Sustaining the Thinking Collaborative Journey

Trust

noun
1.reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.
2.confident expectation of something; hope.
3.confidence in the certainty of future payment for property or goods received; credit (Dictionary.com)
“Trusting Collegial Relationships Build Strengths in Learning Systems” by Destini Martin, Michelle Pourchot, Rachel Blundell, and Kimberly Ross (Learning Forward, February 24, 2017)

This article tells the successful story of principal collaboration, collegial trust, vulnerability and support in the Sante Fe (Texas) ISD. The authors begin their article with this powerful statement that echoed the closing statement of last week’s Sustaining the Journey. They write: “Educators believe that a strong student-teacher relationship can produce positive outcomes in student achievement. We witness this in our schools on a daily basis. Students who have typically displayed problematic behaviors with engagement in learning show success within objectives due to the emotional bond they share with their teacher. Educators also believe that collaborative teaching teams are more effective than those working in isolation.”

That statement echoes and reinforces Adaptive Schools Six Factors of the Professional Community: compelling purpose, shared standards, and academic focus; collective efficacy and shared responsibility for student learning; social capital emerging from teacher talk about learning; collaborative cultures communally applying effective teaching practices; and relational trust in one another, in students, and in parents. These elements improve school climate and maximize student performance.

The authors were particularly interested in the “impact of trusting collegial relationships among school principals and the effect on an entire school system.” The authors — four principals in the system who explored this concept — set out to join forces in a trust-based relationship to solve school-community issues. They suspected that collaboration would be more productive than working in isolation.

The principal-authors asked the question: “How do you build trust and vulnerability among principals?” One of the first answers was found in “leadership.” At the very top of their district leadership, the principals found support with their superintendent. The superintendent set the “standard for transparency and provided resources that allowed these relationships to build.” One is reminded of the Adaptive Schools Goal: to develop our collective identities and capacities as collaborators, inquirers, and leaders, in complex systems. Sante Fe ISD set out to create their own Principal PLC in order to “develop and facilitate efficacious, thoughtful collaborative groups” (Adaptive Schools purpose). They wrote about powerful protocols that they learned which supported their efforts. Again, one is reminded of the concepts, tools, and strategies of Adaptive Schools and their ability to nurture collaboration and trust through psychological safety. The Norms of Collaboration, in particular, give people common language and dispositional tools. The authors write, “The trust we had established allowed us to do this with ease because we had faith in each other and our cohesive group to build high-quality professional learning and systems.”

The authors also cited the importance of “deep reflective practices.” They talk about supporting each other to “articulate clear plans for growth.” One immediately thinks about the impact that Cognitive Coachingsm would have if individuals were trained in the planning, reflecting, problem re-solving, and calibrating maps, along with the coaching tools and capabilities. Also, systems would be enhanced with the concepts, norms, and strategies of Adaptive Schools because the work strives to support (systems) in developing and facilitating efficacious, thoughtful collaborative groups. Finally, the mission of Thinking Collaborative, Adaptive Schools and Cognitive Coaching, is to provide individuals and organizations with the strategies, skills and concepts to establish and sustain structures for thinking and collaborating that result in increased performance and resourcefulness.

Trust

Book

noun
1.reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.
2.confident expectation of something; hope.
3.confidence in the certainty of future payment for property or goods received; credit (Dictionary.com)

