Collaboration as a Form of Professional Development: Improving Learning for Faculty and Students

From Section:
Professional Development
Feb. 15, 2013

Source: College Teaching, Volume 61, No. 1, p. 30–37, 2013.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article describes a multiyear collaboration between two faculty members. that began with a training relationship and expanded into co-teaching.
This collaboration began with an instructional technology training relationship, expanded into a research partnership focused on the use of instructional technology, then included team teaching and co-writing, and over time grew into an exchange of roles and responsibilities.

Stages of Collaboration Model
The authors describe this collaboration through the Stages of Collaboration model developed by Frey and colleagues (2006):
Coexisting - Entities that coexist do not interact at all.

Communicating - Frey and colleagues (2006) state that a communicating relationship is formed when entities have an awareness of one, other, have loosely defined roles, little inter-entity communication, and maintenance of independent decision-making.

Cooperating – Individuals who cooperate provide information to one another, have roles that are somewhat defined, use formal communications with one another, yet continue to make independent decisions.

Coordinating – Coordinating is apparent when entities share information; determine roles, exchange frequent information, and share in decision-making responsibilities (Frey et al. 2006).

Partnering - Frey and colleagues (2006) defined partnering relationships as the exchange of ideas, frequent and prioritized communications, and a shared vote in decision-making.

Collaborating – During our teaching together, partnering melded into collaborating.
When collaboration occurs between entities, the relationship has characteristics of members belonging to one system; frequent communication is characterized by mutual trust, and consensus is reached on all decisions.

and Coadunating - Frey and colleagues (2006) define a coadunated relationship as one united by growth.


From this experience, the authors widened their knowledge of resources, added to their teaching repertoire, and created new projects and assignments.
The co-teaching relationship led to examination of processes and outcomes of their teaching and co-writing.
Over time, this professional experience has grown into an exchange of roles and responsibilities.
Although this collaboration did not begin as a scholarship endeavor, it has become a long-lasting one built on trust and mutual interest.


A list of specific lessons learned or tips for other faculty considering such collaboration include:
1. Find yourself a person who is slightly different from you, that you respect and whose company you enjoy.
2. Be confident in your own abilities.
3.Take inventory: Assess what you do well, and determine areas that you need to improve upon.
4. Recognize that perfect does not exist!
5. Do not be defensive about suggestions; changes to papers such as edits, etc.
6. Do other things together besides work. Dinner and a glass of wine together go a long way in forging a lasting, enriching relationship that provides for a dual lens.
7. Be short on gossip and long on discussing ideas for current and future collaborations and SoTL opportunities.
8. Recognize that your collaborationmay cause others to be envious. Be conscious and aware of such reactions.
9. Be extremely cautious about adding or deleting others from your collaborative relationship, as the dynamics will definitely change.
10. Laugh, have fun.
If an effective personality match among faculty members is coupled with flexibility, intensive planning, and a shared notion of SoTL, the experience of co-teaching can make for a rewarding collaboration and enriching professional development opportunities.

Frey, B. B., J. H. Lohmeier, S.W. Lee & N. Tollefson. 2006. “Measuring Collaboration Among Grant Partners.” American Journal of Evaluation 27:383–92.

Updated: Dec. 07, 2019
Faculty | Professional development | Scholarship | Teacher collaboration | Teaching and learning