Monday, April 15, 2013

Getting Teams out of the Intellectual Echo Chamber

Bill Ferriter, Parry Graham & Matt Wight's book,  Making Teamwork Meaningful, is a great resource to guide leaders in building great teams.  I particularly enjoyed their thoughts with respect to balancing the diverse philosophies with compatible personalities. 
When considering personnel combinations, there are two extremes to avoid.  At one end is the intellectual echo chamber, where members of a PLT all share identical pedagogical philosophies and practices. (Ferriter et al.)

Do you have Professional Learning Communities or Professional Echo Chambers?  Here are some thoughts on the differences between echo chambers and learning communities.

Echo Chambers have:

  • 1 voice that is repeated multiple times.
  • Many voices that do not offer new ideas.
  • 1 belief about instruction
  • A natural apprehension about new instructional ideas
  • A desire to keep things safe and calm for the group.

Learning Communities have:

  • Many voices that contribute to build one big idea.
  • Meaningful discourse about different ways to tackle new problems
  • A melting pot of beliefs about instruction. 
  • A natural desire to try new instructional practices
  • A deep rooted commitment to put kids' needs above their own.
When I process this idea of echo chamber, I think of a Gregorian Chant in the Catholic church.  The chant is unified as everyone must sound like one voice.  But, the purpose of PLT's is not to be unified in voice but in its purpose, serving all kids.  This requires all ideas, all voices and all people to come together to create the ultimate unified action.  Teams cannot serve all kids by following one voice or one philosophy.

The brilliance of team is found in the diversity of ideas, the menutia of meaningful dialogue and empowerment through experimentation.  Echo chambers don't possess any of these qualities. If teams want to move to the next level, they must embrace the messiness that it takes to be creative.  To get out of the vacuum of an echo chamber, individuals must move beyond echoing the words, whatever it takes, and truly do whatever it takes to meet the needs of all kids.

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