How can building collaborations with others in and out of schools strengthen teachers’ capacities to offer arts education?
Don’t go it alone. People who teach and support the arts in schools and the community can fortify each other. Allies can help educators improve their capacities to teach in and through the arts. Whether within school, cross-community or around a region, meaningful collaboration with others can deepen professional development. Partners can season the mix of relationships within schools and districts, providing additional content as well as pedagogical and political expertise. Coalitions may change policies that individual entities cannot, creating more supportive systems for arts education learning and teacher professional development.
Good partnerships require persistence and patience. Understanding and trust may take time to establish…. First-time partners may discover that they have only learned to work well by the time their initial joint venture is concluded. The next time they build upon their shared experience and achieve more.
- Learning Partnerships, Arts Education Partnership (Dreeszen, Aprill, and Deasy)
Creating a beneficial learning community with external partners, such as institutions of higher education, arts and cultural organizations or national art alliances, takes more than bringing people together. It requires time, investment and mutuality to make it worthwhile for teachers and students.
Create new structures. Solidify interactions by forming new jointly supported structures. Education researchers Linda Valli and David Cooper write, “Without structures to institutionalize change, innovations have nothing to sustain them beyond individual interest and commitment…without cultural and programmatic changes to bring about shared language and goals, simultaneous renewal will never occur.”
Mobilize people to find solutions. To help a coalition solve problems without clear cut answers and think in new ways, leaders have the opportunity to “mobilize adaptive work”, according to Ronald Heifitz, director of Harvard’s Leadership Education Project. In this model, leaders don’t dictate solutions; members of the group must develop their own abilities to move towards workable solutions. People can help mobilize others whether or not they have the formal authority of principals, superintendents and school boards.
Embrace the isolated educators. Be careful of alienating school-based arts specialists, a focal resource when considering arts teaching capacity. Too often they are left out of the developing arts learning community, yet, these educators have more arts content familiarity than any other educators.