Communication, Collaboration, and Concern Between Elementary School Teachers: Unlocking the Positive Potential of Conflict
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Collaboration is touted as a solution to modern challenges in education, but the difficulties of establishing truly collaborative communities are many. From a conflict-resolution lens, collaboration requires both assertiveness and cooperation (high preference for both completing tasks and maintaining relationships). This study uses surveys and interviews to explore the ways that teachers balance task and relationship orientations in resolving conflict between themselves and the impact that teachers’ behaviors while in conflict have on collaboration. Specifically, this study examines the role that trust, relationships, and process norms play in encouraging collaborative behaviors. Results suggest that teachers’ perceived ineffectiveness with conflict resolution and the fear of damaging relationships discourage open communication. Consequently, focusing on trust and relationship building does little to promote authentically collaborative exchanges. Instead, the perception of available time and a familiar process for raising concerns with colleagues are more likely to promote open communication and more authentic collaboration.