Unlocking Group Potential to Improve Schools


Robert J. Garmston & Valerie von Frank

  • Citations
  • Add to My List
  • Text Size

  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Copyright

    View Copyright Page


    Getting work done in groups is a paradox. It should be so easy—common sense, one could say. Yet history's most fundamental blunders are a result of groups gone awry. Whether it is a world crisis or getting through the day, knowing how to behave in groups, how to lead them, and how to facilitate them is one of life's fundamental skills.

    Fortunately we have Bob Garmston, who has led the cognitive coaching field for several decades. He is a writer and a practitioner—a trainer and a consultant. He has also been distilling his wisdom in regular columns in the publications of the National Staff Development Council (NSDC; now Learning Forward). Now, with Valerie von Frank, Garmston has brought together in one publication systematic and honed wisdom in the fundamentals of group work and group management.

    Garmston first tackles the matter of “getting work done,” delving into understanding and building effective groups. He then takes us into developing group member skills. From there we learn how to develop a sense of community, including how to become self-directed. The final section addresses facilitation skills that will be essential for intervening and maintaining effective group work.

    What makes Unlocking Group Potential to Improve Schools special is that it easily cycles back and forth from deep issues and skills of effective group functioning to the seemingly most mundane but nonetheless critical basics of setting up a room, organizing the agenda, conducting sessions, and so on.

    What is great about this book is that it contains the complete package, ranging from operating norms to micro and macro skills, leadership, and facilitation. The reader does not have to go hunting through the literature in order to identify and sort out the skills of group work. Take this one book, master its content, practice its principles and techniques, refine your knowledge and skill base, and watch yourself and your group get better and better. This is a book that keeps on giving. Read and reread it, practice its tenets, and you and those you work with will be much better off. Unlock your potential!

    MichaelFullan, Professor Emeritus, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto


    Why Read this Book?

    This book is about developing group culture, increasing facilitator knowledge and skill, and developing the most precious resource groups have—the members themselves. In short, this book is about leadership for better schools—schools that are better for students, better places for leaders to grow as learners, and better environments for inquiry.

    The book can be considered a field guide for two reasons. First, it is written based on my interactions with many groups in the field; second, because the original form of much of the content came in columns, the ideas presented are specific and practical, but not without theoretical foundation. It was inspired by more than 40 years of working with groups on several continents and the resulting columns I wrote for the Journal of Staff Development, a publication of the National Staff Development Council, now named Learning Forward. In those columns, I developed many specific ideas that I lay before you now.

    The tools, tips, and principles I present here will make working committees, task forces, and grade-level and department teams and faculties not only more effective and efficient, but smarter and able to resolve cognitively complex issues regarding student learning more effectively. Readers also will learn to discern which problems may be solved and which are ongoing tensions that need to be managed.

    Who is this Book for?

    Productive groups are developed, not born. This book is a developmental field book for all those laboring in schools and seeking collective improvement in student learning. It is written for anyone needing a current, practical guide to group work.

    Here, readers will find not only what makes effective teams, but how to develop teacher skills as facilitators and informed group members in informal and formal settings, small groups and large.

    The book takes readers beyond the idea of professional learning communities to the practice, describing specific ways to weave the collaborative fabric of a faculty, develop group member skills, and improve facilitation strategies. District and building administrators, K–12 teachers, university students, and teacher leaders of all types—mentors, coaches, and committee and department chairs—will find it useful for working with staffs, parents, or communities.

    What's New about this Book?

    In The Adaptive School (2009), Bruce Wellman and I describe how professional development and ongoing focus on developing the system as an adaptive entity can help groups develop their capacity for productivity. In this book I extend, add depth, provide how-tos, provide more detail about the principles, and bring together more tools and tips for unlocking group potential. The structure of the book should make the material easily accessible to groups, from novice to veteran.

    Readers will learn to work together more effectively. This book contains the most current research, revisions to the norms of collaboration and related assessment instruments, and detailed instructions for facilitating and intervening with counterproductive individuals or group behaviors.

    A focus on collective intelligence enhances my previous work and provides information to guide readers through the latest research on the concept, what factors are involved, and how to increase collective IQ, leading to the ability to solve increasingly complex issues.

    Special Features

    Special features of this book include the newly updated seven norms of collaboration, a sample team assessment survey, instruments for assessing meeting effectiveness, an extensive bibliography, and practical examples and suggestions embedded throughout the text.

    Readers who use this text will be better able to

    • Develop productive, collaborative work cultures,
    • Improve collective focus on student learning, and
    • Acquire the principles and understanding to engage in a continuous cycle of self-improvement.


