Collaboration, as a key component of organizational development, requires the cultivation of specific cultural elements that are necessary to increase knowledge sharing practices that are not present in traditional knowledge-controlled practices (Rosen, 2013). Organizational structure plays a key role in the development of cultural elements that will support the development of a collaborative environment among employees and leaders. Bolman and Deal (2013) stated, “Structure needs to be designed with an eye toward desired ends, the nature of the environment, the talents of the workforce, and the available resources” (p. 6).
In my school organization structure there is evidence of some cultural elements, as described by Rosen (2013), within our practices of developing collaborative strategies to improve instructional practices and student academic performance. Nevertheless, there are also some cultural elements that have not been integrated and have hindered the overall collaboration process among teachers. My organization is a high school where I have been teaching for the past six years of my twenty-one years as an educator.
I am currently the geometry team lead teacher and work with a group of five teachers within our math department of twenty-two teachers. The organizational structure of our high school has been effective in implementing some of the cultural elements described by Rosen (2013) to create team strategies to fulfill specific objectives related to meeting state assessment standards. The school district to which our school belongs is known for its exemplary performance in dissecting state assessment skills requirements and building curriculums focused on preparing students to be successful on their state exams.
Inversely, in the aspect of becoming a learning organization that nurtures collaboration among teachers to develop innovative strategies that prepare students for more than just state assessments, there is room for improvement. I believe that all cultural elements described by Rosen (2013) are necessary within and a collaborative organization as it involves key processes that engage human resource management, communication, and management of information technologies.
The cultural elements of collaboration that my school organization currently displays include goals, constructive confrontation, community, and value. Goals are a visible cultural element displayed which imply that our goal as an organization is to become recognized as an exemplary institution by the state and federal assessment standards. Jacobs (2009, June 2) stated, “Common goals provide clear direction and target on which to focus the ICE3 values of imagination, innovation, inquiry, collaboration, creativity, curiosity, exploration, experimentation, and entrepreneurship” (para. ).
Consequently, though we do have a goal-driven environment created by our school organization, I believe that Jacobs (2009, June 2) description of this element entails a more in-depth goal development that requires collaborative processes to generate new ideas and initiatives that prepare students for careers that are driven by innovation and information technologies. Constructive confrontation is described by Jacobs (2009, June 2) as “… simply challenging, respond, exploring differences, disagreeing, or even attacking the idea,” and not challenging the individual (para. 2).
This confrontation element of collaboration has been implemented in our organization in terms of considering new ideas related solely towards improving scores on state assessments and rarely towards implementing innovative methods of instruction. An example of this practice is the distribution of funding allowances in which a significant amount of professional development ideas are considered in the area state assessment resources and a small amount towards integration of web 2. 0 tools that could support collaboration initiatives.
Community as a cultural collaboration element exists in our schools within areas of interest of our school organization which include state assessment achievements and our athletic program demands. Jacobs (2009, June 2) stated, “Community is the shared interest in seeing goals accomplished and the trust in each other as professionals” (para. 15). I believe that if our organizational goals expanded towards college readiness and preparing students for the demands of the 21st century, a greater impulse towards building a collaborative environment would be generated.
Value is a cultural element that is also evident in our organization but exists solely within the context of the prioritized goals that are highlighted consistently among leaders, teachers, and students. Jacobs (2009, June 2) stated, “The value of the Professional Networked Learning Collaborative (PNLC) is accomplishing common goals,” and in their achievement, “… converts this value into increasing student achievement” (para. 16).
I believe the cultural elements that currently exist in our organization are an ideal foundation which if expanded and supplemented with non-existent elements could improve collaboration processes among leaders, teachers and students. The cultural elements of collaboration that are not part of our organizational environment include trust, sharing, innovation, environment, collaboration chaos, and communication (Rosen, 2013). Due to the continued high scores on state assessments our school and district leaders have become very protective of the instructional strategies and curriculum development practices.
Consequently, trust is an element that is only shared with individuals that share common ideas and have the same instructional vision that is centered on improving scores on state assessments. Jacob (2009, June 2) stated, “To be able to give ideas up to the group for discussion, analysis, re-mix, contribution, and development is a sign of trust” (para. 3). I believe that a change educational focus must occur to expand its vision beyond state assessments in order trust to become a significant element of collaboration within our school.
Sharing is an element that has not been a significant factor in building collaboration in our school due to the limited need to change the current instructional plans and techniques based on current student performance in core subject areas. Jacob (2009, June, 2) stated, “The strength of the Collaborative builds exponentially as the idea is shared with the network” (para. 4). I believe that when our teachers are challenged to create innovative instructional methods such as using web 2. 0 collaboration tools, more sharing of knowledge and skills will occur. Rosen (2013) describes innovation as, “Embracing new approaches” (p. 18).
The environment in our school organization is another element that needs to be integrated to improve collaboration among teachers and students. Jacob (2009, June 2) stated, “Physical and virtual environments must enhance and encourage collaboration, not hinder it” (para. 8). The school infrastructure has not been updated at our school site hindering the implementation of new technologies as they are not considered essential to the existing instructional methods that are catered towards state assessments. Unless, new and innovative instructional methods are considered and pursued, the changes in our environment will be delayed.
Collaborative chaos, as described by Jacob (2009, June 2), is an essential collaboration element that our school needs to implement in order for innovative ideas to develop in a collaborative environment that will improve student performance and create new learning processes. Evan Rosen (as cited by Jacobs, 2009) described this element as, “… unstructured exchange of ideas to create value” (para. 10). Unstructured training and development practices, based on my experiences, where open discussions of new ideas and innovative initiatives are not considered appropriate with the development objectives pursued by our organizational leaders.
Last, communication is another essential cultural element that is not practiced on our school organization within the context of collaborative processes. Jacob (2009, June 2) stated, “Professionals must use their best listening and understanding skills when face-to-face” (para. 12). Face-to-face discussions in school communication practices is rarely practiced and replaced with extensive e-mail communication. Consequently, due to lack of personal interaction there is a feeling of disconnect between teachers and school leaders that is not supportive of collaborative initiatives.
Collaboration process within a learning organization is an essential practice in order to equally engage human resources, effective communication skills, and integration of technologies to become innovative and competitive. Our school organization is undoubtedly highly competitive within the aspect of state assessment student achievement but questionably competitive in the aspect of innovation and the student development of 21st century skills. I believe that change in focus as a learning organization is a key factor that will enable our organization to purse the cultivation of essential cultural elements of collaboration.