Classroom Experience Is Important To Pupils Sense Of Commonality

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The site where school inclusion/exclusion happens is the classroom. In rating cooperative teaching so highly as a strategy, all of the schools in the project recognized classroom experience as important to pupils' sense of commonality with others. However, they also recognized, in the range of strategies they adopted, that different young people required different forms of assistance towards greater participation.

Head, George , Kane, Jean and Cogan, Nicola(2003) 'Behaviour support in secondary schools',

Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, 8: 1, 33 - 42

Hargreaves (1999) sees schools themselves becoming places where knowledge is created rather than simply transmitted. Turning to the relationship between the research and the practice communities, rather than information or knowledge merely being exchanged, there is growing evidence of the value of academic researchers and practitioners, working collaboratively in partnership (e.g., James & Worrall, 2000).

Engaging in research collaboratively with a range of other practitioners enables knowledge to be created which transcends the situational constraints which apply in any one professional context, and the importance of collective or collaborative forms of engagement in practitioner research is well documented (King, 2002; Loughran, 2003). Knowledge generation through research and enquiry may be further enhanced by additional perspectives and expertise being brought to bear where other researchers, such as university researchers, and other stakeholders, such as policy-makers, are also involved as collaborative co-enquirers or co-researchers.

Hargreaves (2000) argued, ''. . . there are increasing efforts to build strong professional cultures of collaboration to develop common purpose, to cope with uncertainty and complexity'' (p. 165).

However, if such collegial approaches only serve to strengthen collaboration with other teachers and not to open up new forms of collaborative partnership with other stakeholders, there is a danger that teachers may become isolated as professional practitioners, with possible detrimental consequences in terms of a narrowing of their professional knowledge base and limitations on their ability objectively to criticize policy and practice.

While the project team was not initially planned as a community of enquiry in its own right, it could be said to have evolved into one to the extent that the team developed, through participative dialogue and collaborative engagement, a shared sense of purpose and a good understanding of participants' different perspectives and potential contributions towards the joint completion of research tasks.

A number of further initiatives are underway in Scotland, which may provide a context and some incentive for future collaborative participation between researchers and practitioners. For example, the curriculum for education of children and young people, aged 3 to 18, is currently under review under the heading ''A Curriculum for

Excellence'', which aims to equip children and young people to be ''successful learners'', ''confident individuals'', ''effective contributors'', and ''responsible citizens'' (Scottish Executive, 2004). It has been declared that, rather than simply being a desk exercise, the curriculum review process will be better described as a continuing ''work in progress'' involving clusters of schools and other interested researchers in collaborative action research.

Christie, Donald , Cassidy, Claire , Skinner, Don , Coutts, Norman , Sinclair, Christine , Rimpilainen, Sanna and Wilson, Alastair(2007) 'Building collaborative communities of enquiry in educational research', Educational

Research and Evaluation, 13: 3, 263 - 278

Participation may exist in different ways and for different people at different times, since levels of commitment in terms of time dedicated to the work of the community may vary over time. In relation to this notion of participation, dialogical communities are often informal, self-organising groups and include members who are self-selecting

(cf. Wenger & Snyder, 2000). Participants may have different motivating forces for joining. For example, some may participate because they seek to create new knowledge in a given domain; others participate because of the sense of community with like-minded colleagues, and others might simply want to learn about particular practices within an area of practice. However, there are also other forms of participation such as peripheral participation. Wenger (1998) argues that peripheral participation is essential to effective Communities of Practice. It includes those people who are watching and learning from the Community of Practice's activity at a distance which may provide a route to fuller participation in future.

Cassidy, Claire , Christie, Donald , Coutts, Norman , Dunn, Jayne , Sinclair, Christine , Skinner, Donand Wilson, Alastair(2008) 'Building communities of educational enquiry', Oxford Review of Education, 34: 2, 217 - 235

The aim of this paper is to problematise and discuss collaboration between children as a means of learning and as an essential aspect of pedagogical quality in educational settings.

Collaboration is often defined as a situation in which two or more people work together towards a common goal. In theories of learning, collaboration is defined as a mutual engagement between members in a group when they try to solve a problem together (Dillenbourg, Baker, Blaye, & O'Malley, 1996). Damon and Phelps (1989) emphasise equality and mutual engagement as two important dimensions of peer collaboration. According to their studies, peer collaboration contributes to, and might even be necessary for, several achievements such as children's understanding of justice, growth of self-esteem, willingness to share and care, and ability to handle symbolic thinking, as well as the fostering of communication skills and the development of creativity and critical thinking. They also imply that collaboration motivates children to learn skills that none of them had before. A shared interest seems to be one fundamental dimension of collaboration to develop the skills above (Williams, 2001). Williams also found that young children collaborated constructively when there was a common problem to be solved, despite age or sex. This ought to have the same validity in an educational context, as theories of learning clearly show that children learn and develop through, among other things, collaboration and togetherness (Piaget, 1959; Sa¨ljo¨ , 2000; Vygotskij, 1978, 1986).

Through previous research we have gained knowledge of qualities that characterize a high-quality environment in pre-school and school (Sheridan, 2001, 2004; Siraj Blatchford, Sylva, Muttock, Gilden, & Bell, 2002; Sylva, 1994; Sylva, Melhuish, Sammons, & Siraj-Blatchford, 1999). Qualities regarded as more important than others include the qualifications of the teacher, the existence of overall goals and cooperation with parents (National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1991). An interesting fact is that despite an enormous amount of research into both quality and children's collaboration for learning, these are seldom linked. To our knowledge, children's collaboration is not an explicit criterion of quality.

That is why the quality of an educational setting, among other things, ought to be evaluated and observed through children's togetherness, shared learning and learning from each other, their communication, discussion, argumentation, play, exploration, participation in decision-making, and possibilities for influencing ongoing activities in pre-school and school. Collaboration between children can therefore be seen as a dimension of pedagogical quality. Still, the current issue is whether collaboration is enough to motivate children to achieve beyond their own expected capacity.

The cognitive, social, and emotional aspects of children's development cannot be separated as they constitute an integrated whole where children learn by experiencing, acting, and communicating with the environment, which in turn interacts with them in various ways (Marton & Booth, 1997; Pramling, 1994).

Central to Vygotskij's (1986) theory is the idea that children who are guided by an adult or a more competent peer who is participating in cultural activities are given the best opportunities to internalise or to build ''tools for thinking''. Children are also capable of teaching each other in this way, to use more advanced methods, for example problem-solving situations, because they are then given the opportunity to practise in a social context. The idea of a zone of proximal development holds that children's development is advanced by participating in activities that are slightly above their current level of competence, and differentiates between what a child can master on his or her own and with the help of others. Vygotskij emphasises that much of what we learn is learnt from others, and the key to social learning is the capacity for imitating and developing higher mental functions. This is also claimed by Piaget (1973), who writes that two processes of socialisation exist, and that one is more important than the other from the perspective of social development. He found that children socialise differently among friends than with adults. In communication with friends the child oscillates between the use of the individual or the collective monologue and an exchange of thoughts through dialogue. He believed that the superiority of adults sometimes hinders discussion and cooperation, while the equality among children promotes social interaction, which has a positive influence on the socialisation of a child's mind. The opposite also applies; the equality of friends can hinder the child from investigating and questioning the adults who might have the answer (Piaget, 1973). For Piaget cooperation is social interaction among individuals who regard themselves as equal and treat each other as such.

Children learn through communicating with and imitating other people. That is why peer collaboration is an important aspect of pedagogical quality. Dialogues between children are a collective exchange of ideas, and through communication children can be introduced to new ways of thinking. Children's own thoughts are influenced by the exchange of thoughts that takes place between them (Vygotskij, 1978, 1986). Corsaro (1997) found that the concepts of sharing and gaining control influence children's participation in initial peer cultures. In pre-school and the early school years, children and adolescents enjoy doing things together. When children collaborate, generate shared meanings and coordinate play with peers in different tasks, they have to deal with conflicts in their daily lives. Such conflicts contribute to the social organisation of peer groups, the reaffirmation of cultural values, and the individual development and display of self. Through interaction with peers, children can learn that they can regulate social bonds on the basis of the criteria that emerge from their personal needs and social contextual demands. But they also learn that their peers will not always accept them immediately, since a child often has to convince others of his/her merits as a playmate and sometimes anticipate and accept exclusion (Corsaro, 1985, 1997).

Traditional socialisation theory and traditional ways of teaching have been linked to the notion that knowledge in school is best mediated by a competent adult to an incompetent and passive child (James, Jenks, & Prout, 1998). Viewing the child-tochild relation as an asset has not been obvious in school tradition. However, for young people interaction and collaboration with peers are essential factors in their lives.

Collaboration and learning in educational settings have been studied by Williams (2001), who video-observed and interviewed 75 children, aged 1-9 years. The studies show that situations constantly arise between children where they communicate and interact with each other in different ways. One goal for children is to acquire specific knowledge and skills enabling them to participate in the existing peer culture. Children learn from each other, for example, how to be an accepted playmate, how to gain access to an ongoing activity, or how to behave together with peers in different situations. Teaching others and being taught by peers involves children learning from each other regardless of age and sex, form of communication (verbal versus non-verbal), competence (novice versus expert) in different contexts.

Children have different levels of competence and experience, depending on the content in focus. It is therefore important to view children's collaboration in context.

On a rhetorical level they praised collaboration and described its benefits as follows:

''it is good to collaborate as it makes you see things from different viewpoints, we can share the workload between us'',

and as one child expressed it,

''someone knows something, another knows something else and together we know a lot and learn from each other'' (children in grades/forms 5 and 9 in school).

Despite the spontaneous collaboration that occurs between children in school, they seem to avoid organised group work if possible. From the analyses of both observations and interviews, it became clear that most children prefer to work by themselves instead of working together in projects or other organised group activities. The reasons for not working together (unless they have elected to do so themselves) are illustrated in the following three statements:

To avoid other children ''getting a free ride''-children prefer to work by themselves in situations when they feel that other children take advantage of their work without contributing to their common assignment.

To carry out their own intentions-some children are not willing to negotiate when it comes to attitudes, values, content, etc., and instead of compromising they prefer to do it their own way.

Individual judgement-the educational system is built on individual marks even if children are expected to collaborate, and some children say that they want to be judged on their own performance in school.

From an international perspective the same picture seems to emerge. Wood and

O'Malley (1996) reveal a gloomy picture in their studies of peer collaboration in English schools. Children are not collaborating enthusiastically, and there are few signs of constructive work. Some of the explanations given for why working in groups does not work are: how the group is constructed, the content of the given problems related to the children, relations between the children, sex and status in the group.

Galton and Williamson (1992) report that many children find working together in a group suspect, because they experience a contradiction between how they are expected to behave when working individually in the classroom (working in silence and fast) and when working with others (communicating and interacting with their peers). The children sometimes get confused when the teachers give prominence to collaborative school assignments but test their knowledge and skills individually.

Collaboration between children is one important aspect of pedagogical quality in educational settings. Features/characteristics that promote collaboration in educational settings are described in this article by children as an admitting organization and attitude. Having small group constellations where the members can relate to one another is another valuable aspect. Continuous support, guidance, and confirmation from the teacher, individually as well as on a group-level, are also vital.

Finally, research has undoubtedly demonstrated that collaboration in educational settings is an important factor in intellectual achievement, but also in interaction and negotiation, which stimulate equality-oriented social relations between peers.

However, children's collaboration in pre-school and school differ. In school, collaboration between children is often restricted and/or takes place in organized forms and their common work is generally individually evaluated. In pre-school it is the children who take the initiative to collaborate and they collaborate in play and under their own rules and agreements. From the empirical studies above, it is quite obvious that children in both pre-school and school collaborate spontaneously when opportunities occur. When group activities are organised in school by the teacher, something seems to happen with the adolescents' motivation to collaborate, which is not fully explained by research. The question is: why do children avoid the kind of learning which embraces mutual involvement in organised learning situations, despite verbal expressions of the extended knowledge a group possesses?

We suggest that it might depend on the way education is organised and carried out, the view of knowledge and what is regarded as valuable content in relation to how collaboration is defined, described, and thought about in both research and practice. It also seems as if something is missing in the way collaboration is defined, discussed, and thought about in both research and practice-a dimension that could motivate children to stretch to the limits of or beyond their own expected capacity through collaboration.

Williams, Pia and Sheridan, Sonja(2006) 'Collaboration as One Aspect of Quality: A perspective of collaboration and pedagogical quality in educational settings', Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 50: 1, 83 - 93

our work on Teacher Support Teams (TSTs). A TST is an organized system of peer support which consists of a small group of teachers who take referrals from individual teachers on a voluntary basis. The referring teacher brings concerns about classes, groups or individuals in order to discuss and problem-solve with their peers. Follow-up meetings are held as necessary. The process is as confidential as the requesting teacher wants it to be. TSTs are novel in that they are an example of a school-based development designed to give support and assistance to individual teachers. In this way, TSTs address a significant but neglected area of school development which has the potential to enhance the working conditions of teachers. They involve a sharing of expertise between colleagues, rather than some teachers acting as experts to others. They also provide an opportunity to support students indirectly by supporting teachers. As a form of group problemsolving, they have the potential of extending staff involvement in the development of SEN policy and practice. They can help focus on the balance between addressing students' individual needs and bringing about change within school systems. TSTs aim to complement existing structures for supporting teachers at work. They do not intend to replace them.

