One of the key messages that I like to send to any professional learning team that is just beginning their work together is that getting good collaborative structures in place can make or break any group of teachers.
What do I mean by “collaborative structures?”
Collaborative structures are the practices and processes that you use to coordinate your work. Meeting agendas are collaborative structures. Decision-making protocols are collaborative structures. Conflict resolution processes are collaborative structures.
Here are three tools that I think are good starting points for teams trying to build collaborative structures:
Team Meeting Agenda: Team meeting agendas are the simplest yet most important structuring tool for any professional learning team. Agendas help to provide structure for every meeting. Sadly, teams often have poorly developed agendas that result in unfocused collaborative time. If that sounds like you, give this agenda a whirl.
Structuring Data Conversations: Let’s face it—the best professional learning teams are having meaningful conversations around data sets, but MOST professional learning teams just haven’t mastered the art of a good data conversation yet. This document is designed to walk teams step by step through a positive, healthy review of results.
Managing Team Based Conflict: Managing conflict is probably the PLC process that is most important AND most intimidating. Until your learning team can productively approach and resolve conflict between members, it will never get to the point where conversations are significant and meaningful. This handout should provide a tool for working through professional disagreements with your peers.
I sure hope that these collaborative structuring tools—which are a part of the tools that Parry Graham and I share in Building a Professional Learning Community at Work—are helpful to your learning team!