Schlechty & Whitford Organic Collaboration

Schlechty, P. C., & Whitford, B. L. (1988). Shared problems and shared vision: Organic collaboration. In K. A. Sirotnik & J. I. Goodlad (Eds.), School-University partnerships in action: Concepts, cases, and concerns (pp. 205-225). New York: Teachers College Press.

The authors call for a move from symbiotic partnerships to organic collaboratives. They claim that partnerships should be not merely serving self-interests, but they should have some vested interest in the common good. The common good should be the unifying factor not the fact that one can benefit from the other.

  • Goodlad's faith: "...if public schools and universities could somehow find more effective ways to work together, the quality of life in schools and universities would be enhance, and the education received by children would be dramatically improved (p. 191)."
  • "Our problem is that symbiotic relationships are inherently fragile, temporary, and even given to fickleness. Furthermore, symbiotic relationships call upon each party to spend considerable energy on attracting and holding an appropriate partner long enough to produce the desired effects (p. 191)."
  • "In organic relationships, the parts fulfill unique functions, sometimes in a semi-autonomous fashion, but the purpose of these functions is to serve the body of the whole (p. 192)."
  • "Thus, unlike symbiotic relationships, which emphasize mutual self-interest, organic relationships stress the common good above all else (p. 192)."
  • In organic relationships, problems are not yours or mine; they are ours. 
  • Problems must be boundary-spanning.
  • "This logic suggests that the problems to which collaboration is addressed must be boundary-spanning. That is, they must be problems that no party to the collaboration can solve alone or over which no party has an exclusive monopoly (p. 192)."

The Professionalization of Teaching: A Boundary-Spanning Issue

  • "Put differently, in the areas of the recruitment, selection, preparation, and continuing development of public school personnel, universities and public schools are not independent agencies that could better achieve their tasks if they understood their mutual self-interests. They are interdependent agencies that could better serve the public if they are concentrated on a common agenda. Serving the common good rather than self-interest should be the unifying theme around which collaborative efforts between universities and public schools are organized (p. 193)."

On the Division of Responsibility and Authority

  • No governing body controls teacher education. Its responsibilities have been divvied and are controlled by various groups who have different interests in teacher education, thus contributing to the bureaucratic tape impeding change. The loser is education itself.

The Need for a Shared Vision

  • Teacher education lacks a shared vision. The vision needs to be boundary-spanning across all vested parties.

Good Practice: Who Decides?

  • Who is included in the definition of a teacher educator?
  • Teacher education lacks status: "In fully developed professions, norm senders are usually viewed as high-status members of the occupation. Yet, it is not uncommon to find teacher education occupying one of the lowest status positions within a school of education, just as schools and departments of education often occupy low-status positions in the college or university generally. Indeed, in major research institutions, it is not uncommon to find some of the most potentially powerful socializing experiences (e.g., student teaching) relegated to the control of the lowest status persons in these systems, that is, to graduate students (p. 197)."
  • Poor perceptions of teacher educators, both those who are situated more closely to practice and those who are situated more closely to research, contribute to the problem.

Professional Schools and Normative Consensus

The Dilemma for University-Based Professional Schools

Implications for Collaboration