Eureka! I think I’ve got it! Thanks to all of your fantastic feedback on my previous posts, I realized that the Collaboration Continuum I started this weekend isn’t really a continuum at all – it’s a cycle:

To me, the cycle idea makes much more sense than a continuum. For starters, I really didn’t like the idea that teachers would feel that they should be at one end of the continuum – the pressure to “figure out” where you are on the path and how you compare to others is just too tempting (and intimidating).  I also didn’t like the visual impression that it was a finite process, appearing as if once you make it to the mentoring stage you’re done.

So, I went back to the drawing board, and came up with the concept of a cycle.

I love the fact that there’s no definite beginning or end, which acknowledges the fact that all teachers come to a school with different history and different needs. Not everyone will need to start with “full collaboration” when they come to ISB because they might have already done something like that at a previous school.

I also like the idea that the cycle builds in a support infrastructure for continuing this process indefinitely – once a teacher has been through the process and reaches the mentoring stage, s/he will go on to be a fully collaborative with another teacher who’s ready on their team, and then that teacher will do the same for another member of the team. This way the learning and experience of one teacher turn into the learning and experience of many – especially important in international schools where we tend to have lots of staff turnover.

What do you think? Is this better? More approachable and less intimidating to staff? Any other ideas for improvement?

Just out of curiosity, could/would you use this at your school? Do you have someone who could be responsible for implementing this process and begin the collaboration cycle with a group of willing teachers?

29 thoughts on “Going Full Circle

  1. You are such a clever cookie!

    I love the cycle idea as it validates my goal of being a life-long learner. A cycle allows me to be at what ever stage I need to be at depending on whether I know the tools that I am using to collaborate or depending on whom I am doing a collaboration with. Hence with a cyclic process the teacher will always feel supported when they need it.

    Sometimes I am the learner, sometimes I am the mentor and sometimes “I get by with a little help from my friends!”

  2. Very impressive Kim, what a neat transition to see you build this cycle. I love it. Excellent job…the only way I make it through my days is “with a little help from my friends”

  3. I couldn’t put into words what seemed off about the first go-round, but this makes a lot of sense. Depending on what a person is doing that might want different type of advice, help, or coaching. This accurately reflects that reality. I can see using this with my teachers as a jumping off point for new equipment that will be in the building this year. I was trying to explain that I had not learned how to use everything over the summer. We all need to decide what would be most helpful in each individual classroom. As they learn to use something, I will be asking them to share with the whole faculty. I will have more time to assist in the classroom this year, as well. It will make a useful one page description of all the services they could as of me as we integrate the new equipment. I look forward to sharing my experiences with your diagram.

  4. Good one, you’ve hit the nail on the head. This is quite explanatory. It explains why people are always learning from each other in communities of practice. It explains how people pay back for their own development in such communities (by making their own discoveries, developing their own expertise, and sharing these with the group). It explains, most importantly, why we should learn from our students. There is no greater complement to a teach than when a student teaches the teacher something based on what the teacher helped the student to understand. Students should be partners in the learning process, not recipients. What goes round comes around. Nice concept, V

  5. I totally agree with Chrissy that a cycle allows the teacher to be where ever they need to be at the time depending on the tool/task.

    I like the fact that it isn’t finite, that there is no “top level” as such.

    This particularly made sense to me when viewed from my own personal perspective. At my school I am regularly working/be asked to work at, the mentoring stage – which is fine and is part of building a collective understanding. I also love being able to share what I know and have learned with others. However, I also know that there are things I don’t know as much about/ need further support or PD in order to use with confidence. What has tended to happen in the past is that I’m seldom given the opportunity to be where I need to be in order to continue to grow personally and professionally. This has happened because I have been labeled/categorised as being at a particular level of ability/understanding.

    I can see how putting this cyclic model in place would have the potential to ensure that everybody gets the chance to move into and out of different roles as they need to.

    Thinking about it further, I guess it really is the same principle as with our students. Sometimes they are in a position where they need minimal support and can infact provide support for others, and sometimes they need plenty of support and scaffolding as they develop new skills and understandings.

    Hope this all makes sense.

  6. I really like this better than a continuum because it takes the pressure off of where you are and puts more focus on the final results. I think where I am could change in this cycle depending on what project I am doing and where I am in the process. This cycle allows for flexibility but still gives support. I think it is awesome.

