ERIC Identifier: ED378847
Publication Date: 1994-12-00
Author: Schlessman-Frost, Amy
Source: Adjunct ERIC
Clearinghouse for ESL Literacy Education Washington DC.
Collaboration in Adult ESL and Family Literacy Education. ERIC
The current trend toward "collaboration" is having an impact on the fields of
adult basic education (ABE) and adult English as a second language (ESL) and
literacy education. Policymakers, attracted by the logic of inclusive,
family-oriented services, have legislated collaboration into various programs
for children and their families. Even Start, a family literacy program, and
Follow Through, a program for kindergarten through grade three, require
partnership among all service providers--federal agencies, adult and elementary
educational institutions, teachers, and parents. Similarly, a federally-funded
program for adults, the National Workplace Literacy Program, requires its
projects to demonstrate a partnership between educators and business or labor
organizations in providing basic skills education at the workplace.
This digest looks at collaboration for adult ESL programs and for family
bilingual and ESL literacy programs. It discusses the distinctions among
cooperation, coordination, and collaboration; presents a framework for
collaboration; reports on uses of technology for collaboration; and explores
ethical considerations, evaluation concerns, and policy issues.
DISTINCT NATURE OF COLLABORATION
How is collaboration
different from traditional service delivery for language minority adults, in
which one agency provides the language instruction, another provides job
placement, and another provides counseling services? Is there collaboration
whenever two or more agencies share information for and about clients and refer
the clients to other agencies for needed services?
Writers on collaboration (Kagan, 1991; Winer & Ray, 1994) often make the
following distinctions among cooperation, coordination, and collaboration.
Cooperation--Each group retains its own authority and keeps its own resources.
Cooperation can take place among groups with differing goals and without a
clearly defined shared mission. There is little risk in this relationship and
little gain, as there is no real sharing of goods, services, and expertise.
Coordination--Each group retains its individual authority and independence, but
specific modifications in the way it operates may begin to occur. Coordination
requires mutual planning and open communication among groups as mission and
goals begin to be shared. Partners enjoy the benefits of shared resources, yet
power may become an issue among participating groups.
Collaboration--Separate groups with commitment to a common mission come together
to form a new structure. Collaboration requires comprehensive planning as
decision-making, power, authority, and resources are shared. These synergistic
efforts often result in innovations that benefit all participants: clients,
service providers, and the wider community. In true collaboration, partners no
longer run parallel programs at a common site, but have created a new program
that offers participants more than the individual agencies can offer separately
(Dilworth, in press).
A FRAMEWORK FOR COLLABORATION
Although research indicates
that there is no one way to collaborate, resource books share successful
strategies, provide guidelines and suggestions, illustrate with examples, and
warn of potential barriers or predictable pitfalls (Dilworth, in press; Kagan,
1991; Melaville, Blank, & Asayesh, 1993; Uhl & Squires, 1994; Winer
& Ray, 1994).
One framework (Winer & Ray, 1994) helps potential partners to think about
the collaborative process as a series of changes in interactions among
individuals and the organizations they represent, rather than as a set of
"Envision Results by Working Individual-to-Individual" Individuals representing
the collaborating groups meet to confirm their shared vision and specify desired
"Empower Oneself by Working Individual-to-Organization" Clear authority provided
by both the home organization and the collaboration empowers individuals to act.
This process entails confirming organizational roles, resolving conflicts,
organizing efforts, and supporting members.
"Ensure Success by Working Organization-to-Organization" Envisioned services are
provided and articulated goals are realized as the collaborative learns to
manage the work, create joint systems, evaluate the results, and renew its
efforts toward achieving desired results.
"Equip for Continuity by Working Collaboration-to-Community" The completion of
the original collaboration often becomes the genesis of a new, more
comprehensive collaboration as collaborators establish continuity for their
successes by extending their relationships and responsibilities to include the
Technology is making collaboration
possible beyond the physical limits of traditional work environments and
geographical locations. Teleconferencing facilitates information sharing by
enabling individuals to communicate across the boundaries of time and space by
telephone, television, or computer. Technologies are now available to take
educators beyond teleconferencing by providing online forums for interactive
meetings anywhere in the world. State-of-the-art collaboration technology is
exemplified by Xerox's LiveBoard (Smart, 1993), an electronic blackboard that
utilizes computer video technology. LiveBoard operates via ordinary phone lines
and allows collaborators in single or multiple locations to share a common
writing and viewing surface for capturing ideas; organizing information; and
viewing, editing, and annotating documents.