The role of a collaborative professional culture in schools is an important but under-researched aspect of school effectiveness and improvement literature. What there is points to the positive benefits of collaborative cultures (Rosenholtz, 1989; Fullan and Hargreaves, 1992; Nias, 1989). However, creating such an ethos is not without its problems. Professional individualism has been seen as an obstacle to collaboration and has been attributed to the organization of schools, especially in secondary schools (Nias, 1993).

Teachers can collaborate and support one another in many different ways, both formally and informally, within the classroom and outside it. Within class, research on partnership teaching (Bourne and McPake, 1991), team teaching (Cohen, 1981), advisory/support teaching (Biott, 1991), classroom assistants (Martin-Jones and Saxena, 1989), individual support teachers and SEN co-ordinators (Dyson, 1990; Garnett, 1988; Hart, 1986) has highlighted the advantages of bringing teachers with different expertise together in mutually beneficial ways. Models of teaching and learning which focus on an inclusive and differentiated pedagogy also involve collaborative working as a key element in interaction with staff development, flexible resource management and the management of change (Clark et al., 1997). Teacher collaboration outside the classroom is less well researched. This has been looked at in the work of Hanko (1989, 1990), Mead (1991), the Newcastle educational psychology service (Stringer et al., 1992) and in our own work (Norwich and Daniels, 1997; Creese et al., 1997). These researchers, although differing in their focus, have developed and evaluated collaborative problem-solving schemes. Study of group peer support systems in the UK and USA show positive results. American research has indicated that Teacher Support Teams (TSTs) can contribute to a drop in the number of inappropriate referrals to outside services and other benefits (Chalfant and Pysh, 1989; Harris, 1995). TSTs may be seen as a form of intervention which seeks to alter the sociocultural context of schooling through the development of a culture of collaborative peer problem-solving. In this way, TSTs aim to enhance the capacity of the school to respond to diverse student populations. It is thus an intervention which seeks to alter the context in order to enhance collective thinking. Teachers are, as Stringer (1998) suggests, 'seen as the target and agent of change'. Given this interpretation of TSTs we will now attempt to provide that which was absent but perhaps implicit in some of our original thoughts.

perceptions of the nature of the support offered by the TSTs can be grouped under the following themes:

enabled them to distance themselves from problems and re-examine their activities;

enabled problems to be aired;

enabled them to form their own strategies;

provided an opportunity to let off steam legitimately, with it being cathartic to talk to sympathetic colleagues with a non-judgemental attitude;

enabled them to confirm approaches already being used;

provided an opportunity to discuss school policy which could then be raised at staff meetings.

Below are examples of typical comments by teachers about TSTs.

Staff feel now that they do not have to struggle on single-handed.

A joint approach to handling the child was agreed upon. There was open and frank dialogue with colleagues.

Teachers feel they are not alone with a problem. More people to share ideas with - more team spirit and sharing of experiences.

In particular, the study showed how the TST supported teachers' perceptions of the difficulty of a situation. A validation of the teachers' perceptions led to an enhancement in the utility of their own intervention strategies, which were reaffirmed (Norwich and Daniels, 1994).

Our own research suggests that TSTs actually function in a much broader way than we originally thought would be the case. In some schools they may well function as supports for teachers' problem-solving far beyond the original SEN remit. TSTs utilize the sadly underused resource of the potential support that consultation and collective problem-solving can offer teachers. They also provide a way in which a school may structure and organize its response to the Code of Practice. In so doing, they may well enhance and refine the role and effectiveness of the SEN co-ordinator. TSTs may support the formulation and review of IEPs as part of the practice of offering more general support to teachers. They may help schools to establish priorities in their negotiation for external support services. Issues raised in TSTs may also feed back into the institutional and SEN policy development planning process. Meadows (1998: 7) argued that 'collaboration with others … may make things achievable which were not - and indeed still are not - achievable by the individual acting alone. There can of course be many reasons for this social facilitation of development.' Our evaluation of TSTs reveals a range of outcomes associated with collaboration between teacher peers. As such, it can be seen to provide support for some of the more recent developments in post-Vygotskian theory. Intervention in the cultural context of the institution which seeks to alter teachers' communicative practices can make a difference to the instructional practices in classrooms. Collaborative problem-solving between teachers can provide an engine for development in schools.

Daniels, Harry. Special Education Reformed : Inclusion : Beyond Rhetoric?.

London, , GBR: Falmer Press, Limited (UK), 1999. p 173.

Copyright © 1999. Falmer Press, Limited (UK). All rights reserved.