Both artists and scientists find collaboration essential to their development and craft. Since teaching is a mix of both, it should take its cues from the values of meaningful rather than surface-level collaboration with colleagues.

My CTQ colleague Marsha Ratzel pointed me to this post by Ewan McIntosh that claims, “Collaboration is the key influence in the quality of teaching.” At the same time, he argues that most collaboration doesn’t work.

In my experience, collaboration works because teachers who engage in meaningful—not surface-level—collaboration are part of an intellectual community of teachers, even if that community involves primarily just a few people. Teaching is both art and science. Looking to both those disciplines, we can see that very few scientists or artists would really be successful without being involved in communities built around the work being done in their fields.

Scientists know other scientists work and build on it. It’s not about, “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if we worked together on this project so we can say we worked together?” It’s more like, “Hey, didn’t you try something with this type of material in this type of environment before? How did it turn out, and what would you recommend I use for my project?” Scientists benefit from one another’s experiences and thinking. This sharing happens both in person and through the reading and writing of articles and research studies in the field.

Artists I know are interested in other people’s art and build on one another’s ideas, both intentionally and without realizing it. There’s a conscious discourse going on among artists and including art critics. Artists inspire and support one another, even though they often make their actual art alone.

Teaching in a collaborative setting has teachers work in relation to one another in discussion, sharing of experience, resources, criticism, failures and possibilities. As long as we have a means to communicate, we do it naturally because we share common ground and we are interested in exploring our differences.


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