LEAD THE CHANGE SERIES Q & A with Michael T. O’Connor

Michael T. O’Connor is the director of the Providence Alliance for Catholic Teachers (PACT) program at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island, USA. In this role, Michael coordinates a Master’s secondary track, teaches Master’s level courses, provides supervision and instructional coaching to the program’s teachers, and offers support to the program’s partner Catholic schools in the New England region. A former middle school English Language Arts (ELA) teacher and instructional coach, Michael received his Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the Lynch School of Education at Boston
College. At Boston College, he worked with Andy Hargreaves and Dennis Shirley on the Northwest Rural Innovation and Student Engagement (NW RISE) network project. This project, and specifically his work with ELA teachers participating in the network, informed his dissertation work on examining secondary students’ language choices in authentic, community-based writing activities and the ways in which teachers collaborated to support student writing across rural contexts. His work with NW RISE also served as a key case for his work on collaborative professionalism, resulting in the publication of his book with Andy Hargreaves: Collaborative Professionalism: When Teaching Together Means Learning for All (Corwin Press).

In this interview, part of the Lead the Change Series of the American Educational Research Association Educational Change Special Interest Group, Dr. O’Connor  talks about, among other things, the role of collaboration in educational change. As Bray O’Connor puts it:

As someone who greatly values collaboration in education, I (perhaps to no surprise) find collaboration and collaborative professionalism to be an important issue in educational change. This past year, I am working with all K-12 Catholic school principals in the state of Rhode Island in a professional development series. When I met with the superintendent to discuss this work, he said that, in many ways, collaboration is at the heart of all educational change. If we seek to make changes to our individual schools and broader systems, it requires the will of the many, not just the will of one. This sentiment has stayed with me when thinking about the field of educational change. At the same time, I recognize that there is much beyond collaboration that impacts meaningful and transformative educational change and am grateful to the many researchers and practitioners in the
field who are doing important research and leading our field forward. As I mentioned in my previous response, issues of identity, diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging are also
paramount. We must consider these issues for students, certainly, but also for teachers
and other educators. How are we considering teacher well-being, in addition to student well-being? How are we considering equity and diversity in school leadership opportunities? How do empirically-informed proposed educational change strategies impact schools and communities, especially those that have been historically or are currently marginalized? I have seen members of our field take up these issues in their work and I look forward to seeing how research evolves going forward. 

This Lead the Change interview appears as part of a series that features experts from around the globe, highlights promising research and practice, and offers expert insight on small- and large-scale educational change. Recently Lead the Change has also interviewed Kristin Kew and Thomas Hatch.

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