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Adaptive Schools

Robert Garmston & Bruce Wellman


The goal of Adaptive Schools Seminars is to develop the collective identity and capacity of organization members as collaborators and inquirers and leaders.

Human organizations and individuals can be adapted to a specific niche or can become adaptive, flexing to meet the challenges of a changing world. To be adaptive means to change form while clarifying identity. Form can be the ways we structure our organizations and the ways in which we do our work. New challenges require new and increasingly flexible forms. Identity is about who we believe we are as an organization and as professionals.

School-wide improvements in student learning accrue in schools whose work cultures are collaborative. The growing body of work on the impact of collaborative adult professional cultures in schools offers a positive and productive means for organizing the work of on-going school improvement. In such cultures, professionals learn to talk about the hard-to-talk-about details of learning, teaching, assessment and the cumulative effects of their work with students. Productive teams are developed, not born.


The Adaptive Schools Foundation and Advanced Seminars present a productive, practical set of ideas and tools for developing collaborative groups in becoming effective and better equipped to resolve complex issues around student learning. The work of the Adaptive Schools Seminars is to develop the resources and capacities of the organization and of individuals to cohesively respond to the changing needs of students and society.


work together

The training not only explores what makes teams effective, but how to develop skills as facilitators and informed group members in informal and formal settings, in small and large groups. It takes participants beyond the idea of professional learning communities to the actual implementation, describing specific ways to weave the collaborative fabric of a faculty, develop group member skills, and acquire the principles and understandings to engage in a continuous cycle of team and individual improvement. Adaptive Schools is the “how” of professional learning communities: how to behave in groups, how to lead them, and how to facilitate them for improved leading, teaching, and learning.

In the four-day Adaptive Schools Foundation Seminar, participants will develop:

  • An increased capacity to initiate, develop and sustain high functioning groups

  • New lenses for diagnosing the stages and phases of group development

  • An expanded repertoire of practical facilitation tools

  • Understandings of when and how to engage groups in dialogue and discussion, the limitations, forms and values of each

  • Skills to move groups beyond consensus to common focus

  • Ways to value and use dissension, argument and conflict

  • Strategies for keeping group members on track, on topic, energized and resourceful

foundation seminar


Learn how to build collaborative professional cultures that improve student achievement. This practical leadership institute immerses you in a supportive and stimulating seminar environment to explore the latest findings in developing strong professional learning communities that share collective responsibility for student learning.

You will acquire new conceptual maps, increased confidence, and expanded strategies for strengthening adult working groups. Join us to extend your skills in promoting a spirit of collective inquiry within groups, resolving conflict, developing consensus and harnessing collaborative energies toward sustained improvement.


This learning experience is specially designed for educators who conduct meetings, serve on work teams, site councils, decision-making groups and faculty committees. Site-based and district leadership teams are encouraged to attend. Prerequisite is completion of four day Adaptive Schools Foundation seminar.

In the Adaptive Schools Advanced Seminar participants will develop:

  • an increased capacity to initiate, develop and sustain high functioning learning communities.

  • an expanded repertoire of practical facilitation tools.

  • new lenses and tools for working with conflict.

  • skills for modeling and teaching patterns of professional inquiry.

  • templates and tools for teaching collaborative group skills to others.

advanced seminar

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