Agile Faculty Manifesto – Collaboration

This is the final post of a series looking at the Agile Faculty Manifesto. Read the Manifesto in this series preview post or in Chapter 1 of the book. This post explore what it means to value collaboration.

Collaboration with students, colleagues, and communities over isolated productivity.

Collaboration is one of my favorite things to talk about, probably because I resisted it for so long. as that typical Type-A student in high school and college, it was difficult for me to trust others to contribute the standard of work I expected, so I frequently did it all myself or rewrote a project the night before it was due. I remember one particular instance when, as a senior, I was assigned a partner for an assignment in my marketing class. We were to create a new product idea and develop the marketing plan for it.

Honestly, I was angry that I had been an assigned a football player as a partner. Because I stereotyped him, I just brought the entire “finished” project to him during one of our meetings to avoid having to work with him intellectually. I often think back to that experience because my partner really was perfectly capable of contributing good work had I let him. But even more I remember how hurt he looked that I clearly didn’t trust him with my grade.

So what’s that got to do with collaboration in the Agile Faculty Manifesto? Many faculty members, in my experience, were just like me in college or graduate work. We’re trained in K-12 and college that the best work is individual and anything else is cheating unless assigned to be a group project. It’s hard to snap out of that training and let others in. Rather than grades, maybe we fear what will happen to our reputations, or if being a second author on a paper is damaging to your tenure or promotion case (this claim is, of course, context- and discipline-dependent).

We may know how to cooperate with others well, but collaboration is different – whereas, cooperative efforts result in the sum of its parts, effective collaboration results in something bigger than the sum of its parts, something that could not have been created individually. That isn’t to same cooperation isn’t perfectly effective in many situations, but it’s not collaboration.

We have opportunities to collaborate everywhere in higher education – committee and task for work, department efforts, undergraduate and graduate research with our students, team teaching with colleagues across the disciplines, and certainly research. My experience collaborating with two peers on the Design Thinking Studio was truly transformative and changed the way I approach working with peers.

I’m curious under what conditions you like to collaborate with others. What makes collaboration successful or unsuccessful. If you resist collaborations, why? And if you thrive on collaboration, how might you explain that to peers who resist?

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