TC Quick Tip: 5 Ways to Facilitate Collaboration With Colleagues

Audience: K–12/Higher Education

We all have those moments when a great idea for research or innovative teaching practice alights our mind; sometimes, though, it can feel daunting “going it alone.” Or, perhaps we simply need a second eye for added inspiration or a like-minded partner to push it to fruition. Here are some tips to approach colleagues in order to get that project started before another great idea becomes buried in that growing stack of “could-have-beens.”

1. Be a part of a listserv, or create your own.
We all do it: talk about exciting ideas or complain about frustrating problems for which we may have a way to solve. How often in the past week have you been in the office talking about current issues with an officemate, or discussing pressing issues in the teacher’s lounge, only to have your mind clouded with other things 5 minutes later? By creating an e-mail listserv with a number of compatible colleagues who are also interested in starting research projects, you can keep up-to-date on trending issues and engage in relevant conversations that may develop into something tangible. (Alternatively, create a MeetUp group or announce a sign-up sheet for the listserv at an upcoming meeting.)

2. Be specific.
Vague ideas tend to drop off the bandwagon. When planning a research project, make sure that your plans aren’t too general. Narrow them down to fit into your current surroundings and only begin to invite colleagues to collaborate when you have a plausible research agenda. Once they get wind of an idea that can be broken down into possible tasks, they may be more likely to jump at the opportunity. If plans are not specific enough and tasks are not assigned, great ideas will simply fizzle out.

3. Don’t be shy.
If every TESOL professional was scared that another scholar would get wind of an idea and run with it, there would be little value in conventions, presentations, papers, or other research that is made public for individuals to benefit from in both their own teaching activities and research ambitions. Trust in your colleagues and talk to them about the great ideas you have. Time and time again, our field has created proven efforts that show our commitment to each other and to our students. This should be our primary goal.

4. Start small.
Projects that are too large tend to be the ones we put off. Starting small ensures that you are not biting off more than you can chew at the beginning of a daunting project. Doing so may cause it to fail prematurely. Narrowing down that big idea also makes it more likely for it to be implemented in your institution and for others to get on board.

5. Be open to compromise.
Disagreements among colleagues are inevitable.  However, once you invite others to dedicate time to a work-in-progress, it is important to concede some of the decision-making processes. Remember that your project is malleable, and its success contains little room for egos. To successfully complete a project (a feat in and of itself!), all parties involved need to feel as if their contributions are appreciated and that the project offers them personal enjoyment as well.  This can only happen when compromise and flexibility take place.

What’s stopping you? Get others on board with your ideas, turn that pile of “could-have-beens” into a reality, and picture yourself perhaps presenting your project at the next TESOL convention.


Brianna Johnson is an ESL instructor at the University of Iowa.  Her current work involves diversity among teachers and motivating students to think critically about the world around them.

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