04 August 2013

Six Tips for Facilitating Workgroups

People assume educators know how to facilitate teacher teams or workgroups with other adults, but my experience tells me we all have something to learn about facilitating work with our adult peers.

1)  Listen.  Just like students tell us when we are not reaching them, our adult peers let us know when a workgroup or team is not functioning effectively.  If we listen and respond to the needs of the group, we are more likely to accomplish our goals.  This might mean we have to adjust our own style and approach to meet the needs of the team/work group we are facilitating.  This doesn't mean we are losing track of who we are as an individual, but it does mean we are creating an environment conducive to learning and achieving our common goals.

2)  Set Goals.  We establish objectives and goals in classrooms, right?  We should also establish goals for how teams working together.  The goals should be established as a team and posted with the norms for the group.

3)  Establish Norms.  This one was hard for me to understand when I first started facilitating groups because I'm of the mind that everyone should just be nice and play fair!  Experience has shown me norms help ensure a team functions effectively toward
Mount St. Helen's 2013
achieving the stated goals.  (Sports teams have rules and procedures for a similar reason, right?  And, what about emergency teams who deal with volcanoes erupting?  They have protocols, too.  Side Note:  In 1980 when Mount St. Helen's erupted, protocols and procedures were what ensured rescue workers could save lives)  When groups are learning to work together, some even need to have the norms posted on the wall with protocols for what to do if someone in the group is not adhering to a norm.

4)  Use Protocols.  Speaking of emergency management teams, in education--we could learn from protocols that provide step-by-step approaches to a particular aspect of the work.  For example, teachers have become accustomed to using protocols for examining
student work.  Protocols can also be used for designing units of study or for sharing ideas.  Depending upon a particular group, more formal or less formal protocols might be needed.  It's a good idea to have a few protocols ready when facilitating a group anyway (e.g., a tuning protocol is almost essential).

5)  Reflect.  Educators who facilitate PD or other workgroup events are usually pretty good about distributing evaluations at the end of the day or end of the session, but how often do we debrief and reflect together following those individual reflection minutes?  Reflecting in a debriefing sort of format allows the good, the bad, and the ugly to be addressed immediately with decisions made as a group about how to change the working session for the next time. 

6)  Revise.  Educators are queens and kings of revision.  It's what we do in our quest to ensure learning meets the needs of students.  As a facilitator we must also think about learning from the reflection and debriefing time and revising.  Sometimes we can't wait until the end of a session--(just like we can't always wait until the end of a class period) some situations call for immediate revision.  This will be facilitated more naturally if we are following the first tip on this list--listening.

What do you think?  What am I missing from this list of tips for facilitation?  Do you have any resources to add to my list of favorites below?

Some of my favorite resources on facilitation and/or protocols.

Coalition of Essential Schools.

All Things PLC