By Bridget Doogan, NESA Director of Professional Learning
In the world of international education, professional isolation is an ever-present challenge. Many educators are the sole representative of their field or discipline within their school community. Those who have the opportunity to work in teams or professional learning communities of 'like' educators also seek connections with others working on the same challenges in similar school settings. While NESA conferences and institutes can serve to diminish such isolation, requests from our members for ongoing collaborative opportunities are on the rise.
From Hattie to Fullan the literature is replete with calls to utilize the existing expertise, capacity and commitment within schools, and to create systems to support collaborative sharing of this knowledge. NESA has long supported a range of collaborative projects and groups. What is new in the Collaborative group structure is its commitment to sustaining the work over time, a commitment to planning, the ability to influence conference/institute programs, and the structures to support ongoing collaboration.
NESA Collaboratives are created in response to requests from school-based instructional leaders representing a specific discipline or community. NESA's Professional Development Advisory Committee (PDAC) works with them to identify a Collaborative Core group of teachers/leaders from member schools across the region. The Collaborative Core then works to develop a professional learning plan.
At the heart of the plan is an annual meeting at either NESA's Fall or Winter Training Institutes, providing an opportunity to bring the wider collaborative community together to connect, learn and share. Ongoing collaboration and networking is supported through NESA Facebook groups and, in the coming year, #nesachat (Twitter chats) through which hot topics can be explored and resources and ideas shared.
Like all NESA initiatives, the desired outcome is to promote professional learning in support of student learning. In the words of John Hattie, "Have we the courage to dependably recognize the excellence that is often all around us in our schools? -- It is expertise, it is reliable judgement, it is passion for making the difference, and it is collaborative sharing of this knowing and doing and caring. This requires the greatest investment, and the benefits for the students will be manifest, powerful and exciting." (Hattie, 2015)