Ethical questions arise in
collaboration. Since collaboration involves shared power and decision-making,
what ethical basis will individuals representing diverse groups use to make
decisions? How will individual rights and group interests be preserved in the
face of new organizational structures? Griesel (1992) offers collaborators a
series of tools (including checklists, paradigms, and more sophisticated models)
for use in examining ethical considerations. Her ten-point ethical guidelines
for collaboration include questions about personal, professional, and public
Methods for evaluating
collaboration are being developed. Most of these focus on process variables to
help collaborators gauge their progress. A fundamental question for any
partnership assessing its effort is, "Does our work meet the 'shared
decision-making' criterion for true collaboration?" Schlessman-Frost and
Saunders (1993) have developed a model to organize and clarify information to
answer that fundamental question. This model provides a framework for
determining the degree of collaboration in a partnership by classifying each
collaborator's contributing activities as cooperation, coordination, and
Owsley County Schools in the Booneville, Kentucky area used this model to
articulate their informal knowledge about efforts in their Appalachian community
to offer seamless education and social services from birth to adulthood,
utilizing various federal and state funding sources. As they described it,
"[you] can't see where one program ends and the other begins" (Schlessman-Frost
& Saunders, 1993, p. 13). The model enabled Owsley County to organize and
document information about its collaboration and to make its process one that
can be duplicated in other communities.
Trends toward collaboration raise
policy and advocacy issues within adult ESL education. Funding agencies'
definitions of family could contain subtle (or more blatant) biases. If a family
must include children in order to qualify for services, the inclusive intent of
integrated, comprehensive services may be contradicted, as childless adults are
denied access to these services. A collaborative group might address such a
policy issue in two ways. First, the group could work with the community, the
collaborating partners, and potential participants to coordinate advocacy
efforts for policy changes. Second, instead of waiting for the rules to change,
the existing collaborative group could use its effective intra- or
inter-organizational structure to combine resources in innovative ways to make
services available for those who might be excluded.
Collaboration at the state level among ABE programs, including special
education, bilingual and ESL education, and alternative secondary and GED
instruction, could produce innovative services to meet the diverse needs of
adults. Perhaps advocacy for mandated collaboration for ESL literacy in the
Vocational and Adult Education Acts and in other legislation which provides
instructional and social services to adults is worth considering.
Collaborative efforts can benefit all
participants and stakeholders as programs created through collaboration often
offer better services than the individual agencies can offer separately. The
challenge to collaboration in adult ESL literacy instruction is to develop
processes that are sharable, ethically conducted, and supported by 21st century
technology. The democratic nature of collaboration should ensure that policies
regarding collaboration are equitable and support the enlightened self-interest
of all participants, while providing the best services to clients.
The nature of collaborations varies depending on the resources and needs of
the communities involved. Two of New Mexico's Even Start family literacy
programs provide an illustration of this diversity.
An urban demonstration model in Albuquerque, PArents, Children, Community
Together (PACCT), is run by an interagency project coordination team (Goldstein
& Schlessman-Frost, 1992). Representatives from more than a dozen agencies
including the public schools, community colleges, volunteer literacy programs,
and early childhood service providers comprise this decision-making core group
of collaborators who meet once a month to facilitate the collaboration process
for all agencies, services, and locations in
Another New Mexico collaborative effort, the Parents
Are Teachers (PAT) project of the Pecos Valley Cooperative of Artesia, has
modified PACCT's management structure for its rural setting. PAT collaborates
with several ABE providers through area university branches to provide adult ESL
and GED instruction to five communities, Loving, Dexter, Hagerman, Lake Arthur,
and Artesia. Although linked by geographical proximity and central program
administration, each town and population has distinct characteristics and needs.
Therefore, PAT has established a collaborative leadership group in each
community instead of operating under the leadership of one central location, as
in the PACCT model.
Dilworth, J. (in press). Lessons in
collaboration: An adult educator's perspective. In G. Weinstein-Shr & E.
Quintero (Eds.), "Immigrant learners and their families: Literacy to connect the
generations." Washington, DC & McHenry, IL: Center for Applied Linguistics
& Delta Systems.
Goldstein, G., & Schlessman-Frost, A. (1992). Albuquerque's PACCT for
Literacy: A demonstration model for successful collaboration. "Scope," 92(1),
Griesel, P. (1992, December). "Ethics of collaboration: A quest for
guidelines." Paper presented at the forty-first annual meeting of the Far
Western Philosophy of Education Society, Asilomar, CA. (ED 360 235)
Kagan, S.L. (1991). "United we stand: Collaboration for child care and early
education services." New York: Teachers College Press.
Melaville, A., Blank, M.J., & Asayesh, G. (1993). "Together we can: A
guide for crafting a profamily system of education and human services."
Washington, DC: Center for the Study of Social Policy and the Institute for
Educational Leadership. (ED 357 856)
Schlessman-Frost, A., & Saunders, T.F. (1993, April). "Collaboration: A
model for design, management and evaluation." Paper presented at the annual
meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Atlanta, GA. (ED 360
Smart, T. (1993, June 7). Beyond talk and chalk. "Business Week." p. 65.
Uhl, S.C., & Squires, S.E. (1994, April). "Enhancing systemic change
through effective collaboration: A formative perspective and approach to
collaboration." Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American
Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA. (ED 372 467)
Winer, M., & Ray, K. (1994). "Collaboration handbook: Creating,
sustaining and enjoying the journey." Saint Paul, MN: Amherst H. Wilder