    I am massively indebted to Valerie von Frank, without whose assistance this book would not have been possible. Valerie and I worked together as editor and author for several years when I was writing columns for the Journal of Staff Development. On contemplating this volume, I thought first of her amazing skills of research, organization, and editing and asked her to join me in this enterprise. Thankfully, she said yes, and the result is the book you hold in your hands. I appreciate Learning Forward, formerly the National Staff Development Council, for giving me a forum to develop some of these ideas in my columns for the journal.

    Many people contributed to the ideas in this book. I am grateful to Bruce Wellman, a partner in the development of the Center for Adaptive Schools and several publications; his thinking and creativity are always at the forefront of our profession. I thank Michael Dolcemascolo and Carolyn McKanders, codirectors of the Center for Adaptive Schools which has served as a testing ground and training vehicle for many of the concepts I've elaborated on here. They have advanced this work while remaining true to its principles and values and given permission for some of the content in this book. For deepening our understanding and adding to this work, I thank Jane Ellison and Carolee Hayes, codirectors of the Center for Cognitive Coaching. And my appreciation goes to Bill and Ochan Powell, who practice and teach this content internationally and from whom I always learn.

    A big “Thank you” is due to Mylene Keipp, a response to instruction and intervention coordinator in the Los Angeles Unified Schools District Local District 5. She gave me valuable feedback to portions of the text and tirelessly sought and provided stories from colleagues illustrating portions of this work. A thank you as well, to Frances Gipson, administrator of instruction for Local District 5, who provides inspired leadership and makes a difference in schools with challenging circumstances. She consistently keeps the focus on kids and poses the relevant and tough questions to teachers and administrators. From Frances, we all have learned a lot.

    Mark Ravlin, at my request, revised and gave permission for me to use the Seven Norms of Collaboration Toolkit, available to readers in the Appendixes of this book, and on http://www.adaptiveschools.com. I am also thankful to the principal, Liliana Narvaez, and teachers of the Estrella School—a Garmston and Costa Academy, who contribute to our knowledge base through their daily practice of the principles and tools of Adaptive Schools, Cognitive Coaching, and Habits of Mind.

    Finally, I am grateful for the legions of Adaptive Schools colleagues who both train others and practice these skills in their own settings. We are, ourselves, a community of learners.

    RobertGarmstonEl Dorado Hills, California

    Publisher's Acknowledgments

    Corwin would like to thank the following individuals for taking the time to provide their editorial insight:

    Roberta E. Glaser

    Retired Assistant Superintendent

    St. Johns Public Schools

    St. Johns, Missouri

    Kathy Grover

    Assistant Superintendent

    Clever R-V Public Schools

    Clever, Montana

    Douglas Gordon Hesbol


    Laraway Community Consolidated School District 70C

    Joliet, Illinois

    Scott Hollinger

    Executive Coach

    Communities Foundation of Texas/Texas High School Project

    Dallas, Texas

    Pamela Maxwell


    Kennedy Elementary School

    Peace River, Alberta, Canada

    Roberto Pamas


    O.W. Holmes Middle School

    Alexandria, Virginia

    About the Authors

    Robert J. Garmston, EdD, is an Emeritus Professor of Educational Administration at California State University, Sacramento and codeveloper of Cognitive Coaching (http://www.cognitivecoaching.com) with Dr. Art Costa. Formerly a classroom teacher, principal, director of instruction, and acting superintendent, he works as an educational consultant and is director of Facilitation Associates, a consulting firm specializing in leadership, learning, personal, and organizational development. He is codeveloper of the Center for Adaptive Schools (http://www.adaptiveschools.com) with Bruce Wellman. The Center for Adaptive Schools develops organizational capacity for self-directed, sustainable improvement in student learning. He has made presentations and conducted workshops for teachers, administrators, and staff developers throughout the United States, as well as in Canada, Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and the Middle East.

    Bob has written and coauthored a number of books including Cognitive Coaching: A Foundation for Renaissance Schools, How to Make Presentations That Teach and Transform, and A Presenter's Fieldbook: A Practical Guide. In 1999, the National Staff Development Council (NSDC) selected The Adaptive School: A Sourcebook for Developing Collaborative Groups as book of the year. In that same year, Bob was recognized by NSDC for his contributions to staff development. His books have been translated into Arabic, Hebrew, and Italian.

    Active in many professional organizations, Bob served as president of the California Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development and as a member of the Executive Council of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) at the international level. In addition to educational clients, he has worked with diverse groups including police officers, probation officers, court and justice systems, utilities districts, the United States Air Force, and the World Health Organization.

    Bob lives with his wife, Sue, near Sacramento, California and has five children and five grandchildren, each of whom, of course, is bright and cute.

