Collegial models include all those theories that emphasize that power and decision-making should be shared among some or all members of the organization (Bush, 2003):
Collegial models assume that organizations determine policy and make decisions through a process of discussion leading to consensus. Power is shared among some or all members of the organization who are thought to have a shared understanding about the aims of the institution. (p. 64)
Brundrett (1998) says that “collegiality can broadly be defined as teachers conferring and collaborating with other teachers” (p. 305). Little (1990) explains that “the reason to pursue the study and practice of collegiality is that, presumably, something is gained when teachers work together and something is lost when they do not” (p. 166).
Collegial models have the following major features:
- They are strongly normative in orientation. “The advocacy of collegiality is made more on the basis of prescription than on research-based studies of school practice” (Webb & Vulliamy, 1996, p. 443).
- Collegial models seem to be particularly appropriate for organizations such as schools and colleges that have significant numbers of professional staff. Teachers have an authority of expertise that contrasts with the positional authority associated with formal models. Teachers require a measure of autonomy in the classroom but also need to collaborate to ensure a coherent approach to teaching and learning (Brundrett, 1998, p. 307). Collegial models assume that professionals also have a right to share in the wider decision-making process. Shared decisions are likely to be better informed and are also much more likely to be implemented effectively.
- Collegial models assume a common set of values held by members of the organization. These common values guide the managerial activities of the organization and are thought to lead to shared educational objectives. The common values of professionals form part of the justification for the optimistic assumption that it is always possible to reach agreement about goals and policies. Brundrett (1998, p. 308) goes further in referring to the importance of “shared vision” as a basis for collegial decision-making.
- The size of decision-making groups is an important element in collegial management. They have to be sufficiently small to enable everyone to be heard. This may mean that collegiality works better in elementary schools, or in sub-units, than at the institutional level in secondary schools. Meetings of the whole staff may operate collegially in small schools but may be suitable only for information exchange in larger institutions. The collegial model deals with this problem of scale by building-in the assumption that teachers have formal representation within the various decision-making bodies. The democratic element of formal representation rests on the allegiance owed by participants to their constituencies (Bush, 2003, p. 67).
- Collegial models assume that decisions are reached by consensus. The belief that there are common values and shared objectives leads to the view that it is both desirable and possible to resolve problems by agreement. The decision-making process may be elongated by the search for compromise but this is regarded as an acceptable price to pay to maintain the aura of shared values and beliefs. The case for consensual decision-making rests in part on the ethical dimension of collegiality. Imposing decisions on staff is considered morally repugnant, and inconsistent with the notion of consent.