7 Habits of Highly Collaborative Educators


Although meetings are a context for collaboration, they are not collaboration itself. It is totally possible for collaboration to exist without meetings, and it is also totally possible for meetings to exist without collaboration.

True collaboration becomes part of a school culture when educators are inclined to be collaborative. Not because they have been told to collaborate, but because they can see the value in it for learning.

This inclination to be collaborative involves a number of habits. Here’s my take on what 7 of them might be…

  1. Friendliness – Highly collaborative educators are basically friendly. They enjoy chatting with people, and this opens up a myriad of possibilities to enrich learning. Because they are friendly, other teachers like hanging out with them and this makes it much easier to work together. Pretty simple really.
  2. Being curious – Highly collaborative educators are naturally curious, always asking questions and always interested in what is going around them. This curiosity is infectious and invites other teachers and students to get involved. Curious people are more likely to stick their head into other classrooms, more likely to probe in order to find out what people really mean and more likely to take an interest in what other people think. They are learners and are highly aware of how much there is to learn from their colleagues, students and community.*
  3. Looking and listening for connections – Highly collaborative educators want to be collaborative and are, consciously or subconsciously, alert and actively seeking out connections and relationships with ideas, knowledge, talents, skills, thoughts, places and people. Because of this natural connectivity inclination, highly collaborative people become more receptive to coincidence, serendipity and good fortune that can make learning rich, complex and real.
  4. Continuing the thinking – Highly collaborative educators don’t switch their brains off when they leave the school campus and back on again when they arrive the next day. They’re still thinking late into the night, jotting down notes, sharing ideas on social media, reading blogs, contacting other educators and collaborating with a wide variety of networks. In addition, they generally like to share what they’ve learned with their colleagues over coffee the next day and don’t feel ashamed about “talking shop”!
  5. Putting learning first – Highly collaborative educators automatically generate more work for themselves by putting learning first, they can’t help themselves! When you put learning first, you remain open to all possibilities and are always keen to explore them further to see if they will have an impact on learning, and these possibilities frequently involve collaborating with other people.
  6. Making time – Highly collaborative educators do not allow themselves to use time as an excuse not to collaborate. If there’s an idea they want to share with a colleague, they make the time to talk to them. If someone needs or wants to talk with them, they make time to listen generously. If an idea demands more time to become fully developed, they make the time to work on it. Most importantly, they don’t wait to be told what time they can collaborate, they just do it instinctively.
  7. Making thinking visible – Highly collaborative people invite others to join them by putting their thinking “out there”. They are honest about what they think, they make crazy suggestions, they verbalise possibilities, they expose their vulnerabilities, they take public notes and draw visuals in meetings, they offer to help, they leave their doors open (or remove them), they stick post-its on the wall, they display quotes, they write, they share. Far from being about attention-seeking or self-promotion, these tendencies are all about looking for like minds, allies and the desire to be better educators.

Would you add more to this list?

Thanks to Chye de Ryckel for asking the question that prompted me to write this blog post!

*Thanks to Alison Francis for adding more to the Being curious habit.

Artwork: Totem Pole by Ken Vieth



  1. Bruce Sherratt

    Here at BCAC in Bali we strongly encourage creative expressive work. We have collaborative projects on which we do variations for the different international school groups that come here for our EDUCATION WITHOUT WALLS PROGRAMMES. Through these large scale collaborative paintings groups of students process, share, communicate and express what they learned, have seen, felt and experienced during their programme here with us. This is discussed, evaluated and recorded by them while here. They then take the large scale paintings back to their school where they are exhibited and shared with the whole school community, leading to further, cross-curricular collaborative learning opportunities for all grade levels at the school.

    Often High school students who particated in the Bali programme collaborate with e.g., Primary school staff by presenting and discussing the content and significance of the paintings with groups of students from a range of different grade levels. This in turn leads to additional collaborative work and enrichment by other groups in the school.

  2. Olwen

    Maybe there is an 8th habit…
    Open to challenge – Highly collaborative educators want to be challenged. They challenge with positive intent and seek to be challenged. This promotes thinking about purpose, relevance and improved outcomes. They seek feedback and feedforward as constructive steps to work more effectively.

  3. Chad Walsh

    Hi Sam, I caught myself smiling all the way through while reading this post. To the extend that I’m going to share this with our teachers. We have invested a lot in the way of collaboration, and even just enjoy being around each other. Encouraging playfulness and valuing imagination…..putting ego at inhibitions at the door. Thank you for writing this post and putting it in clear Sam language for the rest of us to relate with and identify.

  4. Mumtaz Ali

    I really enjoyed reading the post , one more point that popped up in my head is that people with highly collaborative attitude are good listener, empathetic and open minded and has lots of patience .All this helps one to accept and give feed back positively as an important part of collaboration

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