Should collaboration be “The more the merrier”?

The more the merrier

Collaboration: (intransitive verb) to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavour

While ‘working jointly’ is what defines collaboration, does that necessarily make it more valid?

I would proffer, no. It’s a term thrown about all too casually these days as if because something was done with the term “collaboration” attached, it, therefore, holds more weight than something done individually. One must look at the substance, not the total of people involved.

Collaboration does begin just as Messrs. Merriam and Webster say; working jointly or together. However, after the work is done and then shared, it receives feedback. Whether to argue against the premise, add something the author hadn’t known/thought of, or even to praise the work – those are all forms of collaboration. They become part of that work.

Are collaborations ever-evolving?

Creators are always looking to improve upon and add substance to their work; at least the good ones are. Thinking something is done and dusted with no need for improvement is arrogant at best. A project can start with a few, but to be a real collaboration, it is a process that is ever-evolving as you let other voices and perspectives into the conversation and create a stronger work product.

For a true and effective collaborative effort, many voices must be heard. Let’s say there are some educators wanting to create a unit of study in school on racial equity. But, these teachers are all white. Does that make their unit invalid as racial inequity is not their experience, their truth? Yes and no.

From a factual, clinical perspective such a unit may be valid. I mean, one can write about how to take care of furniture without speaking to a chair. However, topics that involve other people demand contributions from an experiential perspective in order for it to be embraced. So when we are talking about racial inequity, for example, if BIPOC are not involved in its creation, its delivery, it may not be viewed as ‘valid’ as if it contained those voices. Nor should it be.

Don't fear a challenge

As you continue your journey – especially in education – look for opportunities to collaborate. Don’t be afraid to have uncomfortable conversations. When you see something that piques your interest, ask questions, challenge the content, add your expertise. If you create something, invite other perspectives and expand your knowledge – and professional circle. 

Collaboration is an ever-growing process.  Don’t be shy; jump on in! You can only become a better educator – and human being.