Adaptive Schools Foundation Seminar Continues (Days 2 & 3)

The second and third days of the Adaptive Schools Foundation Seminar focused on the fundamentals of holding effective meetings. My first big takeaway is the group needs to define its identity and purpose. Garmston writes “the most powerful way to change behaviors is to change identity.” That means inculcating effective habits of group members and providing the necessary structure for successful meetings. TIS is a complex system, and that means “adapting to changes, dealing with conflicts and constant learning” as Larry Cuban from the National Education Policy Center writes. A leader can influence a group’s identity through using the Adaptive Schools fundamentals such as the Norms of Collaboration, clarity of purpose, working agreements, and purposeful agendas.

I liked the three meeting purposes. Every meeting should have a Task (the ‘what’), a Process (how are we going to do it) and Group Development Goals (“who” we are and “who” we hope to be). It is basic, but often with the hectic pace of schools, this structure gets overlooked. It was made clear in Day 3 that of course, no one has the luxury of unlimited planning time for meetings, but for the high-stakes meetings, it is necessary. These concepts can also be used for daily or weekly meetings and just a little forethought in the structure of a meeting will go a long way.

The Seven Norms of Collaborative Work are pretty straightforward.

  • Pausing – allow of thinking time before responding or asking a question; also good for when meetings get heated or unproductive.
  • Paraphrasing – clarifying a member’s contribution to help drive forward the meeting;
  • Posing Questions – inviting questions to get the group thinking
  • Putting ideas on the table – use plurals and possibilities language to generate comment and focus on the idea, not the person who proposed the idea
  • Providing data – helpful for the group to construct shared understanding of the issue
  • Pay attention to self and others – “reading the room”
  • Presuming Positive Intentions – I used to say “Most Respectable Interpretation” (same concept)

The next fundamental piece that we learned in Day 3 is the Structure of Meetings. All meetings should have the following structure:

  1. Welcome / Audience Connect
  2. Inclusion Strategy – bringing people’s consciousness to the task at hand
  3. Introduction / Overview – context of the meeting within the larger school system or work leading up to this point.
  4. Outcomes – most important feature; clarity of what will be accomplished is the “x factor”
  5. What, Why, How? – clarify that the topic is in the group’s mandate “sandbox”, what is the benefit of the initiative and how we will reach a decision
  6. Visible Charted Agenda – AS trainers have simple, beautiful charts to confirm identity and tasks on hand

The information provided to us on decision-making will probably be one of the most useful. I’ve been criticized for being too slow in reaching decisions and want to improve. I think part of the problem is I need to be clearer on the process, including, the timeline. I really want to take to heart the three roles of groups in decision-making. A group leader can ask groups to fill three possible roles:

  1. Inform Your job is to give me the best information possible and my job is to inform me. My job is to make a decision. It is important to show them how their information will be used in the decision.
  2. Recommend You will make a recommendation to me or a committee which has the final say.
  3. Decide – The group makes the decision, not me. I’ll live with your decision.

Garmston and Wellmen, the founders of Adaptive Schools think this is so important that a leader should name the ultimate decision-maker 4 times. In the introduction, during the conversation, at the conclusion of the meeting and in the minutes of the meeting.

I will also use the five examples of decision-making strategies that are explained on pages 73 to 75 in our Learning Guide. They are way of collecting feedback from team members in an organized way that focuses on criteria to evaluate ideas or initiatives.

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