Patrick Lencioni describes five team “dysfunctions” in what he calls a “leadership fable.” The elements of a dysfunctional team are:
1. Absence of trust
2. Fear of conflict
3. Lack of commitment
4. Avoidance of Accountability
5. Inattention to results
In the “Five Dysfunction of a Team Facilitator’s Guide,” Lencioni writes, “The first and most important dysfunction a team must learn to overcome is absence of trust. Trust is all about vulnerability. Team members who trust one another can be comfortable being open, even exposed, to one another around their failures, weaknesses, even fears.”
The author stresses that if team members are not “afraid to admit the truth about themselves (they) are not going to engage in the kind of political behavior that wastes everyone’s time and energy, and, more important makes the accomplishment of results an unlikely scenario.” Lencioni believes that team members must be comfortable being vulnerable and unafraid to be open and honest with one another. They must be willing to task risks and to make mistakes. They need to be comfortable saying to one another things like, “I need help,” or even “I was wrong.” Megan Tschannen-Moran, in Trust Matters, writes that when mistakes are made and trust is broken, individuals must follow the “Four A’s of Absolution. Individuals must be brave enough to “admit they are wrong,” “apologize,” “ask for forgiveness,” and “amend their ways.” Demonstrations of credibility, honesty, integrity, and vulnerability open the way to the dispositional Norms of Collaboration, “presuming positive intentions” and “paying attention to self and others.”
Lencioni states the negative effects of a team without trust. In an attempt to positively reframe those possible behaviors, his original list from the Facilitator’s Guide has been modified. When trust exists, team members will:
• Reveal their weaknesses and mistakes to one another
• Ask for help or provide constructive feedback
• Offer help to people outside of their own areas of responsibility
• Presume positive intentions and aptitudes of others
• Recognize and tap into one another’s skills and experiences
• Maximize time and energy managing their behaviors for effect
• Forgive and move forward
• Look for opportunities to be collegial and demonstrate personal regard for each other
All in all, Lencioni’s book further demonstrates the need for trust in adaptive, high functioning organizations and in schools where climate has a direct effect on student achievement.

Trust

noun
1.reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.
2.confident expectation of something; hope.
3.confidence in the certainty of future payment for property or goods received; credit (Dictionary.com)

This month’s Sustaining the Journey will focus on Trust and its importance in organizations and in schools.

In Day One of Cognitive Coachingsm Foundation Seminar, three types of Trust are explored: organic, relational, and contractual. If organic trust is the “blind trust”, the unquestioning faith that one person puts into an organization or an individual, contractual trust is the articulated, explicitly stated, often legal document that one agent can put in place with another to insure that the provisions are carried out and the agreement is fulfilled. Mid-way between organic and contractual trust is relational trust, a far more tenuous belief in another that is based on consistency over time and validation of stated intentions. “It is founded on both beliefs and observed behavior and requires that expectations are validated through behavior.” In relational trust, judgments are drawn from behavior, how people feel, and beliefs about others’ intentions.

Additionally, Garmston and Wellman in Adaptive Schools, describe six factors that work together to provide a basis for shared responsibility for student success in Professional Communities. Those six factors are:
1. Compelling purpose, shared standards, and academic focus
2. Collective efficacy and shared responsibility for student learning
3. Social capital emerging from teacher talk about learning
4. Collaborative cultures communally applying effective teaching practices
5. Relational trust in one another, in students, and in parents
6. Individual and group learning based on ongoing assessment and feedback (Adaptive Schools, 3rd edition, Chapter 7, 2016)
It is that demonstration of benevolence, shared and diminishing vulnerability, integrity, ability/competence, positive presuppositions, honesty, and mutual respect that form the bedrock of enhanced student achievement and school climate.

The expectation that certain role identities validate their intentions through actions and social exchanges is important for a positive school climate. According to Bryk and Schnieder, Trust in Schools, (2003), those role relationships are:
a. school-professional to community member;
b. teacher to principal;
c. teacher to teacher;
d. and teacher to student.

With each of these role identities there are certain expectations and obligations. The school (principals and teachers) expect parents to get their children to school on time and to support the school’s Codes of Conduct and academic expectations as it functions in “loco parentis.” At the same time, parents expect that teachers will fairly treat their children and provide the best possible educational environment for them. According to Hoy, Tartar, and Woolfolk-Hoy in their white paper “Academic Optimism,” (2006), faculty trust in one another, in students, and in parents is a crucial affective component. The school personnel to parent trust relationship is a particularly important factor in socio-economically challenged settings. Parents must feel that the school staff trusts that the parents are doing the best job that they can. It may not be the same job the teacher or the principal may do, but it is the best job the parent can do given his/her set of circumstances. Power is a shared and mutually dependent commodity in a school community, and all parties remain vulnerable to each other. Decreasing this sense of vulnerability is a key ingredient in the development of relational trust. So, for support function relationships to succeed in a school, trust must be established through competence, integrity, respect, and confidentiality. And for a school to become a high-functioning “professional community learning,” relational trust must be fostered and developed along with collective efficacy and academic emphasis (Hoy, Tartar, and Woolfolk-Hoy, 2006). In the end, it “makes it more likely that people in schools will begin and continue the kinds of activities necessary to improve student achievement.”

