Powerful Learning Conference-Take Away 2/5

The second breakout session I attended after the morning keynote was facilitated by the keynote speaker and was titled, Building a Culture of Collaboration.  Dr. Buffum expanded on some of the ideas that he hit during his keynote and also introduced some specific strategies to use in establishing and building a PLC in schools.

One topic Dr. Buffum spent a lot time on was the structure of teams and how the structure of the teams is vital to its productivity.  Most importantly, he said the one thing that should be considered and is most ignored is  making logical links –  teachers who are pursuing the same learning outcomes (including teachers in special education or specialists such as music, art, etc.)  Buffum claims schools are missing the boat on this one and forcing people to fit with core teams are “illogical” links.  In other words, art teachers need to be meeting with other art teachers, band teachers with other band teachers, etc.  He also addressed the problem of only having one electives or specials teacher in the building and not having another teacher to meet with.  He suggested to create electronic teams:  teachers who seek connections with colleagues across the district, country or state using technology such as Skype.  Whatever it takes to put people where they will most “logically” learn.

Dr. Buffum also indirectly defined the administrator’s role in PLC’s by stating that teams should create products by deadlines and gave the following example.

Team Collaboration Outcomes by First Semester

Norms

S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Essential Standards

Common Assessments

Intervention/POI/Tutorial

Student/Parent communication

In this model, the teams are given a framework in which to work, but are left to collaborate about how to accomplish it.  Which also leads to another thought, that districts and school need to be “tight” and “loose” about things.  They need to be “tight” about the what of vision, values, and mission, but need to be “loose” about the how those will be carried out and accomplished,  leaving room for teachers to express and infuse their own style into these.

Lastly, Dr. Buffum ended with this comment, “The fact that teachers collaborate will do nothing to improve a school.  It’s what they are collaborating about that will.”  Teams must use the four corollary questions of a PLC to remain focused, otherwise they are only engaging in coblaboration.

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