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Making the Connection: Growing Collegiality and Collaboration Between K-12 and PSE Educators

Two smiling people working together

Post-secondary education (PSE) in Canada has expanded in recent decades, with more high school graduates than ever before continuing on to a college or university program. But Canada’s primary/secondary education system (K–12) is planned and governed separately from PSE. As a result, the systems are largely disconnected—and for learners progressing from secondary to PSE, this means there can be bumps, roadblocks, and wrong turns along the way. What can be done to improve the connection between the K–12 and PSE systems?

One way to improve the connectivity of K–12 and PSE is to encourage collegial relationships and collaboration between educators in the two sectors. In the report, Making the Connection: Growing Collegiality and Collaboration between K-12 and PSE Educators, the Conference Board examined how partnerships and communities of practice can improve the connection between K–12 and PSE educators in the arts, humanities, and social sciences—to the benefit of educational institutions, educators, and students.

Report Highlights

  • The K–12 and PSE sectors operate separately in Canada, but there are compelling reasons for connecting the two.
  • Given the increased need for learners with advanced skills and post-secondary education, Canadian policy-makers need to be concerned with the impact that K–12 has on participation and success in PSE.
  • Communities of practice, networks, and partnerships offer frameworks for collegial relationships and collaborations to develop.

Teaching is one of the core functions of both K–12 and PSE—and so it is an obvious area where more intentional connections could facilitate the progression of learners from K-12 to higher education. K–12 and PSE educators can be encouraged to work in collaboration to address issues of mutual importance.

Collaboration can have benefits for educators and for learners. Connected educators share insights into different approaches to teaching and assessment, introduce new approaches into their classrooms, and help prepare students for success in higher education. These connections can also be a launching point to more effective professional development and educational reform. But collaboration between K–12 and PSE educators comes with a number of challenges, many of which are strong enough to deter collaborations from ever getting off the ground.

The Conference Board examined three case studies of efforts to support collaboration and to create collegial environments for K–12 and PSE educators:

  • The History Education Network / Histoire et éducation en réseau (THEN/ HiER) and the Historical Thinking Project (HTP). These two separate but related networks aimed to connect history educators across Canada and achieved change in the way historical research is incorporated into teaching at all levels.

  • The California Subject Matter Project (CSMP) and The California Arts Project (TCAP). A state-wide consortium of disciplinary communities of practice makes up the CSMP, of which TCAP is one of the disciplinary communities. CSMP and TCAP cultivate partnerships and collaborations between K–12 and PSE, in addition to developing teacher leaders and stimulating innovative pedagogy.

  • The School College Work Initiative’s (SCWI) partnerships between school boards and colleges in Ontario. SCWI creates opportunities for secondary school students to learn about college programs and related careers. In doing so, it also connects secondary school teachers and college instructors in collaborative initiatives, such as team-taught dual credit courses.

These three examples demonstrate how communities of practice and networks have helped establish successful partnerships between K–12 and PSE educators. They also offer some practical ideas for connecting PSE and K-12 educators and achieving tangible outcomes. Some options for bringing PSE and K-12 educators together include:

  • Hosting training or workshops
  • Establishing coaching/mentoring relationship between educators
  • Aligning course content
  • Hosting campus visits
  • Holding career days for students
  • Organizing guest lectures or teaching exchanges
  • Conducting classroom observations to offer feedback on teaching approaches
  • Team teaching a course together
  • Co-organizing extra-curricular activities
  • Sharing teaching resources
  • Organizing extra-professional clubs or groups based on a shared interest


The report calls on K–12 and PSE stakeholders to support efforts to create connections between educators in the two systems. We recommend that stakeholders:

  • Encourage the creation of networks of K–12 and PSE educators. Funding agencies, ministries of education, and PSE and school administrators could all help support the creation of discipline-specific, cross-sectoral communities of practice.
  • Adopt a broader notion of professional development for educators. Professional development budgets and requirements should give credit to collegial networking and collaborative activities.
  • Reward collegial activities. Educational institutions and scholarly associations could recognize and promote excellent partnerships between and K–12 and PSE educators.
  • Augment in-person networks with digital tools. Online collaborative environments can help to connect educators and help them share the products and successes of their collaborations.

Full Report

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Infographic: Making the Connection

Making the Connection Infographic

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