communication is important to good collaboration, but is also essential on its own. At its most basic, communication is simply giving and receiving information. Skilled communication, however, includes being able to say things effectively, listen carefully, read body language and tone of voice, respect diversities of opinion, and understand that people from other cultures and professions may have very different ways of expressing themselves.

Listening is often the most difficult skill for anyone to achieve (McIntyre & O’Hair, 1995). However, it is important for teachers and caregivers to learn. Parents, for example, may feel the need to share more than you need to know about not only their children but about the rest of their lives as well. It may be difficult to listen when our day has been overwhelming or other critical issues need attending to. But, if we neglect to listen we may miss something important in the communication, something that will actually help us in our teaching or relationships with the children. Thus, it is essential to focus long enough to meet the parents’ needs and understand what they need to say.

Attending to the speaker’s nonverbal communication, or body language, is important to listening also, particularly if he or she comes from a culture unlike your own. Nonverbal communication can include variations in eye contact, posture, facial expression, repetitive behaviors such as foot tapping or fidgeting, and tone of voice or rate of speech (McIntyre & O’Hair, 1995). Some people will communicate within a close personal space, while others prefer to keep more distance. Some will gesture emphatically along with animated facial features, while others prefer a more subdued set of gestures and expressions. If listening to a colleague, there may be room for a negotiated sort of style. If attending to a parent’s communication, however, it is the professional’s responsibility to adapt to the parent’s style, rather than the other way around. Good listening body language generally includes leaning a bit forward with uncrossed arms and legs, nodding the head occasionally, and avoiding looking away or into the distance as if distracted.

There is also a form of listening that is sometimes called verbal listening. It comes into play when the listener wants the speaker to clarify, to know that the topic is interesting and important, or that the listener understands what is being said. “Tell me more about that” encourages the speaker to expand. “If I’m hearing you correctly, you’re saying . . . .” helps with clarification, as does asking a question such as, “How did you learn about that?” Making occasional summary statements also makes sure that the speaker’s main points have been understood: “Okay, that’s a lot of information. Let me just see if I can summarize the things that you think are important.”

For difficult situations, the Cleveland Schools Center for Conflict Resolution (2012) suggests five verbal listening skills:

· Acknowledging: Shaking your head, saying “uh huh” or “please go on” will work.

· Paraphrasing: Repeating back what you’ve heard lets the speaker know you are listening.

· Reflecting: After repeating back, ask the speaker to explain how she feels about the situation.

· Questioning: If the speaker has a difficult time explaining the problem or telling the story, ask open-ended questions. Begin with the words who, what, when, where, why, or how to keep questions open rather than closed.

· Crediting: Thank the person for speaking and sharing his side of the story.

Listening to others in the workplace will possibly include interactions with family members, teachers, directors or principals, caregivers, specialists, supervisors, volunteers, and community organization representatives. For all these people, the suggestions above are important to attend to. Of course, being able to express yourself is a highly important skill as well.

Expressing yourself when everything is going well is generally easy for everyone but the most shy. Thus, if beginning caregivers and teachers take opportunities to interact positively with others at their site, they will become known as friendly, easy to get along with people. This will, in turn, make it easier to cope with more negative issues as they arise.

One effective way to communicate frustrations, concerns, even anger, has been around since the 1970s. Called I-messages, they are the creation of Thomas Gordon (1975) who first introduced them as a method for parents to use in communicating with their children. It soon became apparent that I-messages are equally effective with adults. They have become common enough that you have no doubt heard them or used them yourself. Whether that is the case or not, it is good to review this approach to communication.

I-messages are simple statements designed to take the accusatory, “you are wrong and I am right” sentiment out of a difficult communication. They are intended also to let the speaker convey feelings and describe the situation and its effects on either the speaker or someone else. An I-message focuses on the speaker’s experience and views rather than on the listener’s, and has the effect of clarifying both parties’ understanding. Here are a few examples that could occur between adults in a center or school:

· When I’m preparing a lesson and you keep talking, it’s hard for me to concentrate.

· On my days to teach, if the room is a mess, I can’t find the materials and I feel frustrated.

· I really want to listen to what you’re saying, but the children have been waiting for me to work with them.

· When you gossip about the other teachers I feel caught in the middle and don’t know how to respond.

Place Your Order Here!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *