Adaptive Schools Foundation Training at TIS

Training Bridget Doogan leads TIS faculty & staff in the Adaptive Schools Foundation Seminar (Day 1 – September 8, 2022)

43 TIS employees are participating in the Adaptive Schools Foundation Seminar from September 8-11, 2022. The goal of Adaptive Schools Training is to improve “the pattern of adult interactions in a school” (ie, teams) to positively influence school climate and, most importantly, instructional outcomes for students. When teachers, support staff, and leadership form high-functioning groups, students learn more.

The founders of the adaptive school movement are Bob Garmston and Bruce Wellman. They formed the Thinking Collaborative about 20 years ago, and it this groundbreaking work has helped organizations design teams and systems that know their purpose and identity. Using group dynamic techniques and setting group norms through dialogue and discussion, teams, whether it be a faculty or an economics class, can perform more efficiently by focusing on what is most valuable to members. Garmstan and Wellman’s work has become the Thinking Collaborative and can be broken down into Cognitive Coaching, Adaptive Schools, and Habits of Mind. They were way ahead of their time, and schools around the world implement these techniques to form better teams.

TIS last performed the training in 2014 and we are bringing it over the next two years so the majority of our faculty and staff will be recently trained in the concepts. The school goal is to improve collaboration and the functioning of team through the school. Adaptive Schools states the goal of the seminar is to “develop our collective identity and capacity as collaborators, inquirers and leaders.” My goal for the 4-day workshop is to improve the way I lead meetings and to develop middle level leaders and teachers to do the same. The techniques can be used in a classroom by teachers or by facilitators leading adult groups. I hope my capacity as a communicator grows and our meetings are more productive.

“Adaptive” is an interesting term. The seminar defines adaptive as “changing form while clarifying identity”. The pandemic certainly made us change form and as we are coming out of the trauma of the pandemic, we are clarifying our identity. With suspension of normal activities for over 2 years, I find myself asking the focus questions of Who are we? Who do we want to be? Why are we doing this? and Why are we doing this this way? over and over again as we bring back “normal” school activities and events.

My big takeaway from Day One is the idea of the difference between dialogue and discussion. Professional deliberation is different than regular conversation. The Latin root deliberate means “to weigh,” as in evaluate, assess or ponder.The Greek dialogos means “through” and “word.” Dialogue is all about listening to each other for a common understanding the problem and everyone’s view of the problem. This needs to take place first because “misunderstanding lies beneath most intragroup and intergroup conflict.” The Latin root discutere means to “shake apart,” and the goal of a discussion is understanding AND a decision that everyone in the group can support or at least live with.

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