Holding a Confident Stance

This month Sustaining the Thinking Collaborative Journey is focusing on some of the micro-skills of presenting that are addressed in the Presenters Forum. The Forum is available to anyone wishing to become a more masterful presenter and to those wanting to become an Adaptive Schools or Cognitive CoachingSM trainer in association with Thinking Collaborative. This year’s Presenters Forum will be held in Lone Tree, Colorado, on September 18-21, 2017. Registration is available online at http://www.thinkingcollaborative.com/presenters-forum/.

What is the best way to convey a confident stance when presenting? Begin by standing still as you present. Wandering as you speak is a visual distraction from your message. Keep your feet wide, matching your shoulders. This gives you balance and stability and conveys confidence. When you are not intentionally gesturing, hands should be at your sides rather than crossed in the front or back.

What are you aware of in how you hold your body when presenting? Invite a participant to offer feedback or use video to study your own patterns. Small changes can convey greater self-assurance to your audience.

Source: Wezowski, K. Harvard Business Review. April 6, 2016.

Using Your Palms in a Presentation

This month Sustaining the Thinking Collaborative Journey is focusing on some of the micro-skills of presenting that are addressed in the Presenters Forum. The Forum is available to anyone wishing to become a more masterful presenter and to those wanting to become an Adaptive Schools or Cognitive CoachingSM trainer in association with Thinking Collaborative. This year’s Presenters Forum will be held in Lone Tree, Colorado, on September 18-21, 2017. Registration is available online at http://www.thinkingcollaborative.com/presenters-forum/.

In Thinking Collaborative’s Presenters Forum we offer tips on nonverbal tools and their effects on a presentation. One that is emphasized is palms up versus palms down as you emphasize points. Palms up signals openness, honesty, and welcoming messages. Palms down is a gesture of power and control and exerting strength and authority. A simple shift in position of hands can send a different message to an audience. Once again, this week, notice how you are using your hands and practice in authentic situations. Ask yourself what feels most natural to you and strive to become both conscious and craftsmanlike in your efforts.

Source: Wezowski, K. Harvard Business Review. April 6, 2016.

Gesturing to Align with Your Intention

This month Sustaining the Thinking Collaborative Journey is focusing on some of the micro-skills of presenting that are addressed in the Presenters Forum. The Forum is available to anyone wishing to become a more masterful presenter and to those wanting to become an Adaptive Schools or Cognitive CoachingSM trainer in association with Thinking Collaborative. This year’s Presenters Forum will be held in Lone Tree, Colorado, on September 18-21, 2017. Registration is available online at http://www.thinkingcollaborative.com/presenters-forum/.

Becoming more conscious about one’s gestures requires practice and attention. Hands that are held like they are hanging on to a basketball inside that box of your chest and abdomen exude confidence and being in control. If that is uncomfortable and you want to appear more relaxed, holding your hands in a relaxed pyramid is another option.

Mastering how you use your hands to express your message is important to effective presentations. As you gain greater consciousness of your own gesturing patterns, take time to observe others and notice what is effective and ineffective.

Source: Wezowski, K. Harvard Business Review. April 6, 2016.

Mastering the Box

This month Sustaining the Thinking Collaborative Journey is focusing on some of the micro-skills of presenting that are addressed in the Presenters Forum. The Forum is available to anyone wishing to become a more masterful presenter and to those wanting to become an Adaptive Schools or Cognitive CoachingSM trainer in association with Thinking Collaborative. This year’s Presenters Forum will be held in Lone Tree, Colorado, on September 18-21, 2017. Registration is available online at http://www.thinkingcollaborative.com/presenters-forum/.

Presenters are often unaware of how their gestures can invite an audience or repel an audience. As you gesture during a presentation, staying close to the center of your body creates a more trustworthy presentation. Wezowski suggests imagining a box in front of your chest and belly and keeping your hand movements inside the box.

As you work with groups this week, practice this and perhaps even have someone collect video data for you to analyze later.

Source: Wezowski, K. Harvard Business Review. April 6, 2016.