  7. I love the cycle concept. When I looked at the original continum, I instantly wanted to be at the high end and looked for ways I was already there (hmmm… the perfectionist in me, Yuck!). The cycle takes away the possibility of reaching the end and being finished with learning. We can always improve, and this shows that you value various stages of learning and sharing. Great job!

  8. Very impressed with your graphic and ideas on the concept of a collaboration cycle, so vital for effective professional learning.

    I used Blog This to comment on my blog and encourage teachers to visit and comment on your blog.


  9. Kim, I think the cycle paradigm is right on target. With the continuum there was an implied start and finish. In contrast, the cycle allows for continuous learning, and allows for both expertise and novice levels of experience with regard to different practices in the classroom. Thanks for sharing your thinking as you developed this – it was fun to think about it with you (and the rest of the world commenting in on the model)!

  10. Thank you so much for sharing this and YES I will be able to use it in my school. This is a great way to explain my role as an Instructional Tech Specialist. I also shared your post on my blog! Thanks again!

  11. I’m not sure what is cyclical about the states of collaboration you are describing. Does “Mentoring” actually lead back to “Full Collaboration”?

  12. @teachingsagittarian,

    Thanks! I also love the idea that the cycle will continue with or without me – teachers supporting teachers as long as they need it.

    @Mark Carls,

    Thanks! I think it’s good to build in support infrastructure and expectations for collaboration – two minds are better than one!

    @Ann Oro,

    Me too – I always thought something was a little off about those first two. Glad it finally hit me! I love your expectations for sharing and supporting with new equipment. Can’t wait to hear how it all goes for you!


    I totally agree about learning with students. I hope that once we get a collaborative cycle going among the teachers, we can become more open to learning with students. I always learn the most interesting things from my students!


    Your comment makes total sense – and I do really like the openness of this graphic. The idea that it allows people to get the support they need, when they need it is totally key to the success of the collaborative model.


    Perfect! That’s what I wanted – no pressure!


    Yes, I know exactly what you mean – that continuum (even though it wasn’t intended to) always made me instinctively rank myself, I’m sure it would have done the same for all of our teachers too….


    Thanks! Glad you shared this post :)


    Thank you!


    It was fabulous to develop this with everyone – I love being able to put my thoughts out there and to get such valuable feedback. I rarely post things I haven’t thought completely through and this was a great lesson for me to actually do it more often!


    Thanks for sharing my post on your blog! I would love to hear if/how the graphic helps you :)


    Yep, just as stated in the post, once a teacher reaches the mentor stage, s/he can go back and be a full collaborator with someone who is starting fresh (so mentoring leads to becoming a “guide” in the full collaboration stage). Building an infrastructure of support that can continue year after year, even as staff move on to new schools.

  13. Kim,
    It is a bit scary the way you keep blogging about just the things I’m needing to think about. I sent your “Getting to Know You” post to my admin, and now I’m sharing this post with my director. I love the change from continuum to a cycle. Much more accurate and flexible. Free from the negative aspects of being at the wrong end of a continuum.
    Thanks for the cycle and for sharing the process of how you developed it. I hope to see some of this in your upcoming presentations.

  14. Kim, this is fantastic. I plan to use it in a meeting today where we are preparing for a presentation as to why we need to change the way we do things at our school. I’ve created my own cycle to show the processes we need to do in developing the Integration of ICT into Learning, and this diagram will flow on from that. Brilliant!

    I’ll blog our results so keep an eye out, to carry on the discussion I’ll link back to these posts as well.

    Thanks for the great work,


  15. I like your cycle, however I think you should take a closer look at the assessment part. It seems to be removed from the process. Good assessment should be interwoven within the learning cycle, ‘a constant interaction between teaching and learning’. By assessment I am refering to Formative Assessment as opposed to pre and post, the former being where the learner takes an active part in faciliting their own learning.

  16. @Susan,

    So glad these blog posts have been helpful! I’d love to hear what kind of feedback you got from your admin about them, too!


    Thank you!


    Thanks! How did the diagram go over in your school?


    Thanks for the feedback. I think, since we’re dealing with adults, we’re going to look for some learner-led formative feedback – I wouldn’t want to add to their work load by asking them to write a journal reflection or anything like that. Hopefully we’ll have some great discussions and the teachers can be in charge of their formative assessment.

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