Thursday / April 25

Moving From “Good Intentions” to “Good Practice” and Great Results!

We work in a profession of educators with perennial good intentions to work together effectively! We do care deeply about our students, our schools, our communities, and our professionalism. The hard truth is that the precious time we actually spend together is not always as focused as it needs to be to result in school improvement and changed classroom practice. Busy days intervene and time slips by. The good news is there is significant potential in learning about and employing inquiry approaches which embed learning collaboratively.

Creating the conditions so that deeper learning is possible and sustainable is the work of leadership. Leading Collaborative Learning: Empowering Excellence is a text that discusses our need to reframe and refocus our understanding of collaboration as well as solidify our commitment to collaborative learning for both staff and students. Reframing begins with finding ways to become very clear on our learning goals as seen in the definition:

“Collaborative learning is focused learning with a clear goal in mind. It is supported by group processes and further enabled, when needed, by facilitation. It is accountable learning – for our “own” learning and that of co-learners. Collaborative learning is grounded in trust, safety, and strong relationships” (Sharratt & Planche, 2016, p. 6).

Leaders as lead co-learners and co-laborers are vital to successful efforts to integrate a learning stance. As articulated so well by one of our research participants, “A leader’s learning stance builds trust and responsibility. When leaders are invested in learning, their team members feel that their experiences, successes, and failures are points of learning for the whole team.”

Ten broad themes stood out in our research process and they have implications for the work leaders – both formal and informal – must consider in moving from good intentions to good practice and improved results. One theme includes the understanding that some collaborative processes allow for deeper learning than others. When leaders distribute leadership and learning opportunities and mobilize high impact learning strategies, they foster leadership growth as well as collaborative learning. A theory of action which has assessment as the driver for co-assessment, co-planning, co-action or teaching as well as co-reflection keeps goals for learning front and center while recognizing that  collaborative learning is an evolving journey – another key theme.

There is no substitute for hard work. We know through experience that collaborative work can be derailed by a lack of commitment. Collaborative learning allows us to reframe how we work together and using an inquiry approach deepens the learning. However, it is in the practising, assessing, planning, applying, debriefing, reflecting and refining the outcomes of collaborative inquiry processes that changes in student learning are best experienced, debriefed and understood and most likely to be implemented. Building and applying new knowledge through informed “assessment in action” is our particular lens on focused, purposeful collaboration. This kind of deeper collaborative work can fuel our growth as professionals and move us from “good intention to good practices and great results”! The best news is that what we can achieve ourselves as co-learners and collaborators, we can model for our students!

Watch Lyn Sharratt and Beate Planche discuss Leading Collaborative Learning in this short video:

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Lyn Sharratt coordinates the doctoral internship program in Leadership and Policy at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. Lyn is the former Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction Services in the York Region District School Board, a large Canadian school district, where she and her curriculum team analyzed assessment data and developed a comprehensive literacy improvement program, which they launched with the cooperation of senior leadership, principals, and over 9000 teachers. The continuously improving 14 parameter program resulted in increased achievement for a diverse, multicultural, and multilingual population of over 120,000 students, and the district became the top performing district in Ontario. Lyn has been a school superintendent, curriculum consultant and administrator, and she has also taught all elementary grades and secondary-age students in inner-city and rural settings. Lyn has analyzed and commented on public policy for a provincial trustee organization, the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association; has taught pre-service education at York University; Masters’ and Doctoral students at University of Toronto and Nipissing University; and led in-service professional learning in a provincial teachers’ union head office. She is lead author, with Michael Fullan, of Realization: The Change Imperative for Increasing District-Wide Reform (Corwin, 2009) and Putting FACES on the Data: What Great Leaders Do! (Corwin, 2012, published in English, Spanish and Arabic). Lyn is lead author of Good to Great to Innovate: Recalculating the Route K-12, (Corwin, 2015) with Gale Harild and Empowering Excellence: Leading Collaborative Learning (Corwin, being launched in 2016) with Beate Planche. Currently, Lyn is an advisor for International School Leadership with the Ontario Principals’ Council, is an Author Consultant for Corwin Publishing and consults internationally, working with leaders, administrators, consultants, and teachers in Chile, Australia, the United States, Europe and Canada to systematically increase all students’ achievement by putting FACES on the data and taking intentional action. There are over 200 “Sharratt Schools” across the globe, representing thousands of students. Visit her website at or contact her on Twitter @LynSharratt and at Linked-In where Lyn owns the “Educational Leadership” LinkedIn group which has 51,000 members. View Lyn speaking in Ontario about leadership development and system and school improvement for ALL students at

Beate Planche is an educational practitioner, consultant and researcher. Beate is a sessional instructor in Graduate Education for the University of Western Ontario, Canada. Through her consulting work, Beate provides research, consulting and coaching for educators in the areas of literacy programming, collaborative inquiry, and inquiry-based learning for students. Beate is a former Superintendent of Curriculum and Instructional Services in the York Region District School Board as well as a former Superintendent supervising schools, a principal, vice principal and a co-director of a private school. During Beate’s tenure as Superintendent of Curriculum and Instructional Services, the department she led served over 200 schools and 9,000 teachers through their work with Area Superintendents, area Learning Networks and their work with new teachers, and teachers seeking individual support. In her 20 years in educational administration, Beate has led in-service professional learning and has supported and mentored many new administrators, as well as curriculum and teacher leaders. Beate taught elementary as well as secondary students, spending a large portion of her career in Special Education working with students identified with learning disabilities. Beate has been an adjunct professor supporting teacher candidates for York University, has worked on contract with Ontario’s Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat, and, is presently on the Boards of Learning Forward-Ontario and the Character Community Foundation of York Region. Beate is the author of over 20 published articles and reviewed papers. Visit Beate at LinkedIn , on Twitter @bmplanche , or on her website

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