    Valerie von Frank has had a front row seat on education reform in the past several decades. As a daily newspaper reporter and editor in multiple states, communications co-director in an urban school district, and director of communications for a nonprofit school reform organization, she has explored with educators the multiple facets of daily work in schools. In the last decade, she has worked with Learning Forward as editor of JSD and written extensively for the journal, as well as for Tools for Schools, The Learning System, The Learning Principal, and T3. She is co-author with Ann Delehant of Making Meetings Work: How to Get Started, Get Going, and Get It Done (Corwin, 2007) and with Linda Munger of Change, Lead, Succeed: Building Capacity With School Leadership Teams (NSDC, 2010).

    She currently lives in Michigan, where her two daughters receive an excellent public education.

  • Conclusion

    At Birchwood School, the teachers, several support staff, members of the parents’ advisory council, and the new principal all took part in intensive professional development. All of them committed to an after-school, on-site course in communication skills. The teachers received university credit, and a staff developer was paid to teach the course even though it was part of her regular work assignment. The faculty were so satisfied that they continued the course for two more semesters. Later, they also held a staff retreat, partially funded by the staff developer's pay for the course.

    While these educators wanted to establish a whole-faculty group to work on improving communication, collaboration, and problem-solving, unexpected benefits appeared later. The district suffered an eight-day teacher strike. Birchwood was the only school to emerge from the strike with teacher-principal relationships intact and collaborative practices operational.

    Not all team development is or needs to be as intensive as Birchwood's. Yet developing groups is as important as providing for individual growth. It may be more essential.

    Studies consistently reveal that teacher behaviors, attitudes, and knowledge are influenced more by the workplace culture than the skills, knowledge, training, and backgrounds of individual teachers.

    Create an Effective Group

    Capable groups are made, not born. Working communities grow, learn from experience, and become more productive. In less effective schools, things stay the same, group learning is episodic, and the capacity of educators to work together to improve teaching remains relatively static.

    Where do groups begin in order to learn to be more effective? Each group is unique. The school setting, the group's tasks, members’ histories, and mental models all combine to create a team with a distinct personality. Variables, such as collective efficacy, craftsmanship, and consciousness influence not only a group's effectiveness but also its ability to develop further.

    As evidence mounts that student learning is the result of collaborative effort, teachers will increasingly need skills to conduct productive meetings in which they generate the know-how and will to do the right work to improve instruction, raise student achievement, and enhance professional community. However, creating such cultures of inquiry and developing productive groups is much easier said than done.

    Over the last decade, we have learned that restructuring efforts are useful but not sufficient to improve learning. Sadly, through initiatives in several states, we also have discovered that assigning money and control to the school level led to changes at some schools, but no changes in most schools, let alone to improvements in student learning (Joyce, 2004). We also know that even well-structured professional development initiatives are ineffective when they lack practical follow-through phases in which applications are practiced, self-assessed, and modified.

    To begin to create an environment in which teachers effectively use collaborative skills to conduct productive meetings about student learning requires training. Teachers are fine learners and, under the proper conditions, put learning to work. When they know how to do something, they do it. Yet teachers most often work in isolation, and professional learning programs seldom invest time in teaching teachers to work with other adults. Professional development in this area is a must.

    For some time, educators have had a chicken-or-egg argument regarding professional development. Does commitment come before competence—or the other way around? My sense is that both are true.

    During a visit to Southeast Asia, I was struck by the extent and variety of teacher collaboration on such activities as developing benchmarks and assessments to meet standards, producing unit plans, and reflecting on student work. In two International School Districts, one in Kuala Lumpur and the other in Jakarta, teachers and administrators worked together to accomplish these tasks and improve their collaboration skills.

    How do schools such as these sustain innovation? Initially, of course, they must experience innovation. To do this, most members need to have new behaviors, practices, and ways of thinking about their work permeate their activities.

    This book may help school groups to develop those necessary new behaviors that lead to new practices. Developing productive groups will become increasingly important as teacher groups take the forefront in the work that must occur to improve student achievement. We can facilitate the effectiveness of this effort by helping teachers learn to work collaboratively with other adults and to build their capability for self-reflection and self-assessment. Groups whose members commit to these principles will be productive.


    Appendix A: Large Group Room Configurations

    One facilitation tip I've picked up that can improve group interaction is to have fewer chairs set up in the room than the number of people you expect. Put a stack of extra chairs off to the side so they are accessible if they are needed. Consider putting them at the front to fill in the front of the room. Having fewer chairs than the expected number of people does not allow the group to spread out as much. Having people sitting closer together, and closer to the front of the room, will increase energy in the room.

