Starting the Coordinator’s Toolkit: Strategies for Collaboration

When we shift our minds to the function of leading adult learning, what might be some tools that we can use to get started? This post presents a few tools for consideration, which have proved useful and transfer across different contexts. The reader will have to figure out which ones might work for your context and teams.

How can the coordinator support teams in clarifying goals?

Setting the Meeting Purpose

It’s important to be purposeful in setting meetings and conversations with the team. Clarifying the purpose of why we are gathering and what our expectations are for the gathering is a clarification that goes a long way for adult learners. It answers the questions, What are we meeting for? Why are we doing this, this way?

It helps to clarify the purpose because interactions can result in different outcomes. Garmston and Wellman, co-authors of Adaptive SchoolsSM distinguishes between two ways of talking, namely dialog and discussion.

Dialog vs discussion
Dialog and Discussion are two types of interactions for collaborative meetings.

What if when we set an agenda for a meeting, we specify the type of talk we will do as a group? This clarity might help each person to join the meeting with a clear expectation of what it is for, what he or she can bring as an engaged contributor, and the possible outcome of the meeting. Some people get frustrated at meetings because the meeting was designed as a dialog to arrive at shared understanding instead of a decision. Clarifying the purpose of the meeting is a simple way to avoid teacher frustration.

Sample call to meeting

A sample call to a meeting specifying the purpose and intended outcome of the meeting.

Operationalising practices

It’s helpful for groups to understand how elements of a programme look like, sound like and feel like. This visible thinking strategy is useful in operationalising many of our programme concepts.

Look Like, Sound Like, Feel Like
Operationalising a practice using a Visible Thinking Routine. Icons by Noun Project.

Focusing the work

Consider this number: 73 practices for implementation (and this is just for MYP). We have a lot of work to accomplish. What we want is to carefully create action plans, which thoughtfully spread out the time and energy our teams invest in making it happen. Time and energy are finite resources in our schools and in our selves. We don’t want to scatter those precious resources in a flurry of what might be termed organisational attention-deficit-disorder (organisational ADD).

Depending on your context, some practices might be more of a priority than others. It’s important to engage the team in prioritising the work.

One protocol that is transferrable across contexts is the Focusing Four by Thinking Collaborative. The purpose of the Focusing Four protocol is to collaboratively identify those things on the team’s to-do list, which seem most urgent and most important at a given time.

The protocol is a great tool for allowing all voices in a group to be heard and create ownership of the action plans.

Protocols help to architect effective meetings. Below are some more protocols and visible thinking strategies that you might find useful as you develop your team into a collaborative and reflective force in implementation.

The Visible Thinking Core Routines

Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education has these well-tested thinking routines, which serve to make a group’s thinking visible to them.

See-Think-Wonder is a valuable routine for looking at stimulus material, such as a video provocation about what it means to be an inquiry teacher (Kath Murdoch).

Compass Points is useful for taking a snapshot of where teachers might be in terms of a practice or an initiative. For example, when a faculty rolled out a pilot for student-lead conferences. The compass points served as an end-of-meeting collaborative reflection and made it clear to the coordinator where support might be needed most to make the pilot happen.

Thinking Collaborative Protocols

Thinking Collaborative is an organization whose mission is to Maximize capacity in individuals and organizations.

To use the protocols more effectively (and to understand what the terms and concepts mean), it may be helpful to read Garmston and Wellman’s Adaptive Schools sourcebook, or to attend an Adaptive SchoolsSM seminar.

Reflection questions:

  • How might a coordinator architect meetings so that all team members engage? Gain ownership of goals? Learn?
  • How might these protocols and resources support the coordinator’s work in developing collaboration as a resource for implementation?

Suggested further reading:

Easton, L. B. (2009). Protocols for professional learning. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Garmston, R. J., & Wellman, B. M. (2016). The adaptive school: A sourcebook for developing collaborative groups. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.

Author: alavina

Cognitive Coach and author. I simplify personal power so you can use mental resources and find pathways to your goals, be more productive and feel in control every day.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.