The Principles of Partnership
Partnership is coming to be regarding as an empowering alternative to more common patriarchal models of human interaction. Today, in disciplines as diverse as anthropology, organizational theory, philosophy of science, and educational theory, theorists are constructing a new partnership mindset as an alternative to the traditional partriarchy model. Running through the writing in numerous disciplines are principles representing the foundation of a partnership world view. Those principles, described below, are also the foundation of the Partnership Learning approach to staff development:
Partnership involves relationships between equals. Thus each person’s thoughts and beliefs are held to be valuable, and, although each individual is different, no individual decides for another. When this principle is applied to staff development, it means that all participants in a learning session are recognized as equal partners, and consequently no one’s view is more important or valuable than any one else’s.
In a partnership, one individual does not make decisions for another. Because partners are equal, they make their own individual choices and make decisions collaboratively. When this principle is applied to staff development, it means that participant choice is implicit in every communication of content and, to the greatest extent possible, the process used to learn the content.
Partnership is multivocal rather than univocal, and all individuals in a partnership require opportunities to express their point of view. Indeed, a primary benefit of a partnership is that each individual has access to a multiplicity of perspectives rather than the singular perspective of the patriarch. When this principle is applied to staff development, it means that all participants in a learning session have the freedom to express their opinions about content being covered. Furthermore, since opinions will inevitably vary, staff developers should encourage conversation that allows people the freedom to express a variety of opinions
Offering workshop participants the freedom to consider ideas before adopting them is central to the principle of reflection within Partnership Learning. Indeed, reflective thinkers by definition have to be free to choose or reject ideas, or they simply are not thinkers at all. Reflection holds the potential of providing an opportunity for teachers to think about what Parker Palmer calls the “inner landscape of the teaching self.” Reflection can enable teachers to ask profound questions aobut what, how , why and who teaches.
To arrive at mutually acceptable decisions, partners engage in dialogue. In a partnership, one individual does not impose, dominate, or control. Partners engage in conversation, learning together as they explore ideas. When this principle is applied to staff development, it means that staff developers embrace dialogue rather than lecture. Facilitators avoid manipulation, engage participants in conversation about content, and think and learn with participants as everyone moves through content being discussed.
The purpose of partnership is to enable individuals to have more meaningful experiences. In partnership relationships, meaning arises when people reflect on ideas and then put those actions into practice. A requirement for partnership is that each individual is free to reconstruct and use content the way he or she considers it most useful. When this principle is applied to staff development, it means that facilitators offer numerous opportunities for participants to reflect on the practical implications of new content being learned.