The Power of the Story

This month Sustaining the Thinking Collaborative Journey is focusing on some of the micro-skills of presenting that are addressed in the Presenters Forum. The Forum is available to anyone wishing to become a more masterful presenter and to those wanting to become an Adaptive Schools or Cognitive CoachingSM trainer in association with Thinking Collaborative. This year’s Presenters Forum will be held in Lone Tree, Colorado, on September 18-21, 2017. Registration is available online at http://www.thinkingcollaborative.com/presenters-forum/.

How does a premier presenter choose to convey content? Carmine Gallo presents some interesting facts in advocating for the impact of telling a story as part of a presentation. She cites research from Uri Hasson at Princeton that showed fMRI evidence that speaker and listeners’ brains were in sync only when the speaker was telling a story.

She also reports on findings from a data firm, Quantified Communications, that found stories were 35% more persuasive and any other form of presentation and were 21% more likely to be remembered.

How are you incorporating stories into your presentations? How might you consider adding more to make your presentation more persuasive?

Co-Laboring: Building Inclusive Communities

Thinking Collaborative thanks Winn Wheeler, Assistant Professor at Bellarmine University for her contributions to Sustaining the Journey for the month of April.

Co-Laboring: Building Inclusive Communities

For the month of April, the Sustaining the Thinking Collaborative Journey will focus on ways in which the Adaptive Schools seminar can be an empowering force within a school district. Drawing upon the dissertation study of Wheeler (2016), each column will focus on a way that Adaptive Schools supports the development of collaboration within an organization. Earlier columns focused on practices which supported members of the Smith County School District (Kentucky)* in listening well to others and ensuring the participation of all voices. This week’s column will focus on the role of Adaptive Schools in building inclusive communities.

There is an adage in teaching that suggests. “Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” The same could be said of adults. For educators to work together effectively, there must be trust between group members formed from a sense of shared identification with the group. The work of Adaptive Schools suggests that inclusion “begins the process of moving a group from me-ness to we-ness” by “set[ting] norms, focus[ing] attention inside the room, generat[ing] energy, and help[ing] people understand who they are in relation to the group” (Garmston & Wellman, 2009, p. 103).

Within the Smith County Schools, one shift which occurred as a result of the Adpative Schools Seminar was a decision to focus on grounding and inclusion as groups met for various purposes. Many participants in the study reflected on how this influenced opportunities for collaboration. Michele Gilespie shared how the practice of inclusion was important for the development of community and trust within a group of preservice teachers she facilitated:
I always start with a grounding activity to ground us into our work or an inclusion activity because early on they don’t know each other and I want them to have a network amongst themselves. You know for seven years there has always been a group of new teachers every year I start. So, anyway, I’m pulling them together, helping them get to know each other as well as kind of letting them know what the school is all about. I want them to get to know me as well, so they trust me and will utilize me. (Michele Gilespie, Individual Interview, June 2013 from Wheeler, 2016, p.109)

In this instance, building trust opened the door for collaboration and problem solving to occur. Wren Monroe, a lead teacher who participated in the Adaptive Schools Foundation Seminar reported that the work was particularly effective in achieving two goals, “getting people to work together and [building] a sense of trust” (WM, Individual Interview, January 16, 2016, from Wheeler, 2016, p. 109).

In essence, taking time as people gather in meetings to build a sense of being presence and to engage in some sort of interaction which fosters the development of community helps build a sense of “we-ness.” Though this takes time, it is worth it because people have the relationships and trust that are needed in order to support successful collaboration.
The collective value of these practices of listening well, ensuring voices are heard, and building an inclusive community are articulated by Krista Holland, agency trainer for Smith County Schools:
The intent of Adaptive Schools is to build the functionality of humans that are doing the work. It’s focused on group development; it’s focused on people being effective facilitating, people being effective as group members, being able to effectively interact with one another and have that interdependence . . . [and] having efficacy. And we spend a whole lot of time creating task lists of what work needs to be accomplished and leave off developing the individuals that have to accomplish that work – so, what’s so important about Adaptive Schools is that if you don’t do that [develop the individuals accomplishing the work], the work does not get done well. (Krista Holland, Individual Interview, November 11, 2015, from Wheeler, 2016, p. 136)

At the heart of collaborating – “laboring with” is the notion it that working together provides opportunities for doing work better. Adaptive Schools offers a framework which makes this notion both feasible and operational.
Wheeler, W. C. (2016), Adaptive Schools: Investigating impact, continuity, and change in one school district. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from Electronic Theses and Dissertations. (Paper 2463).