    Some set ups for large groups are:

    Classroom Style

    Arrangement: Arrange rows of tables with two to three chairs at each. Allow 3 to 3 ½ feet between rows for optimum movement. Two or three columns are best.

    Group size: Limited by room size.

    Benefits: Facilitator can see participants. Maximizes use of space for larger groups. Allows work space for taking notes or referencing materials.

    Best for: Large groups where interaction is minimal and participants’ primary function is to approve or disapprove ideas placed before them.


    Arrangement: Round tables placed with six to eight chairs around each.

    Group size: 60 to 100. Meetings of this size need to be highly structured, and often the outcomes might be limited to developing understanding or skills or approving or denying proposals put before the full group. The Focusing Four is one exception to this limitation on large group outcomes. I've done it with groups as large as 200.

    Benefits: Allows for small group discussion and work.

    Best for: Conducive to breakout group work, as well as whole group participation.


    Arrangement: Tables placed tilted toward the front center point of the room, forming an upside down V figure. Can be two or three rows, with two rows ideal. Place four to six chairs at each table. Whenever possible, position the back of the room adjacent to the entry door to reduce distractions during the meeting.

    Group size: 25 to 75.

    Benefits: Allows discussion among small groups of participants during or immediately after a larger group activity. Creates a more enclosed feel for a presenter and audience.

    Best for: An informational meeting with some audience dialogue.

    Appendix B: Sample Inventory: Five Energy Sources for High Performing Groups

    The full instrument includes 12 questions for each energy source and provides a score that groups can use for item analysis and to set goals. Copies of the full instrument can be ordered from http://www.adaptiveschools.com.

    Appendix C: Seven Norms of Collaboration: A Supporting Toolkit

    MarkRavlin (Mark@viamandala.com)

    This Toolkit is designed to provide resources for developing and sustaining productive group interaction through the practice of seven Norms of Collaboration. Consistent use of these norms enhances the quality and productivity of all forms of conversation in any group. More extensive explanation and ideas for initiating their use can be found in chapter two of The Adaptive School: A Sourcebook for Developing Collaborative Groups (Garmston and Wellman, 2009, pp. 27–43).


    Using the Tools

    • Introducing the Norms
    • Posting the Norms
    • Sustaining Engagement with the Norms
    • Assessing Consistency with the Norms
      • Norms Inventory: Rating the Consistency of My Personal Behavior in a Specific Group of Which I am a Member
        • Solo Use
        • Combining Solo with Group Use
      • Norms Inventory: Rating the Consistency of Group Member Behavior
        • Solo Use
        • Combining Solo with Group Use – At the Table
        • Combining Solo with Group Use – On the Wall
    • Norms Inventories: Introductory Applications
      • Using Checking Personal Consistency… for Introductory Assessment

    Guidelines and Considerations

    Using the Tools

    1. Introducing the Norms

    One common method for introducing the Norms of Collaboration is to create a shared reading process, using the annotated edition that defines and exemplifies the norms. Group members then engage in reflective conversations about the reading, in pairs or table groups, guided by questions such as the following.

    • “What personal connections are you making with this set of norms?”
    • “Which of these norms might be most important for your full participation in a group?”
    • “Considering these seven norms, which might you find most challenging?”
    • “Given your selection, what strategies might you use to focus on this/these?”
    2. Posting the Norms

    Once the Norms of Collaboration are introduced, facilitators often post them, creating a third point source of habits for the group. Consider the facilitator to be the first point, the group to be the second point. The norms text in poster form serves as a third point, separate from each of the others. This provides psychological safety for the group to talk about the norms independent of the facilitator: their source is separate and clear for all to see.

    3. Sustaining Engagement with the Norms

    In addition, experienced facilitators often provide each individual with a copy of the annotated edition of the Norms, and request that they bring them to each meeting. An additional reminding strategy is to provide each table with a master copy at each meeting, which members see as they arrive. Effective groups address the Norms as part of opening and closing most meetings. Opening activities often ask individuals or groups to select one or two norms for particular focus during the session. Closing activities may ask individuals to reflect on decisions they made regarding the focus norm(s), and effects they observed.

    4. Assessing Consistency with the Norms
    4.1 Norms Inventory: Rating the Consistency of My Personal Behavior in a Specific Group of Which I am a Member

    “There is no such thing as group behavior. All ‘group behavior’ results from the decisions and actions of individuals. When individual choices align in productive patterns, the group generates positive results (Garmston and Wellman, 1999, p. 33).” Group development is enhanced as individual group members become more conscious of and skillful with the behaviors that comprise the Norms of Collaboration.

