What is the CoLab?

Lisa J. Starr, Associate Professor and Department Chair in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education at McGill University
Current talk in K-12 education involves much discussion of renewed expectations regarding what kinds of knowledge, skills, and dispositions students need for an unknown future that is characterized by change more than anything else. In addition to mastering traditional academic knowledge and skills, expectations for students today include critical and creative approaches to decision-making and problem solving that will enable them to not only live in a multi-faceted world but also actively engage and thrive in its citizenship. 

The partnership formed between Trafalgar School for Girls and McGill University’s Faculty of Education sets the stage for world class educational innovation and growth at a time when both are needed. While a strong relationship between these storied institutions has existed for more than a century, we are entering into a new collaborative partnership that we refer to as the CoLab. That naming intentionally plays on the duality of meaning of collaboration in both French and English, and also builds on a rich history of lab school partnerships between schools and universities. Our vision is the creation of a space and school where teachers and researchers are working together to innovate teaching and learning best practices in real time alongside students, with each party playing an active role in constructing meaningful learning.
When people hear the phrase 'lab school' they often imagine professors in lab coats, clipboards in hand, standing behind one-way glass observing students and teachers. The CoLab could not be further from that image. We envision educators from Trafalgar and McGill as the nexus for building connections between young people and a diverse plurilingual world, fostering educational, economic, and political opportunities and democratic agency in the process of learning. Fundamental to the innovative approach of the CoLab is our understanding that education is relational. By this we mean that our approach positions each of its members in relation to others, to ideas, to society, to the environment, to local and global needs and issues, to places and their histories, and to oneself. 
At its core, the CoLab is a responsive, integrative approach to partnership that places all members on equal footing to drive cutting-edge learning that enables its members to both respond to and solve current and future challenges. When we think of innovative practice in education, the Trafalgar-McGill CoLab includes the voices and experiences of all those working as a learning community to enable educators to best meet the increasingly diverse needs of all their students. Meaningful partnerships like ours enable educators through shared leadership and research to grow, adapt, and thrive in ever-changing environments which in turn better serve the needs of students.

A Brief Overview of the Differences between the CoLab
and Traditional Lab School
An innovative school-university 
learning environment that challenges educators to collaboratively transform education to enable and empower its members in responding to local and global challenges 
A school backed by a university department or an institution that trains teachers 
Builds a community-based approach to teaching and learning that draws on the diverse contexts, abilities, and strengths of Trafalgar teachers and McGill researchers. Collaborates with community members to share ideas that shape current and future directions through new research, knowledge and practices 
Combines education, training and research. Develops and test new approaches. Models best practices 
Promotes cutting edge innovative approaches to teaching and learning that include open access, multidirectional research clusters addressing local and global challenges 
Proposes an evidence-based pedagogy. Emphasizes training and research that can be applied to public education. Creates a forum for teachers to further their knowledge 
Organizes around thematic, timely, and relevant issues like critically-engaged teaching and learning that lead to positive social change. Encourages open access to shared resources like teaching labs and learning commons that advance innovative pedagogy. Acts as a multidirectional hub that allows for a ‘learning together’ model driven by open access to best practices in educational leadership and pedagogy. 
Operates in alignment with a university, college, or teacher education institution and used for the training of teachers, educational research, and professional development 
Positions all learners and educators – teachers, faculty, and students - in relation to others, to ideas, to society, to the environment, to local and global needs and issues, to places and their histories, and to oneself. Benefits novice and experienced educators equally by capitalizing on members’ situated knowledge, as well as the knowledge available through strong community connections. Fosters effective mentorship of novice educators as well to the continued professional development of established educators 
Serves to invite and support children, teachers, parents, undergraduate and graduate students, and child study 
Responsive & Integrative Pedagogy. Critical Decision-making. Creative Problem solving. Best practices in pedagogy and curriculum development 
Professional development. Classroom-based research and observation. Teacher Inquiry. Collaborative action research 

Trafalgar School for Girls

3495 Simpson Street
Montreal, Quebec
H3G 2J7
Our diverse school community challenges and inspires girls to embrace learning, be confident, and shape a better world.