Overcoming Barriers to Change

The research aims to identify barriers that exist in education on the way to changing students’ learning environments in a positive way. The literature review has revealed that current practices often demonstrate new opportunities willingly embraced by teachers.

However, in many cases, teachers are not as susceptible to practices that threaten to have negative effect on their customary routines, in particular exemplified by collaborative teaching. Using teacher survey, the study will determine to what degree such reluctance can stand in the way of the teaching innovation.

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Introduction
Teaching collaboration is an idea that has gained prominence in contemporary educational establishments. Although at first a really unusual practice, collaboration in teaching has been shown to deliver great benefits.
For educators themselves, “collegiality breaks the isolation of the classroom and brings career rewards and daily satisfactions” (Inger, 1993). It also helps beginners and experienced professional learn from each other for improved results and relieves young teachers of the trial-and-error process they are usually immersed in. bringing teachers closer together in a coherent effort, collaborative teaching helps foster cooperation and friendliness between teachers. Collaboration can also go beyond the level of a single school, helping extend new methods to other areas.
At the same time, collaboration is not always compatible with school culture and practices and character of an individual teacher; hence come barriers to collaborative teaching. A teacher can be resistant to collaboration in general, being averse to any form of joint efforts in the same classroom. On the other hand, the teacher’s attitude can embrace collaboration between vocational and academic teachers or those coming from other schools. Therefore, the research problem is as follows:
What obstacles do teachers most often face on the path of innovation in their school curriculum that involves collaborative teaching?
The study will be focused on teacher perceptions and aim to find material so as to substantiate improvements in collaborative practices.
Literature Review
Collaboration can occur at any stage of the educational process. Teaching can engage in joint preparation of materials for the classroom sessions or engage in team teaching, or “organizational and instructional arrangement in which two or more teachers work in the same classroom” (Price et al, 2000-2001). Thus, in special education teachers can use a variety of models including the resource room, itinerant, and consultation models (Price et al, 2000-2001).
In the process of realizing collaboration models, teachers face barriers that have been categorized by Welch and Sheridan (1995) into four main groups: conceptual barriers, pragmatic barriers, attitudinal barriers, and professional barriers. Conceptual barriers are caused by differences in the definition of roles by different educators, their difference in the processing of material, approaches etc.
When teachers face challenges in working out the exact schedule or joining resources for joint effort, this is described as a pragmatic barrier. Attitudinal barriers are the result of fear to try a new approach. Professional barriers arise when teachers cannot cooperate on effective methods of problem solving, lacking adequate skills of working together as a team.
Teachers can benefit from the administration’s effort to introduce additional measures so as to reduce the possibility of conflict among teachers.
For this purpose, it is necessary to introduce concrete rules and procedures that will define the boundaries between their roles and help them establish working relationships. In case of team teaching, “the problem is getting a balance between enough specificity in prescribing roles so that a bureaucratic rule book is not created” (Price et al, 2000-2001). Most researchers believe that conflict is unavoidable, and therefore strategies for coping with it should be worked out by the administration in advance.
A lot depends on the organizational culture as school culture can either stimulate or defy the efforts of teachers to work together. Peterson (2002) identifies two types of culture: cooperative and toxic. Within toxic cultures, individuals are striving to work together for common goals. As a result, teachers can reach effective collaboration more easily than in other organizations. In toxic cultures, on the contrary, individual effort is frustrated because of the lack of common framework.
In addition, organizational resources can also be a barrier to innovation that should be represented in teaching communities. Many schools lack adequate programs that can accommodate the participation of two or more teachers. There are even fewer resources available for attracting outside professionals that can participate in collaborative projects. This can serve as a motivator for teachers to desire the continuation of the routines currently present in education.
Cooperation between academic and vocational teachers can be prevented by the organizational design of the academic environment in which “the social and organizational isolation of most vocational teachers is exacerbated by the physical separation and programmatic fragmentation in secondary schools” (Inger, 1993).
The difference in their social status further contributes to the rising walls between these two groups of professionals. Since academic teachers generally have a higher status, they tend to marginalize their vocational colleagues, a situation that discourages cooperation.

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