This guide is intended for groups of six to 10 people who go through the whole process together. There are five discussion sessions, each of which is designed to last 45 to 75 minutes, depending on what you can arrange in your school. Larger groups will ideally last at least an hour to ensure everyone has adequate time to participate.
The discussions are designed to be used in order. They cover the following:
These groups are likely to be more productive if, at the beginning of each discussion, one participant volunteers to facilitate the conversation. The facilitator does not need to be an expert on the topic. In fact, the main requirement is that the facilitator should avoid giving his or her own opinions and focus instead on making sure everyone else has a chance to speak.
The facilitator should:
There should also be a note taker for each discussion. This too can be a role that is alternated among group members.
It may be helpful to set some ground rules for these discussions. Following are some guidelines that are often used in small-group dialogues:
Do you want to modify or delete any of these guidelines? Are there others you want to add? It is a good idea to review these guidelines quickly at the beginning of each session.
Working more collaboratively requires support and participation from teachers and from school and district administrators. To prepare for these discussions, teachers and principals should consider the following questions to ensure that the discussions are as productive as possible:
What can research tell us about the role of leadership in fostering collaboration?
Among the conclusions of a survey of nearly 6,000 Chicago elementary school teachers is that principals can nurture “a normative climate in which innovative professional activity is supported and encouraged.”1 They found that schools where teachers said their principals exhibited inclusive leadership and encouraged innovation and risk taking were more likely to have a “professional community” among teachers.2 And according to researcher David Piercey's perspective on what the literature has shown, principals and other school leaders can model collaboration in ways that teachers can adopt.3
Does this match with your experiences of your principal or other school leadership?