Tuesday, February 4, 2014

9 Questions to Optimize your Collaboration

Tick tock tick tock. The second hand never stops as your team collaborates. How your team spends its time defines what your team's core values are. How you expend those precious minutes in collaboration truly defines what your team's focus is.

Are you Maximizing your Collaboration? 

If your team comes together, and all they do is run through a check list of things to teach next week, your focus is on covering the content. If you spend 10 minutes talking about the cuteness of something that someone purchased for their class, you're collaborating about the icing, not the cake. Collaboration is not about talking together; it's about working together. 

Time is the most precious resource a team has at its disposal. Teams must optimize their time by focusing on the most important actions that will impact  student learning. Is your team getting a little unfocused? Are they tired of going through the motions?  If so, then it is time to shake things up a bit. 

Here are some questions you can pose to drive your teams toward meaningful reflection that truly focuses on working together. 

1.  Do all members of your team walk away with a thorough understanding of the content and the plan to ensure that all students learn that content?  

2. Do they know what instruction must look like and sound like to help kids learn the content?

3. Do all members of the team have an aligned understanding of how they will check for understanding in multiple ways throughout the week?

4. Do all members have focused ideas for how to gather data that will inform them of how to change tomorrow's instruction?

5. When kids fail, do all members have a clear plan of action to immediately  respond to failure?

6. When kids continuously fail, is there an opportunity for all members of the team to work together to strengthen interventions in a new and different way that will help students close the gap?

7. Do all members walk away with a plan of action to extend and enrich high achieving students?

8. Do all members have a plan to challenge average students and give them opportunities to apply their learning in new and unique ways?

9. Do all members of the team have a plan to engage the lowest students and have them work independently on a task that will take them to a higher level of learning?

All Members

The reason that every question above starts work with "do all members" is that if any question cannot be answered with a yes, your team has room for growth and should find ways to better collaborate about the given topic.   The other reason that all members are included in the question is because all members must contribute to ensuring that all kids learns. Collaboration requires togetherness, and that means that no member of the team may be excluded from participation. 

Plan of Action
Collaboration requires work, and work cannot happen without a plan. If any of the questions cannot be answered yes because there's no plan of action, then that tells you that it is time to transition from conversation to collaboration. In other words, stop talking about the topic and start developing a plan to make it happen.

Talk is Cheap

Everybody has an opinion, but very few people have a plan to go with that opinion. People can say whatever they want in a meeting, but if they're not walking away with a focused plan of action, they are just wasting their time. In the end we mustn't forget. Conversation isn't collaboration; conversation can only lead to collaboration.  

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