    This tool guides individual group members in assessing analytically the consistency with which they practice the behavior that is promoted by each of the seven norms. The Inventory includes twenty-one behaviors, three for each of the seven norms, asking that individual participants rate themselves as members of a specific group that a facilitator names – perhaps the present group, or others in participants’ work sites.

    4.1a Solo Use

    The personal behavior inventory may be used on its own, “solo,” when the facilitator's purpose is to enhance the identified group's functioning by focusing individual members on their behavioral choices in the group. In this case, the facilitator asks each group member to complete an Inventory, per its instructions – naming the specific group. Pairs or table groups then reflect on such questions as,

    • “What are you noticing about your perceptions?”

    In some circumstances, a facilitator may want the group to reflect on the behavior of a specific norm or two – for example paraphrasing, so the inquiry might be,

    • “Considering paraphrasing, what were you paying attention to as you rated yourself on each of the types?”

    Either of these might be followed with a growth-focused question such as,

    • “What strategies might you use to increase your consistency ratings?”
    4.1b Combining Solo with Group Use

    The personal behavior inventory may also be combined with the tool called Checking Personal Consistency/Summarizing Personal Ratings. After individuals complete their personal behavior inventories, they summarize their results by estimating the average of the three scores for each norm, marking their averages on a copy of Checking Personal Consistency/Summarizing Personal Ratings. This permits ensuing conversation to include both behavioral references from the personal behavior inventory, as well as more general reference to the norms from the summarized, or averaged, scores. A common guiding question for either pairs or table groups is,

    • “What are you noticing about the consistency with which you are practicing the Norms of Collaboration?”

    This might be followed with a growth-focused question such as,

    • “What might be important ways for you to increase your consistency ratings?”
    4.2 Norms Inventory: Rating the Consistency of Group Member Behavior

    This tool guides individual group members, the group as a whole, and table groups when these are present, in assessing the consistency with which group members practice the behaviors that are associated with the seven Norms of Collaboration.

    4.2a Solo Use

    The Group Member Behavior Inventory may be used on its own – by a work group, a table group in a larger group context, or a large group – when the facilitator's assessment is that the group's productivity will be enhanced by individual members taking a group perspective on the behavior of all of the individual members, at the analytic level. The focus is behavioral; the attention is on the “we” of the group. The facilitator asks each member to complete a Group Member Behavior inventory per its instructions. Pairs or table groups then reflect on questions such as,

    • “What are you noticing in your data about the group's members?”
    • “What meaning might you be making, as you consider your data about the group?”
    4.2b Combining Solo with Group Use – at the Table
    • The Group Member Behavior Inventory may also be used with the tool for Checking Group Member Consistency/Summarizing Member Ratings, when the facilitator's assessment is that the group would benefit from viewing the members’ data at the normative level – in contrast to the behavioral level above. When individuals have completed their Group Member Behavior inventories, each summarizes their data by estimating the averages of their ratings on a Checking Group Member Consistency/Summarizing Member Ratings tool. In this process, each group member collates data individually. The facilitator may then ask that pairs or table groups reflect on their data about how consistently the norms are practiced in the group. A common guiding question is,
      • “What observations are you making about the group members’ practice of the norms?”
    • The facilitator's assessment may be that the group would benefit from considering its members’ data in a format in which all of the information is included in a single view. In such cases, the facilitator may ask the group to combine the norms data of each individual on a single Checking Group Member Consistency/Summarizing Member Ratings tool. Members mark their respective estimated averages on a group copy of the tool, each in a different color. The facilitator may guide reflection on these data with questions such as,
      • “What are your observations about the group's perceptions?”

      The facilitator might follow this with a growth-focused question such as,

      • “What norm(s) might the group focus on, to increase its productivity and satisfaction?”
        • “Given the potential of focusing on (a norm), what strategies might group members use to accomplish this?”

    At this point, the facilitator may choose to ask the group to commit to a specific focus of improvement, based on this conversation. In this event, it is important that the facilitator return to the commitment toward the conclusion of the meeting, to provide group members with an opportunity to reflect on the results of their improvement focus.

    4.2c Combining Solo with Group Use – on the Wall

    A facilitator may make the assessment that a group's purpose(s) may be served, and/or its productivity increased, by public consideration of its norms data. This can be accomplished in at least two ways. In both, the norms data of the group are posted on the wall. This has the effect of distancing the data from the group to a third point, which can increase the psychological safety to engage in conversation about the data.

