As a teacher, I believe that improving collaboration between different stakeholders is crucial. If we fail to do so, our students may suffer. Moreover, we will fail at so many levels, and the school culture and policies will get compromised. My peers and I believe that collaboration is important to share best practices, enhance policies, and make students successful. However, my experience has also made me believe that the best collaboration happens when the learning community works together both horizontally and vertically.
In this article, I will tell you what is the difference between the two types of collaboration and why they are necessary. You can continue reading to learn more about horizontal and vertical collaboration in schools.
What is horizontal collaboration?
It is the most common form of collaboration that occurs in a school. Various kinds of school teams come together to form this collaboration. The team size varies, but each of the teams mentioned below is vital to form a robust school culture.
Grade level teams bring consistency and help educators give the same instructions to pupils studying in the same standard. Teachers of a particular grade come together to bring their advice, successes, and challenges to the table.
Special education teams
Special education teams are made to attend to the special needs of students. Some of the individuals included in these teams are special education teachers, general education teachers, school medical providers, and parents. This team aims to ensure student success and look after the Individualized Education Plan.
Teams for special teachers
This team includes educators from different backgrounds and consists of teachers from art, music, and cultural domains.
Ancillary staff teams
This team includes school social workers, speech pathologists, and school psychologists.
Para educators team
These educators serve as an assistant to lead teachers and are responsible for supporting students with special needs.
Horizontal collaboration teams work together and share their ideas, resources, and information. With the help of their unique perspectives and expertise, teachers can contribute their maximum to the growth and development of their students.
What is vertical collaboration?
This collaboration occurs when teachers and staff members gather to form collaborative affinity groups. However, the members of vertical collaboration do not meet often. Vertical collaboration is a vital part of school culture and consists of the following teams.
Primary teacher collaboration teams
This team consists of teachers who take care of K-2 students.
Upper elementary teacher collaboration teams
Educators taking care of students studying in standards 3-5 form this group. They come together with different ideas and strategies to improve student performance.
In this kind of vertical collaboration, general and special education teachers work together to improve the learning outcomes of students. Together, they plan lessons, monitor student progress, and manage classroom activities.
School leadership team
The leadership team takes care of the governance and makes crucial decisions relating to the school. This team consists of school admins, teachers, and other staff members.
School improvement teams
This team is related to content areas like math, literacy, social studies, and science.
Social/emotional learning school improvement team
This team works to improve the schoolwide SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) implementation.
Vertical collaboration teams thrive on students’ success, and each step taken by them is dedicated to students’ development.
Why do schools need horizontal and vertical collaboration?
Collaborative teams work together to identify the unique needs of their community and then use the available resources or assets to fulfill those needs. These groups use student data to frame student-friendly policies and determine necessary intervention and support. For example, horizontal teams may use the pre-assessment topics to determine the course of action and understand what they can do to ensure a sustainable learning environment. The same data can be used to identify the areas that require immediate attention and improvement.
Likewise, vertical teams like paraeducators can use the discipline data to create different activities for students. Both horizontal and vertical teams improve school culture which reflects in the overall performance of students.
Tips for making collaborative teams work
One way to enhance collaboration between horizontal and vertical teams is to start the planning process at the same time. Here are a few other tips that may work wonders for them.
Determine the collaboration focus
To keep the meeting on track, team members should keep a small agenda before starting the meeting. The agenda should be shared with other members so they can come prepared for the meeting.
Focus on team norms
The teams should make a set of norms to help them function properly. Some of the norms can be:
- Respecting the meeting time
- Respecting the process
- Keeping the focus on students’ development
- Respecting everyone’s ideas
- Asking for help whenever needed
Members should ensure every other team member follows the norms.
Allow room for team building
Establishing a secure connection among team members is crucial for student development. Therefore, members should focus on team-building activities to connect and create positive relationships. Moreover, these activities also bring fun and help educators de-stress.
We can see that horizontal and vertical collaboration is crucial for student development. Schools should focus on building both horizontal and vertical teams to provide better learning opportunities to students. Moreover, such collaboration also makes educators teach better and focus on the needs of every student.
Many times, as an educator, I face issues figuring out where my students need to improve and what I can do for them. With the horizontal and vertical teams working together, I can work on my students' needs. Moreover, we can improve the school culture and give a nurturing environment to learners.
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