How do we support the norms of collaboration becoming a meaningful and relevant part of professional conversations and go beyond simply posting them on a wall?
When I think about this question, I am reminded of an education course I took on reading comprehension.
I recall that my instructor placed a poster of comprehension strategies on the wall. Examining the list, I was fascinated. Where had these strategies come from? What did they mean? How was I going to use them as a teacher?
Throughout the education course, the instructor made appropriate references to the strategy poster in connection to the literature research we had been assigned. Through my reading about reading and practicing the strategies, I internalized and developed an understanding of the importance of timely explicit instruction that included ample opportunity for practice. As a result, I knew putting a poster of reading strategies on the wall of a classroom without explicit instruction would mean little to students and the internalizing of important skills.
As I moved along in my career, in professional learning contexts, I observed a tendency for posting the norms of collaboration without ever engaging in explicit instruction about the strategies or providing opportunities for practice. As educators, we know the importance of explicit instruction yet we struggle with taking the time to understand and learn the norms of collaboration for ourselves. In the end, this means we aren’t able to live the norms either.
Garmston and Wellman (2013) recognize that the norms are “deceptively simple” and yet they are infrequently evident in meetings (p.32). However, the use of the norms of collaboration have a powerful impact on what gets done for kids.
“When the seven norms of collaborative work become an established part of group life and group work, cohesion, energy, and commitment to shared work and to the group increase dramatically” (Garmston & Wellman, p. 31).
As a participant and co-presenter of the Adaptive Schools Foundation Seminar, an epiphany I have often heard is the increased awareness of the need for explicit instruction and practice of the norms. For myself, I recall suddenly seeing immense layers of rich learning opportunity for each norm.
Here are a few comments in response to the in-depth learning of the norms at the seminar:
“A significant learning for me was that the norms of collaboration need to be learned – that they aren’t inherent.”
“Learning the norms and having multiple opportunities to practice them is critical.”
“The norms of collaboration require practice!”
“Delving into the Noms of Collaboration has been life changing for me. It is changing my professional and personal practice.”
When we apply what we know for teaching kids to a professional learning context, we understand the importance of going beyond posting a list.
The norms of collaboration don’t live on a wall. I suggest we practice them.