Thursday, September 16, 2010

Working in Collaborative Learning Teams

Perhaps I should start by asking a question - can a team be made up of 2 people?  At our school there are 2 of us working in primary IT and there are 2 librarians who we also think of as part of our team.  Today, however, I met with just my fellow IT teacher to discuss how we work together in our team.

To facilitate this discussion we looked at Chapter 12 of Becoming a Learning School from the National Staff Development Council.  We both chose one point in this chapter that jumped out at us for discussion.  For me it was the section about conflict.  This is the part that meant the most to me:
Conflict is the irritant that shapes the pearl.  It brings possibilities for deeper relationships, new perspectives, appreciation of differences and clarity of beliefs that shape an individual's and the team's actions.  it is the disequilibrium that brings equilibrium.
Lots of teachers see conflict in their team as a bad thing - as a sign they are not working together effectively - however this paragraph showed me that if we avoid conflict at all costs "the result is a lack of authenticity."  For me if we are in agreement all the time, we just recycle the same old ideas.  Conflict makes us think of new ideas and of old things in a different way.  Later in the chapter we read:
Teams that handle conflict smoothly move to the performing stage of development quickly.  They use conflict to deepen their understanding of individual members' perspectives and to enrich their experiences.  They tap individual expertise so that all members benefit from the collective expertise they share.  They appreciate conflict for the opportunities and possibilities it holds rather than fear it or hide its existence.
For my colleague the part he was most in agreement with was the section on creating and maintaining a sense of team.  We also talked about the team -v- the individual and about leadership -v- management.  We talked about the importance of valuing the team and also valuing the individuals in the team.  We thought it was important to recognise:
When teams first come together they are merely a collection of individuals who have their own perspective, frames of reference and goals.  However as team members work together over time with a clear purpose and with success they develop a deep sense of interdependence.
We went on to look at the 4 stages of team development (forming, storming, norming and performing) and discussed where we saw our ICTL department.  We decided we were a team with a shared vision, goals and commitment, that our work was easier when done collaboratively and that teamwork is professional rewarding and highly productive.  At the end of our discussion we were in agreement with the opening paragraph of the chapter:
Collaborative professional learning teams do not result from luck or magic but from discipline and commitment.  A team is a collection of individuals who commit to working together to accomplish a common goal.  Team members choose to share their individual knowledge, talents and expertise so that the team benefits.  Every member takes personal and collective responsibility for the team's success.

Photo Credit:  Slim Pickings by Spitfirelas 

1 comment:

  1. To answer your first question, yes, I think that 2 constitutes a team when the two are working together! As always, really good reflection on what it means to be a team and what challenges teams face. I hope that this teaming is a successful one for you both.