DO FUTURE TEACHERS HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS CONCERNING COLLABORATION IN A SCHOOL ENVIRONMENT?
Certain changes in the workplace have increasingly made collaboration between “actors” a must. The school environment cannot escape this reality. In the last few years, new terminology has emerged. We are thinking in particular of the following concepts: learning organisation (Fullan, 1993), learning community (Savoie-Zajc & Dionne, 2001; Letor, Bonami & Garant, 2007), knowledge sharing between educators (Lessard & Portelance, 2005) and collective analysis of professional practices (Gervais & Correa, 2005). It appears that achievement of school’s goals calls for egalitarian partnership (Derouet & Gonnin-Bolo, 2002), cooperation and interactive teamwork (Gajda, 2004). Many researchers have acquired the conviction that discussion and collective reflection are essential to the quality of learners’ progress (Munby, Russel & Martin, 2001). Moreover, research has demonstrated that relational dynamics characterized by collaboration have a positive impact on teachers’ professional development (Clement & Vanderberghe, 1999). However, certain school environments seem more conducive to collaboration, to professional and inter-professional exchange than others. Indeed, an assortment of elements promote the creation of a culture of collaboration and many factors are considered to be requirements of collaboration (Borges & Lessard, 2007).
In teaching, the beginning period is often experienced as a difficult time (Portelance, Mukamurera, Martineau, Gervais, 2008), as is proved by the relatively high rate of abandonment of the career of teaching (at least 15% in Quebec). However, as we know, an atmosphere of collaboration has a positive impact on the rate of retention in the profession (Smith & Ingersoll, 2004). In fact, any support offered to a novice teacher in a school setting plays a crucial role in his ability to construct his professional identity (Bullough & Baughman, 1997). It is also recognized that of particular importance is the novice teacher’s own contribution to his successful integration (Portelance, 2004); this contribution must allow for collaboration with other members the school team. We add that a future teacher’s representations with regards to the profession have a definite effect on behaviour, attitudes and collaborative strategies adopted in the first years of work. Therefore, we have studied the representations of student teachers at the end of their training, particularly with regards to collaboration with other actors in a school environment. Data was collected at the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières (Canada) through the use of a questionnaire to which 267 finishing students answered. These students were enrolled in B.A. degrees in preschool and primary teaching programs, as well as secondary teaching and special education. Analysis of results has shown that these students view collaboration in terms of sharing and mutual aid. They believe that acts and attitudes, be they their own or those of members of the school team, may in fact promote a more collaborative professional insertion. They are also aware of obstacles liable to hinder the achievement of a meaningful contribution to the school environment.