https://doi.org/10.18297/etd/2463

Co-Laboring: Ensuring All Voices are Heard

Thinking Collaborative thanks Winn Wheeler, Assistant Professor at Bellarmine University for her contributions to Sustaining the Journey for the month of April.
Co-Laboring: Ensuring All Voices are Heard
For the month of April, the Sustaining the Thinking Collaborative Journey will focus on ways in which the Adaptive Schools seminar can be an empowering force within a school district. Drawing upon the dissertation study of Wheeler (2016), each column will focus on a way that Adaptive Schools supports the development of collaboration within an organization. In considering the practice “of co-laboring” – communication is key. In order to work well together, members must have the requisite skills to listen well. Last week the column focused on this need and the role that the collaborative norm of paraphrasing plays in ensuring that messages are heard. In addition to ensuring that individuals are heard, it is important for an organization to ensure a balance of participation, to ensure that there are means by which all voices can be heard.

The work of Adaptive Schools supported this practice in Smith County Schools* (Kentucky) through offering protocols and practices which invited (in structured ways) the engaged participation of organization group members. Structures shared in Adaptive Schools such as Say Something or Assumptions Wall* provided structures which engaged all members in participation. The high structure (e.g. everyone reflects before the discussion, groups members thoughtfully choose what they want to share, only two people at a time are talking) of Assumptions Wall allow a group facilitator to ensure participation of every group member when discussion is focused around topics which might be challenging or difficult. Of course, challenging and difficult work is often at the heart of teachers’ collaborative conversations. Having means to brooch such conversations gives rise to a culture in which they can happen without defensiveness or bitterness.
Ensuring voices are heard is also critical in terms of interacting with stakeholder groups. In the case of Smith County Schools, this need was particularly apparent when a new re-districting plan was developed. Meetings were held across the district over a period of months in order for parents and other community members to share their feedback about proposed plans. Meetings were facilitated by individuals who had experienced Cognitive CoachingSM and Adaptive Schools and specific practices (facilitator moves, intentional use of the norms of collaboration) were incorporated. The application of learning from these experiences proved powerful for community members as well as Smith County Schools employees. Retired Chief Academic Officer, Elizabeth
Griffin reflected on the benefits that occurred as a result of this decision:
At the end of the day if you look at redistricting, something in the past that had been terribly emotional, divisive, I’m telling you, it was the best situation you can have . . . And, here’s the other part – it was because of us going through that process that way that we actually got good information from the constituents that helped come up with a better plan. . . . (Elizabeth Griffin, Individual Interview, September 4, 2015 from Wheeler, 2016, p. 108)

Griffin’s comment eludes to the fact that the redistricting meetings went smoothly, a contrast from previous experiences. She also points to the notion that in hearing the different voices, better ideas emerged. Indeed, hearing and implementing the thoughts of constituents yielded a better plan than the one initially envisioned by district employees.

Comments from two individuals who helped facilitate these meetings suggest why the meetings were better. Rachel Zince and Margaret Turner, instructional coaches, described how they listened to parent feedback about the plan, paraphrased ideas, and recorded ideas so that everyone’s thinking could be reviewed and synthesized. This process of making everyone’s thinking public was important in terms of meeting the affective needs of constituents (many expressed their thanks and appreciation for having their voices heard), but perhaps more importantly this sharing of ideas led to better solutions for a challenge the school district was facing – re-districting students.

To “co-labor,” is to commit to a shared process, it is to be interdependent and this process, though powerful, is challenging. In using structures that balance participation, the Smith County Schools have implemented norms which embed a diversity of thought. Ultimately, the outcome of such sharing is the development of better ideas than would have been created by individuals or even smaller groups. Structures and beliefs outlines within the work of Adaptive Schools were powerful in making this process of listening and sharing possible.

Wheeler, W. C. (2016), Adaptive Schools: Investigating impact, continuity, and change in one school district. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from Electronic Theses and Dissertations. (Paper 2463).

https://doi.org/10.18297/etd/2463

Co-Laboring: Listening Well

Thinking Collaborative thanks Winn Wheeler, Assistant Professor at Bellarmine University for her contributions to Sustaining the Journey for the month of April.

