Your Learning Network
April 2018

Tips for productive teams
..and check out VASCD's upcoming events!
Getting Stuck: When Groups Lose Productivity
Thomas Van Soelen
Why did we even meet today?
What was that all about?
I can’t get that hour back.

Educators have a high bar when it comes to using time. They realize time is a precious commodity and organize their classrooms to gain a high amount of time on task, reduce down time, and lessen transition time. They use a variety of timers and stopwatches on smartphones and smartboards to monitor time. Unfortunately, this determination to use time well does not always transfer in groups of colleagues.
As a learning community consultant, I participate and lead teacher collaboration, planning and PLC meetings each week. I have found four gaps in teacher leader practice which greatly impact a group’s productivity. These four are offered below. Click the buttons for suggestions on how to ameliorate each of these gaps.

Assuming agreement.
Okay, second grade teachers, we need to decide when we will finish this unit and give the summative. Would next Friday work for everyone?
Certainly seems like an innocuous start, but many teacher leaders reading this text could tell their own story of how this one question led to a 30 minute rabbit-trail. The problem isn’t th e content: it is important for groups of teachers to check in on logistics with each other. The real issue is the assumption underneath: we all need to agree.

Assuming each person has the discipline needed for collaboration.
Discussion protocols have been popularized in schools since the late 1990s. Promulgated primarily from the premier organization for this kind of work, the School Reform Initiative , skillful and trained facilitators can use a wide variety of protocols and processes to help groups accomplish the work they need done.

Assuming next actions are for everyone.
Examining data in teacher teams is commonplace. What, unfortunately, is less common are productive data meetings where clear next steps are articulated and to whom those next steps apply. 

Assume everyone is part of everything.
Teacher teams are often of a size where they fall into the trap of everyone doing everything together or tasks are assigned to individuals. What is left are independents who happen to be occasionally together, and when they do get together they (try to) accomplish everything as a unit.

Getting stuck is frustrating for the teacher leader and the teachers too. If we want to spend time wisely with each other, these actions by teacher leaders are vital to the collective efficacy of the group.

Thomas Van Soelen consults with schools and school districts on
instructional strategies, learning communities, and leadership development.
Learn and network at these upcoming events!
High School Innovation Forum at Magna Vista High School,
Henry County Schools
April 18
2018 PreK- Kindergarten Conference:
Trauma- Sensitive Practice
June 18, JMU
Co-sponsored by JMU TTAC
Student-Centered Coaching with Diane Sweeney
Sept 5 - 6
Co-hosted by
Chesterfield County Schools