Collaboration results in what cannot be done alone. Los Alamos, a desert resort dedicated to planned innovation during W.W. II is an exemplar. So too is the image of scientist and engineers problem solving at Cape Canaveral for an Apollo spacecraft at risk in outer space.
The picture perfect model of collaboration is a group of students in an elementary school huddled over a table cluttered with debris like materials necessary for building an artifact of what they know and can do. Squealing with excitement and delight, the children, in the midst of what appears to be chaos, design and build a helmet to protect football players from concussions. In another setting, a father and daughter design and build a model car that is propelled by oxygen extracted from water. There is no end to the realm of possibility when collective energy, understanding, and insight are brought to bear on a problem or condition. Yes, Sir Isaac Newton discovered gravity by himself while observing a falling apple. He, and his discovery, was one of many outliers.
Mostly, what we know and can do results from collective effort. Meanwhile, far too many classrooms record collective effort as cheating. When parents receive reports of their child’s work, there is no measure for collective effort. There are no assessments on collaboration. And, rarely are professional educators afforded the opportunity to collaborate on how to accelerate the growth and achievement of their students. Quite the opposite is the practice. Competition for the highest grade point average is a driver among students.
School and district leadership strive for the highest accountability rating, with, by design, schools and districts being dubbed failing. It is clear that collective effort in schools, classrooms, and across districts results in deeper learning and accelerated outcomes. When a small, nimble, suburban school district is contracted to provide professional development to a large urban school district the power of collaboration is unleashed. Such is the case when small rural districts, struggling on their own, pool their collective effort for the benefit of children living in poverty, the prospect for accelerated growth and achievement soars into the stratosphere.