    • This process is a variation on Combining Solo and Group Use-At the Table, described above. Instead of combining the individuals’ norms data onto a single Checking Group Member Consistency/Summarizing Member Ratings tool in its standard size, each group is provided with a piece of chart paper. The facilitator asks that a recorder in each group recreate the scales of the Checking Group Member Consistency/Summarizing Member Ratings tool on the chart paper, in black. Members then mark their respective estimated averages on the chart edition of Checking Group Member Consistency/Summarizing Member Ratings tool, using a different color for each member. The facilitator then guides consideration of the data with inquiries similar to those above.
    • A facilitator may use this opportunity to create a more structured study of group data. This can be done by following the process described in 1, just above, with the following addition.

    The facilitator introduces the process of Here's What!, So What?, Now What? to guide the group's consideration of the data. This process uses a three-column protocol, illustrated below. The intention is to support a group in describing what they see in the data (Here's What!), then and separately considering the meanings of the data (So What?), and finally what actions the group might take (Now What?). This process is particularly helpful to groups that need to learn to observe data, separately from assigning meaning, and to hold off on action planning until their study of the data is complete. More extensive description and explanation of this process and others related to the study of data can be found in Data-Driven Dialogue (Wellman and Lipton, 2004). http://www.miravia.com).

    5. Norms Inventories: Introductory Applications

    The applications of the norms inventories described above begin with individuals rating their personal consistency or that of group members analytically, at the behavioral level. The behavioral perceptions data may then be averaged to yield summaries at the level of the seven Norms.

    Beginning with behavioral ratings permits highly focused conversation, which a facilitator may assess to be of particular importance in advancing a group's effectiveness. It also calls for significant knowledge about each of the norms, such as the three purposes for paraphrasing – to acknowledge and clarify, to summarize and organize, and to shift levels of abstraction. It also calls for a significant investment of group time, ever in short supply in school settings.

    Assessing consistency with the Norms can also begin at the normative level, as early as when a group first becomes familiar with the Norms. Facilitators find this approach useful for introducing self-assessment early in the process of learning and applying the Norms, with groups that are not yet fully versed in the key concepts and behaviors associated with the Norms, and when time is at a premium.

    5.1 Using Checking Personal Consistency/Summarizing Personal Ratings for Introductory Assessment

    After introducing the Norms (Section 1), the facilitator invites each participant to estimate levels of personal consistency with the tool for Checking Personal Consistency/Summarizing Personal Ratings. This may be done individually only (see Section 4.1a), supported by pairs or table group conversation.

    It may also be extended into combining the individual data into a group display and conversation (see Section 4.1b). This might also be extended to posting the group's data, as in section 5.2c. Facilitators often use such a public third point display of the data to inform a group's conversation about which norm or two the group might focus on to improve its members’ consistency and the group's performance.

    As groups construct deeper knowledge and more become more consistent in their use of the Norms, experienced facilitators often increase the specificity of subsequent self-assessment activities by shifting to the Rating the Consistency of My Personal Behavior… tool, described in section 4.1 above.

    Guidelines and Considerations
    Using the Consistency Scales

    One scale is used repeatedly in all of the rating tools.

    The scale is designed for flexibility and estimation. Facilitators encourage group members to use the scale to best reflect their perceptions. The numbers on the scale describe ranges (1, 2, 3, 4). One member's perception may be a “low 2.” This person would make a mark somewhere to the left of the number 2 and to the right of the crossbar below it. Another member may perceive a “high 3.” The corresponding mark would be placed to the right of the number 3 and to the left of the crossbar above it. Facilitators may find it helpful to advise group members to not over-think their responses; one's first inclination is likely to be important.

    Estimating Averages

    Given the flexibility of the consistency scale, precise mathematical calculation of averages would not be suitable. Facilitators should be explicit about this, and be prepared to support group members who are accustomed to considering numbers only with calculator in-hand.

    Working Agreements Complement the Norms

    The Norms of Collaboration are based on decades of research and practice in the fields of counseling, coaching, group dynamics, facilitation, and professional learning communities. They constitute best practice throughout these fields, with results documented in both education (Kennedy, A., Deuel, A., Nelson, T, and Slavit, D. “Requiring Collaboration or Distributing Leadership?” Phi Delta Kappan, Vol, 92, No. 8, 2011, pp. 20–24) and business (Losada, M. and Heaphy, E. “The Role of Positivity and Connectivity in Performance of Business Teams: A Nonlinear Dynamic Model,” American Behavioral Scientist, Vol. 47, No. 6, 2004, pp. 740–765).

    Working Agreements, on the other hand, are specific to a group. They define the expected behavior among group members in areas that the members decide will support their effectiveness in reaching important outcomes. Like the Norms of Collaboration, they are based on beliefs, values, and consensus among group members. An experienced facilitator assesses when to engage a group in defining areas that call for the support of Working Agreements, and in developing the language that the group's members support.

