Collaboration Abroad

I love using most anything offered by Google. Previously, I used Google Docs/Sheets but this semester I have familiarized myself with Google Drive, Google Forms and Google +.

I sent out a survey using Google Forms to 11 friends/acquaintances and a few of those passed the survey on to others. In the end, I had 11 responses, including my own. Generally speaking, I wanted a very brief idea of what collaboration looks like abroad.

Thank you to all those who have taken part in my learning! 

Here are my results:

Out of those asked. Teachers taught in:

England 4
South Korea 3
United Arab Emirates 1
Taiwan 1
Thailand 2
Malaysia 1 (with Korea)
Looking at *full staff* collaboration, how often did you meet for staff meetings?
Once a week 45.5%
Twice a month 45.5%
Twice a month or less 9.1%
Did you meet with Grade like, or subject like colleagues in scheduled meetings?
91% of participants did.

Did you spend your own time meeting with colleagues to plan or share resources?
100% of participants did. Two comments were made around having a shared resource drive.
Did your school have “shared resources” for classes taught?
No- 18.2%
Yes- but minimal or outdated 36.4%
Here are a few comments around the use of any specific apps to collaborate professionally:
  • Five participants said they did not use any.

  • More in person. Apps don’t have faces. Collaboration on Twitter every now and then. Skype as well.
  • We did not have iPads or laptops in the school. Students had access to computers once a week and that was it for technology
  • Two comments were made about the staff using Line App for communication about school-related activities (otherwise but the internet connection was very hit and miss at the school so we rarely used websites) While teaching kindergarten, however, we used Pinterest for crafting ideas.

Apps used for students: Jolly Phonics was huge over there so we used this lots in class, their website has fantastic games.

Did your school offer anything “special” for collaboration? (eg: Health education program with Social Workers, health workers, etc)
  • 8 participants answered no, one due to language barrier and cultural expectations.
  • The school had an integrated health center which focused on all aspects of health. It often had teachers, counselors, social workers, health professionals (doctors and nurses), as well as community based programs offering support.
  • Once a week grade alike teachers had a full afternoon of prep to plan for the following week
  • The school had a “scouts” like program where each student participates to learn how to do basic skills such as navigation or knot tying. In addition, monks often came into the school to give blessings or participate in ceremonies.

Did students collaborate? If so, how? Comments:

  • Did not witness a great deal of project based collaboration, but did an exceptional job on offering relevant extra-curricular activities.
  • Blogs, Skype calls, physical letters. All driven by the kids.
  • They were in groups very similar to Daily 5 groups that we do here
  • Yes, I was based in a PreK class so they were collaborating on everything all the time.
  • Group work, cross-curricular projects/groups. (when required)
  • Within the class room in group work settings (depending on teaching style) sometimes among similar grade levels (there were multiple classes of the same grade) but it would be very limited. For example in Dubai we had 4 grade 2 classes. 2 taught by Canadian teachers and 2 by Lebanese. Being familiar with this the two Canadian teachers often got classes together but the others didn’t,
  • Thailand has a culture where it is taught to help one another whenever it is needed. Therefore, students are almost always working together– even when you do not want them too!
  • No. Students almost exclusively worked out of an outdated textbook. Technology was not integrated into the school at all. Due to pressures to complete 70-90% of the textbook, there was little time for group projects, etc. (2 comments)
What is the view/perspective/culture of collaboration at your designated school abroad? (eg: irrelevant, too time consuming, necessary, etc)
  • Collaboration was expected. You attend a Monday Morning Meeting then a one subject based meeting a week.
  • Viewed as a nuisance during planning. Viewed as cutting edge when underway.
  • I found the afternoon of prep each week very beneficial because you had to hand in your plan for the following week so it allowed you to be prepared and organized. You were able to collaborate with another teacher that taught the same grade as well
  • Necessary-we met every Monday to go over the week. English teachers met with academic director, Korean teachers met with school director. Collaborated with like grades almost daily to have assignments remain consistent
  • It was necessary and a very good use of time.
  • There are 6 English teachers at my school and we all share an office and work together to collaborate and give each other ideas. We also share as many resources and possible to help each other with lessons.
  • I think they viewed it as necessary but lacked the skills or knowledge to allow of authentic collaboration among teachers who taught the same students. For example I rarely spoke with the teachers who taught my students Arabic, French, Phys Ed, and art. They mainly focused on English teachers meeting with the English teachers, Arabic with Arabic, etc. I think a language and cultural barrier has the most to do with this.
  • Our school is large and there are many classes of each grade level. As a result, teachers communicate with grade partners often to plan out their learning activities and discuss student progress. Our school also requires us to create a weekly plan to send to parents, all of which must look the same. We are to collaborate in making these documents.
  • Irrelevant for students, helpful for teachers but within certain parameters (ie. Mostly limited to crafting as technology and access to photocopiers/laminators/supplies was regulated and difficult to gain access to). (2 comments)
How does this differ from staff collaboration you have experienced in Canada?
  • Collaboration was expected, not encouraged.
  • Kids are more engaged. Learning feels more authentic. Collaboration I did at home fizzled quickly and had less longevity.
  • You are given shorter preps throughout the day and you are not always able to collaborate if your prep times do not match. My co teacher and I work very well together and still collaborate if our preps do not match.
  • I feel it wasn’t as frequent when meeting as a whole. Collaboration among grades/subjects would be comparable.
  • I found that abroad they collaborated more often with their matching grade grouping which was nice because then you knew you were both moving at the same pace in certain areas.
  • There is more resource sharing here and more support for tasks that take a lot of time but don’t benefit students. There is not as much full staff collaboration as I saw in my school in Canada though.
  • I only collaborate with 5 other people because they are the only ones who speak my language. I do not work along side any administration or with any learning resource teachers. In Canada we worked with LRTs and speech pathologists and teachers aids, etc.
  • Teaching in a middle school last year with multiple classes of the same grade we had much much more collaboration time and support. We met once a cycle with subject and grade alike groups and continually communicated with all teachers who taught our students.
  • Collaboration is valued
  • In Canada I found the collaboration to be more extensive in terms of who you collaborate with. In Thailand there are no paraprofessionals or professionals such as speech therapists, special education teachers, etc. Therefore, although we collaborate closely and frequently with other teachers in our grade level, we do not collaborate with many others in the school or outside community. Language barriers also prevent collaboration. Our school has both Thai and English teachers. I have a Thai homeroom teacher for my two classrooms. However, we cannot work together to establish behaviour management plans, learning strategies, etc. because it’s almost impossible to communicate unless a translator is sought (this is not always available and makes the process very inconvenient).
  • Every staff member has a computer and email account, we have full access to all supplies and machines (i.e.photocopiers), we have apps on the computer such as Skype for communicating, and my division is built upon collaboration and open communication in regards to students.

 Final comments:

  • The school had a large number of staff in comparison to schools in SK. Teachers were encouraged to use the shared lessons and adapt as necessary.
  • I feel a lot of teachers are collaborating more as they are taking a “team teach” approach to have more consistency. This also lessens the work load as teachers are planning together and sharing more and more resources.
  • When teaching overseas, in relation to collaboration, there is a cultural and language barrier. Different views of education and behaviour are also a factor which could benefit students but often times (in my experience) without proper structure and support just makes communication difficult.
  • Overall our school is good at collaborating with other English teachers in the school community. Collaboration seems to stop here, though.
  • The cultural and language barriers that existed at my school (and probably at lots of schools in Asia) made many things difficult but the Thai staff was very friendly and would help you as much as they knew how.

My reflection:
Generally speaking, there are a lot of similarities from what I have observed/experienced in Canadian schools. Collaboration is expected of you and necessary. I was surprised that 100% of participants collaborated. I had been expecting a lower number due to being in a different country and lack of personal/professional connections (I was wrong!). I’m also surprised that some of these schools didn’t offer anything “special” for collaboration. I was expecting something new and innovative with all these wonderful teachers who have taken the leap and taught overseas. 🙂 
One comment I would like to make is around grade-like teachers working together, there seems to be a great number of individuals whom take part in that. In a small rural school, that isn’t possible within the building, although it would be possible within a school division. The benefit of that may be sharing resources, instead of ensuring students are all learning at a similar pace. 
Honestly, I hadn’t *really* considered the lack of technology in many of these locations, nor had I truly considered the potential language barriers for collaboration as well as lack of additional professionals working together on a common goal. 
I will also need to check out the Line app! 

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