Co-Laboring: Listening Well

For the month of April, the Sustaining the Thinking Collaborative Journey will focus on ways in which the Adaptive Schools seminar can be an empowering force within a school district. Drawing upon the dissertation study of Wheeler (2016), each column will focus on a way that Adaptive Schools supports the development of collaboration within an organization.
Within the Smith County School* district (located in Kentucky), the skill of listening well was developed first through Cognitive CoachingSM and later through Adaptive Schools. Participation in Cognitive CoachingSM became part of the initiation process for new administrators and instructional coaches within the district. As the district became more familiar with the work of Thinking Collaborative and eventually engaged deeply in the work of Adaptive Schools, greater awareness of the norms of collaboration emerged. The collaborative norm of paraphrasing focuses on the capacity of an individual to listen well. As noted on the Norms of Collaborative poster (found at http://www.thinkingcollaborative.com/norms-collaboration-toolkit/) , “efficient paraphrase[ing] assists the members of the group in hearing and understanding one another as they converse and make decisions” (“Norms of Collaboration – Annotated”).
In Smith County, paraphrasing became a powerful tool because of the intentional decision to teach others about it and to practice it in the context of professional learning as well as authentic contexts. Sylvia Miller, a literacy coach remembered how her former principal Cora Ellis (who at the time of the interview had become an administrator at the district level) supported team leaders within her school by teaching them about paraphrasing:
One of the things we did with them was practice paraphrasing. It made such a huge difference to their meetings. They would come back to comment and say how it worked and they would say that their role was like that of a facilitator. (Sylvia Miller, Individual Interview, July 18, 2013 from Wheeler, 2016, p. 173)

In these words, is the sense that teacher-leaders were able to facilitate conversations with their colleagues that were authentic; conversation that allowed members of the group to have a voice.

In a similar vein, Rachel Zince and Margaret Turner, both literacy coaches, expressed how paraphrasing was an important tool used in a series of meetings to get parent feedback about a re-districting plan.

When we did the redistricting and we were asked to help facilitate these groups of community members who came from all different areas in our community, some of whom were somewhat heightened emotionally and others who just wanted information or just wanted to give input. To be able to mediate that, we used some very specific Adaptive Schools strategies and philosophies – and to me it was a great growth experience to have participated in that because you got to see it with non-teachers. And you got to see how it really diffused some of the emotional aspect of it that needed to be taken out . . . because really we were genuinely involved in hearing input and. . . sometimes emotion can cloud that … (Rachel Zince, Individual Interview, September 1, 2015 from Wheeler, 2016, p. 108)

Rachel Zince emphasized the value of using paraphrasing as a tool to really hear individuals who were in a heightened emotional state. Margaret Turner focused on the value in terms of making individuals have assurance that their voices were heard. She remembered:

At the end of each session all of the parents [were] saying, “Thank you so much for listening to me,” they just want somebody to hear them. I think [that it] is going to diffuse a lot of the drama and negativity that can be associated with redistricting because the community sees it in a more positive light because they feel like they are being listened to. We’re paraphrasing what they are saying, we are capturing it, validating it . . . . (Margaret Turner, Individual Interview, June 2013, from Wheeler, 2016, p. 109)

In order for the members of an organization or a group to work together, it is imperative that group members work to really listen to one another. The work of Adaptive Schools advocates this practice through the norm of paraphrasing. Furthermore, the practice of paraphrasing is embedded explicitly into many of the strategies to support the work of groups. In Wheeler’s (2016) study of the Smith County schools, it is notable that individuals who were in situations where paraphrasing was used intentionally reported that they felt heard; they felt that their thoughts and ideas were valued and ultimately understood. This sense of being heard and the expectation of listening well to others is one key to the practice of being collaborative.

Thinking Collaborative. (2017). “Norms of collaboration toolkit.” Retrieved from:

http://www.thinkingcollaborative.com/norms-collaboration-toolkit/

Wheeler, W. C. (2016), Adaptive Schools: Investigating impact, continuity, and change in one school district. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from Electronic Theses and Dissertations. (Paper 2463).

https://doi.org/10.18297/etd/2463

Developing Co-Laborers

Thinking Collaborative thanks Winn Wheeler, Assistant Professor at Bellarmine University for her contributions to Sustaining the Journey for the month of April.

