January 28, 2019
By: Chandra Williams, Ed.D., Chief Executive Officer
FORMING, STORMING, NORMING and PERFORMING your way to successful collaborations!
We have all heard the saying: “It takes a village to raise a child.”
Well, it takes a team of teachers to educate a student. Successful teamwork is essential to meeting the needs of all students—and it takes collaboration for a team to function effectively.
Collaboration is a multifaceted type of relationship. It requires extensive resources, and it takes time to develop and cultivate. When collaborating, people network, communicate and cooperate while sharing information and resources through harmonizing their activities. It allows all parties involved to enhance their knowledge and skill set while working together for a common goal.
Collaboration can be found inside the walls of every school building in America, but sometimes it requires compromise in order for all stakeholders to be able to work together harmoniously. So how can schools effectively foster successful collaborations among their teachers? Collaboration can be difficult for some teachers. Teachers are the leaders of their classroom and often have very individual styles and methods of teaching. Getting teachers to work together in an organized effort can be challenging.
In the education world, much time is spent on differentiation and individualized learning, so asking teachers to now come together to collaboratively come up with a plan or solution can be a foreign concept. Even so, collaboration is the key to building successful schools, and it needs to be fostered and nurtured by school leaders so that the students benefit from it. Understanding Bruce Tuckman’s stages of group development is the gateway to creating successful teamwork!
This is where the team comes together for the first time. Usually, there is a sense of excitement and anticipation, but there can also be some reservations and intimidation involved. A typical team usually consists of new teachers and veteran teachers, and it takes time to get acquainted and establish ground rules. Formalities are typically preserved, and members are treated as strangers. It is important that the members learn about each other and understand the common goal they are working for. Often a few dominant personalities try to lead the discussions, but it is vital that all participants engage in open communication, so every voice and idea is heard. At this point, guidelines, processes, and deadlines should be established. It may even be beneficial to have an administrator proctor the proceedings.
Now that the group is starting to find their rhythm and work together cohesively, members may start to communicate their feelings but still view themselves as individuals. It is imperative that the focus is still on the common goal. There may be some resistance at this point, and hostility may build towards the group leader. There is a lot of push and pull as members question what is in it for them, struggle with the change that may be imminent, and look to find their place in the team. It’s important not to get stuck in this stage! It requires good facilitation because this is the stage where many teams fail.
Gradually the team moves into the norming stage. This is when people start to resolve their differences, appreciate their colleagues’ strengths, and respect the leader’s authority. The group agrees on rules and values and becomes aware of individual contributions. It is important to recognize efforts on both the individual and group level while providing learning opportunities and feedback. The group structure is effective and focused on achieving the common goal.
The plan of action is clear and concise. The group’s shared goal allows them to operate autonomously and resolve any existing issues positively. The atmosphere is open and trusting, and flexibility is key while hierarchy is no longer important. There is a strong sense of accomplishment and growth at this point as the team collectively celebrates their successful collaboration.
Collaboration is one of the most important strategies teachers can use to educate kids. No one teacher or administrator can do it alone … so we should all work together towards the common goal of truly leaving no student behind!
Chandra Williams, Ed.D. has worked in various senior leadership positions such as the state director of curriculum and instruction, chief academic officer, director of second opportunity schools, school turnaround principal, special education teacher, and clinical social worker.
The Center For Student Achievement Solutions provides technical assistance, professional development, and coaching support to create schools and classroom environments that are equitable and inclusive.