    In some situations, the Working Agreements may be for long-term use by the group, in which case they are posted alongside the Norms of Collaboration. Under other circumstances, they may be developed for a specific meeting. Common themes addressed by Working Agreements are focus on the topic-at-hand, respecting all members’ points of view, starting and ending on time, and being prepared for meetings.

    Working Agreements become effective as the members of a group engage in their development, and regularly self-assess to assure that group members’ behavioral choices and decisions align with the Agreements. They are not called for in all groups. Experienced facilitators learn to observe and interpret the performance of a group's members, as the basis of a decision to engage the members in developing Working Agreements. It is essential that the processes for developing and supporting them engage members in ways that build shared ownership.

    Consistent Attention to the Norms of Collaboration and Working Agreements

    Group productivity and satisfaction increase with growth in the consistency with which group members practice the behaviors that are associated with the Norms of Collaboration and the group's Working Agreements. The Norms are intended for use among group members both in meetings and in general, whereas Working Agreements pertain to members’ behavior in the group's meetings. Realizing the collaborative potential of the Norms and Working Agreements requires consistent and repeated attention. Facilitators develop a repertoire of ways to address the Norms and the group's Agreements, so that this can become a regular opening and closing event at most or all group meetings.

    Norms of Collaboration: Annotated
    1. Pausing

    Pausing before responding or asking a question allows time for thinking and enhances dialogue, discussion, and decision-making.

    2. Paraphrasing

    Using a paraphrase starter that is comfortable for you –“So…” or “As you are…” or “You're thinking…”– and following the starter with an efficient paraphrase assists members of the group in hearing and understanding one another as they converse and make decisions.

    3. Posing Questions

    Two intentions of posing questions are to explore and to specify thinking. Questions may be posed to explore perceptions, assumptions, and interpretations, and to invite others to inquire into their thinking. For example, “What might be some conjectures you are exploring?” Use focusing questions such as, “Which students, specifically?” or “What might be an example of that?” to increase the clarity and precision of group members’ thinking. Inquire into others’ ideas before advocating one's own.

    4. Putting Ideas on the Table

    Ideas are the heart of meaningful dialogue and discussion. Label the intention of your comments. For example: “Here is one idea…” or “One thought I have is…” or “Here is a possible approach…” or “Another consideration might be…”.

    5. Providing Data

    Providing data, both qualitative and quantitative, in a variety of forms supports group members in constructing shared understanding from their work. Data have no meaning beyond that which we make of them; shared meaning develops from collaboratively exploring, analyzing, and interpreting data.

    6. Paying Attention to Self and Others

    Meaningful dialogue and discussion are facilitated when each group member is conscious of self and of others, and is aware of what (s)he is saying and how it is said as well as how others are responding. This includes paying attention to learning styles when planning, facilitating, and participating in group meetings and conversations.

    7. Presuming Positive Intentions

    Assuming that others’ intentions are positive promotes and facilitates meaningful dialogue and discussion, and prevents unintentional put-downs. Using positive intentions in speech is one manifestation of this norm.

    Norms Inventory: Rating the Consistency of my Personal Behavior in a Specific Group of Which I am a Member

    Place a mark on each scale, to reflect your perception of your personal behavior in a specified group of which you are a member.

    Norms of Collaboration: Checking Personal Consistency or Summarizing Personal Ratings

    Place a mark on each scale to reflect your perception of your behavior.

    Norms Inventory: Rating the Consistency of Group Member Behavior

    Place a mark on each scale, to reflect your perception of the behavior of group members.

    Norms of Collaboration: Checking Group Member Consistency or Summarizing Member Ratings

    Place a mark on each scale to reflect your perception of group members’ behavior.


