by Himawan Santanu , Chicago
In schools today, shared-leadership and cooperative team development are at the heart of the changes required to alter and modify the way teachers and students think and work. Reshaping students and teachers into teams is by no means an easy task.
Shifting and altering school culture, while having all teachers work together to nurture students, may be the biggest challenge facing any school.
For decades, schools have served and functioned as mass production organizations that have divided work into small parts performed by individuals who worked separately from their colleagues. In many cases, they worked in competition with their colleagues.
Teachers have worked by themselves with their own set of students and curriculum materials. In terms of school as an organizational machine, both teachers and students have been identified and considered as compatible parts of the whole. On one hand, students can be assigned to any teacher because teachers are all comparable and, on the other hand, teachers can be trusted to teach any student because all students are considered equal.
However, there should be a sense of urgency to change from a competitive and high-performance culture to a cooperative team-based organizational educational structure. In order for schools to achieve and focus on the quality of education that meets the students’ needs, they need to change.
In a cooperative school, teamwork is essential. Students learn and work mainly in cooperative learning groups, teachers and school staff work in cooperative teams, and district leaders or administrators work in positive cooperative teams. The organizational structure of the classroom, school, and district are then fitting. In this context, each stage of positive cooperation strengthens the other stages. In essence, effective teamwork is the very center of developing and improving the quality of education.
There are three stages to be considered in creating cooperative schools.
The first stage begins in the classroom with the application of cooperative learning. Results of quality learning come from a team effort to confront each other’s analysis and make the most of each other’s learning. It does not take place in isolation. Cooperative learning is applied to increase the learning achievements of students, to produce more positive relations between students, and to develop positive psychological conditions.
Forming collegial teaching teams is the second stage. The teams’ purpose is mainly to increase the instructional proficiency of teachers. Improving instruction and increasing the proficiency of teachers to use cooperative learning are the focuses of this stage.
The last stage is to implement administrative cooperative teams. This is done within the context of district or larger areas. In this area, administrators are arranged in collegial teams. This would make it easier and more beneficial for teachers to apply cooperative learning in classroom.
In discussing the quality of education, in the mass-production school, teachers are basically organized on a horizontal basis (grade level or by subject departments) and students are assigned from one class to another to be partially educated (i.e. from science class to social studies class, or from first grade to second grade).
On the other hand, almost all significant work is achieved by teamwork in the cooperative schools. Vertical cross-disciplinary teams are the characteristics of this model. In this sense, an integrated curriculum is constructed and thematic teaching is emphasized.
The idea of vertical cross-disciplinary teams collapses the barriers in the mass-production school that divides teachers, grade levels and subject departments. The cross-disciplinary team model means that all teachers encounter and are responsible for the overall educational process.
In changing school culture from one of mass production to one of cooperation, the role of leadership is imperative. The role of leadership in this case is not a single individual directing successful achievements, but rather it is shared leadership.
In the traditional school context, school leadership has applied a top-down approach where the acts of decision-making, motivating, and leading are accomplished by one leader. In the past this approach has been accepted in educational administration. Today, it is unlikely that a single person has the necessary leadership required for all these matters.
The writer is a teacher at Gonzaga High School, Jakarta. He is now undertaking a master degree program on educational leadership at Loyola University, Chicago
Source : The Jakarta Post (Sat, 11 July 2009)