Cultivating Collaborative Relationships: A Case Study of Teacher Collaboration and Professional Development
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Students often receive instruction from specialists, professionals other than their general educators, such as special educators, reading specialists, and ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) teachers. The purpose of this study was to examine how general educators and specialists develop collaborative relationships over time within the context of receiving professional development. While collaboration is considered essential to increasing student achievement, improving teachers’ practice, and creating comprehensive school reform, collaborative partnerships take time to develop and require multiple sources of support. Additionally, both practitioners and researchers often conflate collaboration with structural reforms such as co-teaching. This study used a retrospective single case study with a grounded theory approach to analysis. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews with thirteen teachers and an administrator after three workshops were conducted throughout the school year. The theory, Cultivating Interprofessional Collaboration, describes how interprofessional relationships grow as teachers engage in a cycle of learning, constructing partnership, and reflecting. As relationships deepen some partners experience a seamless dimension to their work. A variety of intrapersonal, interpersonal, and external factors work in concert to promote this growth, which is strengthened through professional development. In this theory, professional development provides a common ground for strengthening relationships, knowledge about the collaborative process, and a reflective space to create new collaborative practices. Effective collaborative practice can lead to aligned instruction and teachers’ own professional growth. This study has implications for school interventions, professional development, and future research on collaboration in schools.