Why you should collaborate on a Computing scheme of work

At the end of the article 7 Characteristics of a good Computing Scheme of Work I said that people should work with other people on their Computing scheme of work. Why?

You know the old saying, many hands make light work. However, other reasons given here are arguably even more important.

Collaboration works. Photo by Torley https://www.flickr.com/photos/torley/

· It helps avoids group think, which can happen even if you're the only one in the group. If you create a scheme of work on your own, there's a good chance that bits of it will be unworkable or unintelligible, because nobody was there to question them at the time.
Group think can still happen within a school, though. This is when everyone in the group thinks something is wonderful or impossible or whatever, because the group is completely self-contained and self-referential. So ideally, work with colleagues from other schools too.

· Although not everyone may be an expert in Computing, they are experts in their own field, and they also have special interests and hobbies. That means they will come with ideas and examples that you wouldn't have thought of, and which will help to bring the scheme of work alive.

· I suggest delegating responsibility rather than tasks. If each person is responsible for a unit of work they can really think about how it should be taught, what training is needed for teachers, and what resources are needed for students.

Some people have told me that this could lead to extra work for the teachers. But if they were going to be producing materials anyway, this approach saves everyone work. How come? Think about it: if I produce a pack containing six weeks' worth of lesson plans, resources, CPD materials and assessment materials (eg quizzes), then you don't have to do anything for that unit of six weeks, except teach it. Then I get to use the unit that you created. Even with only two people working together, the workload is effectively halved. If that isn't quite right, all I can say is that I was no good at mathematics at school. But you can see the point I'm making, can't you?

I have also been told that this approach doesn't work if your colleagues know less than you do. It's quicker, the argument goes, to just get on with it and produce all the units of work yourself.

I think this is a muddle-headed approach for several reasons.

First, if you apply the economics law of comparative advantage, it can still make sense to divide up the units of work between colleagues. This is how it works. Let's say I am your Head of Department, and I know a lot more about everything to do with Computing than you do, because you're a science teacher. But, it turns out, you have a particular expertise in data-logging using light sensors and sound sensors. Not only that, but you love all that stuff, whereas I can take it or leave it. In these circumstances, it makes a lot of sense for me to ask you to take on all the units involving data-logging, because you will produce the materials a lot faster than I probably would, and almost certainly make them more interesting too. You’ll also be able to slip in little snippets of knowledge or how-to stuff that I had no idea existed, because you spend more time doing data-logging than I do..

Second, part of the job of a Head of Department is, in my opinion, to bring on the people working for him or her. If your colleagues know less than you do, then you should arrange for them to have some professional development. Another thing you should do is produce your units first, to give your colleagues time to develop theirs, using yours as an exemplar.

I tried this, and by producing the first two units, ie a term's work, first, it gave one of my colleagues a whole term to produce something, another colleague a term and a half, and a third colleague two terms, ie nearly a whole school year. In case you can't see how I worked this out, here's a table to illustrate it:

Term 1 First Half

Term 1 Second Half

Term Two First Half

Term Two Second Half

Me: Unit 1

Me: Unit 2

Colleague A: Unit 3

Colleague B: Unit 4

Third, I know from experience that this works. I think it's partly because people tend to rise – or fall – to the level of your expectations. We know this to be the case with kids, so why shouldn't it be the case with adults?

Collaboration works, and it often gives much better results than working completely alone.


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