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Dissertation Spotlight

Dissertation Spotlight: How Principals Create Collaborative Environments

By The Room 241 Team December 6, 2018

The principal of a school plays an essential role in creating a cooperative work environment. Amy Blakey, EdD, who recently earned her Doctorate of Education in Transformational Leadership, decided to examine how perceptions impact principals’ ability to create a collaborative environment in elementary schools. Let’s look at Blakey’s work and key findings from her dissertation, “A Case Study of How Principals Create Collaborative Environments.”

The role of leaders in the school

According to the Institute of Education Services’ recent study on teacher collaboration and leadership within a school, a principal’s role as a leader is not centered on the principal’s specific skills. A principal should strive to create a collaborative environment by involving teachers in the improvement of the school. 

By working with teachers to establish the underlying concerns and the areas that need improvement, a principal is able to bring attention to the school’s needs and goals. The study notes that excellent leadership in an educational institution goes beyond the responsibilities of a principal. When a principal involves educators and other professionals in the decision-making process, it empowers the teachers and improves the entire school. It allows teachers to actively take part in leadership roles for different tasks and goals.

The role of leaders in a school is to make decisions after gathering the information. An effective principal recognizes that collaboration assists with the process by providing accurate data for assessment. Involving educators encourages cooperation at every level of education and helps improve the impact of education on the students.

Encouraging collaboration among teachers

Collaboration among teachers is an essential part of developing a collaborative environment in a school. As Blakey states, “when teachers learn together, they construct meaning and grow through the social interaction.” Blakey also notes educational researchers Richard DuFour and Robert Eaker’s definition of collaboration in an elementary setting as “teams of teachers who work interdependently to achieve common goals — goals linked to the purpose of learning for all — for which members are held mutually accountable.” Similar studies, such as the one performed by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, adds to this notion, stating that a collaborative culture among teachers focuses on putting the needs of students at the forefront of the educator’s mind. It encourages teachers to focus on student learning rather than disagreements among teachers with strong personalities.

Effective principals recognize the value of encouraging collaboration among teachers. It helps teachers take a leadership role and it improves the class environment by sharing different perspectives in relation to the learning process. This helps teachers recognize their own weaknesses and build on their strengths.

Improving student outcomes

The primary goal of a collaborative environment in the school system is the impact on student outcomes. Blakey’s case study found that isolation in the classroom contributed to a lack of growth among teachers and educators. That lack of growth stifles the potential of the students by limiting their opportunities to learn from different styles of teaching.

When teachers work together toward a common goal, it has a positive impact on student outcomes. It allows teachers to identify different learning styles and provide the right educational solutions for their students. They are able to ask advice from their peers and cooperate to create an environment that helps students succeed.

Collaboration among principals also plays a role in creating a collaborative environment in the classroom. When principals at different schools cooperate and work together, they resolve potential challenges within their schools. The advice of other professionals helps a principal work with the needs of their administrators, teachers, and staff. It also helps them avoid problems within their district and encourage learning.

Focusing on servant-leadership

From her case study, Blakey found that a principal with a servant-leadership style improves and enhances the collaborative environment of a school. A servant-oriented leader has a moral compass that focuses on serving the needs of their students, staff, and educators. That means they take on a support role and assist teachers to create an environment that focuses on working together rather than staying isolated.

Principals with a servant-leadership style set up a structured schedule to collaborate on classwork and goals in the classroom. They support teachers by offering advice and mediating between individuals to focus on setting up an effective strategy for student education.

The final aspect of a servant-leader is the focus on communication. A principal who communicates with the teachers and staff will impact the entire school environment. By asking questions, a principal discovers the current problems in the classroom. By encouraging discussion among teachers in the same grade level, a principal helps educators find a solution to the challenges of their classroom. A principal takes an active role while also supporting educators and fellow administrators to create a collaborative environment.

Collaboration is a crucial component when it comes to developing an effective school. When a school district wants to improve and enhance student performance, it must start with the growth of the teachers and educators. By setting up a collaborative environment, the school will see improvements as teachers learn from the experiences of their peers. A principal plays an essential role in the process because he or she must facilitate the collaboration and encourage discussion while offering support to teachers and students. It is a delicate balance that starts with taking a servant-oriented leadership role.

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