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Collaborative Work Among COE Educators Pays Off

Cheryl Craig
Cheryl Craig, Professor, College of Education.

“Braided lives: Multiple ways of knowing, flowing in and out of knowledge communities” was published earlier this year (2013) in Studying Teacher Education.  The article explores the 15-year professional relationship and collaborative work among educators in the Portfolio Group. 

Authors/researchers included Gayle Curtis, Donna Reid, Michaelann Kelley, Peter Tim Martindell, and Dr. Cheryl Craig, all of whom are deeply connected to the University of Houston.  The first four named authors received or are about to receive their doctoral degrees in Curriculum and Instruction from UH and the last author, Dr. Craig, has been a professor in the College of Education since 2000.

Gayle Curtis
Gayle Curtis, Ed.D., Curriculum & Instruction,  College of Education.
Donna Reid
Donna Reid, Ed.D. in Curriculum & Instruction to be conferred in December 2013.

As a participant/evaluator and professor/researcher active in narrative inquiry and reflective practices, Cheryl Craig spearheaded the formation of the Portfolio Group in 1998.  "We joined together in a landscape brimming with possibilities and change at the genesis of a large, grant-funded, school-reform effort," said Gayle Curtis, Portfolio Group member. "Teachers from five urban schools and several districts came together as colleagues with wide-ranging expertise."  

Michaelann Kelley
Michaelann Kelley, Ed.D., Curriculum & Instruction,  College of Education.

Initially, the collaboration centered on data collection and analysis, evidencing each campus’ school-reform work through school portfolios and demonstrating the depth and breadth of the work. Collaborations expanded to include reflective practices, action research, narrative inquiry, and teacher researcher grants. 

Additionally, the group has presented at many local, national, and international conferences and several publications.  "Over the years, Portfolio Group leadership shifted to a shared facilitation with different people taking the lead in collaborative projects," said Curtis.  "However, Cheryl Craig has remained an active participant and mentor to all." 

Tim Martindell
Tim Martindell, Ed.D., Curriculum & Instruction,  College of Education.

Recognizing the uniqueness of the collaboration, the Portfolio Group engaged in a self-study that asked “How do groups sustain long-term collaborations?”  In August 2012, they presented initial findings of their inquiry at the Self-Study of Teacher Education Practices (S-STEP) Castle Conference in England.  Several of the authors received Doctoral Student Research Grants (competitive grants from the College of Education, Curriculum and Instruction) that partially supported this opportunity to present and exchange ideas with educators from around the world.  They were later invited to extend the self-study, and to submit an article for peer review in a special edition of Studying Teacher Education. 

In the research and in the published “Braided lives” article, the metaphor of a braided river was used as an image of the interwoven experiences of individuals within the group, and the group as a whole.  It was also employed as an analytical tool to burrow into individual and shared experiences, delving into the transformative power of longstanding collaborations.