Adaptive Schools: Developing Co-Laborers

For the month of April, the Sustaining the Thinking Collaborative Journey will focus on ways in which the Adaptive Schools seminar can be an empowering force within a school district. Drawing upon the dissertation study of Wheeler (2016), each column will focus on a way that Adaptive Schools supports the development of collaboration within an organization.

The meaning of the word collaborate means “with or together” and labor. One trend in education over past decades has been to move away from teaching as an individual or isolated act to one that is collaborative. In essence, there is an underlying belief that the learning act is best done cooperatively. Put another way, the development of ideas as a group is more powerful than pedagogies focusing exclusively on a single individual or even a group of individuals working independently alongside one another.

Although seemingly simple, positive and appropriate collaboration is not something that just happens. Banking on the success of serendipitous collaboration is not enough to ensure that teachers and administrators are able to effectively work together to support significant student learning and growth. Since collaboration is a skill that must be developed and it doesn’t tend to occur naturally, it is necessary to consider opportunities for building the collaborative capacity of teachers and administrators. The Adaptive Schools seminar and its accompanying framework provide such an opportunity.

Wheeler’s (2016) research explored the role of Adaptive Schools in supporting development of collaboration in the Smith County Schools* (Kentucky).

Retired Chief Academic Officer of Smith County Schools , Elizabeth Griffin, reflected about the culture of the district when she entered:
I came walking in and it was one of my first days on the job and I remember at lunch time being absolutely mortified that these people weren’t talking to each other. It became apparent they had never worked together. And when I worked a little bit further with the group, I had teachers tell me, “We don’t think we should share because other schools might take it and get better test scores.” (Elizabeth Griffin, Interview, September 4, 2015 from Wheeler, 2016, p. 82)

In short, Griffin discovered that the schools were focused almost exclusively on their school having the highest scores on the state test. Lacking was a shared sense of purpose and how to achieve it. Over the course of the next few years, the district worked toward becoming more collaborative not only within schools, but across the district as well. In essence, professional collaboration in order to support student learning became part of the district’s vision and mission.

When the district began its journey with Adaptive Schools, this vision for collaboration existed, but the problem of putting the belief in action continued to pose a challenge. The work of Adaptive Schools provided a roadmap and directions for working toward a collaborative organization. Griffin, reflecting on her experience with Adaptive Schools, said this:

I think the big thing was it changed – it changed me. It made me better; it made me a lot better- as an administrator, as a leader. I felt like I was better able to do the two jobs that I had in Smith County because of that training. I think it helped me really make something that was a vision reality. I call it putting wheels on the bus. . . So, it – it changed me; it changed my practice and I feel like impacted people, some more than others, but it helped develop, create this culture that has now become more normal about everybody learning and growing together, that’s what I think has happened. And that’s a great thing to know – that those isolated walls – that how it used to be – has changed so much. (Elizabeth Griffin, Individual Interview, September 4, 2016).

Through the month of April, this column will suggest ways in which Adaptive Schools may be used to build the capacity of educators to “co-labor” – work together to support and ensure student learning.

Wheeler, W. C. (2016), Adaptive Schools: Investigating impact, continuity, and change in one school district. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from Electronic Theses and Dissertations. (Paper 2463).

https://doi.org/10.18297/etd/2463

Developmental Approach to Feedback and Collaboration: Self-Transforming Knowers

For the month of March, the Sustaining the Thinking Collaborative Journey will explore appropriate ways to provide feedback based on the work of Ellie Drago-Severson and Jessica Blum-DeStefano. Drago-Severson and Blum-DeStefano propose that “feedback for growth” intentionally differentiates feedback based on a person’s “ways of knowing” that is dependent on that person’s level of adult development.

They propose that adults make meaning in qualitatively different ways and that feedback should be offered how the receive can best hear it, learn from it, take it in, and improve their instructional and leadership practice as a result. The four different developmental systems, or ways of knowing are: instrumental, socializing, self-authoring, and self-transforming. Week four will focus on self-transforming knowers.

