Friday, September 3, 2010

Working in Effective Teams

Today one of my colleagues sent me "The Assessment Agenda - Time for a Check Up" by Kath Murdoch.  This document explores what we need to do to work together in effective teams.   In the international schools where I have worked I have always been seen as part of a team.  These teams have met together usually weekly, sometimes more frequently, to plan the curriculum collaboratively and to take collective responsibility for the students we teach.  Kath writes about how some teams work better than others and concludes that this is often because the team is continually reflecting on its own work.

There are many advantages of working in teams:  greater accountability for individuals and more critical discussion about the decisions made about student learning.  She quotes Mike Shmoker:
True collaboration is a discipline - a fragile, high maintenance set of practices and attitudes that need constant care and attention.  
Kath lists the attributes of strong teams:

  • Purpose - connecting the team's purpose with the student learning outcomes
  • Time - focusing on the important and not just "administrivia"
  • Relationships - building both personal and professional relationships so that teams are not just warm and fuzzy with no real substance to the work, neither are they focussed exclusively on the curriculum, teaching and learning.  Without personal relationships between the members, trust is low and some members may lack confidence when raising questions or communicating their thoughts, ideas and feelings.
  • Environment - often it is best to have a dedicated meeting room, rather than meeting in someone's classroom or the staff room.
  • Learning centred - team meetings should centre on student learning outcomes but at the same time should be seen as professional learning and development for teachers.
  • Routines - it is helpful for everyone to know the protocols - who develops the agenda, who takes notes and so on.
  • Communication - diversity of opinions can cause problems or be energising depending on how they are handled.  It's best to acknowledge differences and important to listen to and respect others' points of view.  The IB Mission Statement says we should understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.  It's healthy to question ourselves and other members of the team and to invite others' opinions as part of professional inquiry.
  • Reflection - take the time to check what is working in the team and what needs to be improved.
As an ICTL (information and communication for teaching and learning) teacher supporting teachers from Kindergarten to Grade 5 I attend many collaborative planning meetings each week, including a Team Leaders meeting.  These 8 points above are very helpful to me in determining the dynamics of each group and what can be done to improve the effectiveness of some teams.

Photo Credit:  Working Together Teamwork Puzzle Concept by lumaxart - Scott Maxwell

1 comment:

  1. I like Kath's attributes for a good team. One that stood out to me was having a meeting room as opposed to meeting in a classroom. I have found the same to be true. At CHC we were very lucky to have a Starbucks in the school with a beautiful patio looking over the mountains. This made for more productive, relaxed meetings.