A small number of adults, about 9 to 10% of the U.S. population (Kegan & Lahey, 2009), are developing a way of knowing beyond self-authoring and into self-transforming. Self-transforming knowers are able to examine issues from other points of view (“How can I understand this more deeply?”). As both feedback givers and feedback receivers, self-transforming knowers see interconnection as a strength and opportunity (“How can we learn from each other and grow together?”). They appreciate receiving feedback as a chance to grow and develop a bigger version of themselves. They welcome others into their boundaries.

This week when you recognize a self-transforming knower, find their growing edge. They need other people to feel more complete and yet may need guidance in resolving tensions and contradictions around change. Gently support management of the implicit frustrations and tensions of transformation as self-transforming growers study others’ standards, ideologies, and beliefs.

Drago-Severson, E. & Blum-DeStefano, J. (2016). Tell me so I can hear: A developmental approach to feedback and collaboration. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
Drago-Severson & Blum-Stefano – WordPress.com

Developmental Approach to Feedback and Collaboration: Self-Authoring Knowers

For the month of March, the Sustaining the Thinking Collaborative Journey will explore appropriate ways to provide feedback based on the work of Ellie Drago-Severson and Jessica Blum-DeStefano. Drago-Severson and Blum-DeStefano propose that “feedback for growth” intentionally differentiates feedback based on a person’s “ways of knowing” that is dependent on that person’s level of adult development.

They propose that adults make meaning in qualitatively different ways and that feedback should be offered how the receive can best hear it, learn from it, take it in, and improve their instructional and leadership practice as a result. The four different developmental systems, or ways of knowing are: instrumental, socializing, self-authoring, and self-transforming. Week three will focus on self-authoring knowers.

Unlike socializing knowers, self-authoring knowers no longer look outside themselves for validation. They have strong ideologies and values and hold an internal capacity to prioritize their own perspectives about their feelings and their relationships (“How does this fit with my goals and my vision? and Am I living and working up to my full potential?”). They can weigh other people’s expectations in light of their own and can objectively reflect on both. When receiving feedback, they decide for themselves what they are doing well and what they want to improve. Conflict is viewed as a normal part of collaboration. And yet, self-authoring knowers may need help with bringing together divergent perspectives and may struggle taking in ideas that are diametrically opposed to their own.

This week when you recognize a self-authoring knower, find their growing edge. Encourage them to explore new and different values and ideologies. A self-authoring knower feels support when they share a relationship with someone they respect. Offer them opportunities to voice their own opinions, offer suggestions and critiques, and formulate their own goals.

Drago-Severson, E. & Blum-DeStefano, J. (2016). Tell me so I can hear: A developmental approach to feedback and collaboration. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
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Developmental Approach to Feedback and Collaboration: Socializing Knowers

For the month of March, the Sustaining the Thinking Collaborative Journey will explore appropriate ways to provide feedback based on the work of Ellie Drago-Severson and Jessica Blum-DeStefano. Drago-Severson and Blum-DeStefano propose that “feedback for growth” intentionally differentiates feedback based on a person’s “ways of knowing” that is dependent on that person’s level of adult development.

They propose that adults make meaning in qualitatively different ways and that feedback should be offered how the receive can best hear it, learn from it, take it in, and improve their instructional and leadership practice as a result. The four different developmental systems, or ways of knowing are: instrumental, socializing, self-authoring, and self-transforming. Week two will focus on socializing knowers.

While socializing knowers have developed greater capacities for abstract thinking and relating than instrumental knowers, socializing knowers are other-focused and make meaning by taking in feedback from others. They base their value and their performance on what others think of them. (“If that’s what you think of me, then that’s what I think of me.”). Socializing knowers are concerned with maintaining relationships and may need support developing their own ideas (“What do you want me to do or know?”).

This week when you recognize a socializing knower, find their growing edge. Invite them to express their own beliefs and then paraphrase their deep structure. Since socializing knowers orient strongly to the human qualities of a relationship (e.g. kindness, care), it is important to acknowledge and attend to these qualities when giving feedback as socializing knowers need approval to feel complete. Help them focus on their practice, not on themselves. Feedback perceived as negative can be difficult for socializing knowers as they view conflict as a threat to their very core. Support them by modeling and role-playing cognitive conflict.

Drago-Severson, E. & Blum-DeStefano, J. (2016). Tell me so I can hear: A developmental approach to feedback and collaboration. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.