    Achinstein, B. (2002). Conflict amid community: The micropolitics of teacher collaboration. Teachers College Record, 104(3), 421–455.http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-9620.00168
    Albert, S., & Whetten, D.A. (1985). Organizational identity. In L.L.Cummings & B.M.Staw (Eds.), Research in organizational behavior (Vol. 7, pp. 263–295). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.
    Amason, A., Thompson, K., Hochwater, W., & Harrison, A. (1995). Conflict: An important dimension in successful management teams. Organizational Dynamics, 24(2), 20–35.http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0090-2616%2895%2990069-1
    Berliner, D. (1988, February). The development of expertise in pedagogy. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, New Orleans, LA.
    Briggs, J. (1992). Fractals: The patterns of chaos. New York: Touchstone Books.http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/1-4020-5263-4_62
    Bryk, A., & Schneider, B. (2004). Trust in schools: A core resource for improvement. Volume in the American Sociological Association's Rose Series in Sociology. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
    Buckley, M. (2005). To see is to retain. In R.J.Garmston (Ed.), The presenter's fieldbook: A practical guide (
    2nd ed.
    , pp. 181–204). Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon.
    Canetti, E. (1960). Crowds and power. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
    Capra, F. (1991). The Tao of physics. Boston: Shambhala Publications.http://dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.3023618
    Christakis, N.A., & Fowler, J.H. (2009). Connected: The surprising power of our social networks and how they shape our lives. New York: Little, Brown.http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1528-1167.2012.03466.x
    Costa, A. (1985). Toward a model of intellectual functioning. In A.Costa (Ed.), Developing minds: A resource book for teaching thinking. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0954579400004673
    Costa, A., & Garmston, R.J. (2002). Cognitive coaching: A foundation for Renaissance schools. Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon.
    Crum, T. (1997). The magic of conflict: Turning a life of work into a work of art. New York: Touchstone.
    Devall, B., & Sessions, G. (1985). Deep ecology: Living as if nature mattered. Layton, UT: Peregrine Smith Books.http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08941929109380758
    Doyle, M., & Strauss, D. (1976). How to make meetings workNew York: Berkley Books.
    DuFour, R. (2004). What is a professional learning community?Educational Leadership, 61(8), 6–11.
    Ellison, J., & Hayes, C. (1999). Five energy sources for high performing groups. In R.J.Garmston & B.Wellman, The adaptive school: A sourcebook for developing collaborative groups. Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon.
    Fabre, J.-H. (1916). The pine processionary: The procession. In The life of caterpillars. Retrieved from http://www.efabre.net/chapter-iii-the-pine-processionary-the-procession.
    Fredrickson, B.L., & Losada, M.F. (2005). Positive affect and the complex dynamics of human flourishing. American Psychologist, 60(7), 678–686.http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.60.7.678
    Forsyth, P., Adams, C., & Hoy, W. (2011). Collective trust: Why schools can't improve without it. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
    Frymier, J. (1987). Bureaucracy and the neutering of teachers. Phi Delta Kappan, 69(1), 9–14.
    Garmston, R.J. (2003). The leader creates a vision of what the group can become. Journal of Staff Development, 24(3).
    Garmston, R.J. (2006). The 5 principles of effective meetings. The Learning System, 1(4), 6–8.
    Garmston, R.J. (2008a). Four mental aptitudes help facilitators facing challenges. Journal of Staff Development, 29(1), 65–66.
    Garmston, R.J. (2008b). Use “both/and” thinking to find the best of two sides of a conflict. Journal of Staff Development, 29(4), 49–50.
    Garmston, R.J., & Dolcemascolo, M. (2009). An introduction to dialogue. [DVD with Viewers Guide.] Highlands Ranch, CO: Center for Adaptive Schools.http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0022046900039634
    Garmston, R.J., & Hyerle, D. (1988, August). Professors’ peer coaching program. Sacramento, CA: California State University.
    Garmston, R.J., & Welch, D. (2007). Results-oriented agendas transform meetings into valuable collaborative events. Journal of Staff Development, 28(2), 55–56.
    Garmston, R.J., & Wellman, B. (1995). Adaptive schools in a quantum universe. Educational Leadership, 52(7), 6–12.
    Garmston, R.J., & Wellman, B. (1998). Teacher talk that makes a difference. Educational Leadership, 55(7), 30–34.
    Garmston, R.J., & Wellman, B. (2002). The adaptive school: Developing and facilitating collaborative groups: Syllabus (
    4th ed.
    ). Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon.
    Garmston, R.J., & Wellman, B. (2009). The adaptive school: A sourcebook for developing collaborative groups (
    2nd ed.
    ). Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon.
    Gherardi, S., & Nicolini, D. (2002). Learning in a constellation of interconnected practices: Canon or dissonance?Journal of Management Studies, 39(4), 419–436.http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-6486.t01-1-00298
    Gladwell, M. (2008). Outliers: The story of success. New York: Little, Brown.
    Glickman, C.D. (1991). Pretending not to know what we know. Educational Leadership, 48(8), 4–10.
    Goddard, R. (2001). Collective efficacy: A neglected construct in the study of schools and student achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 93(3), 467–476.http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-0663.93.3.467
    Goddard, R.D., Hoy, W.K., & Woolfolk, A. (2000). Collective teacher efficacy: Its meaning, measure, and effect on student achievement. American Education Research Journal, 37(2), 479–507.
    Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ. New York: Bantam.http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ltl.40619981008
    Goleman, D. (2006). Social intelligence: The revolutionary new science of human relations. New York: Bantam Dell.
    Good, T. & McCaslin, M. (2008). What we learned about research on school reform: Considerations for practice and policy. Retrieved from http://www.tcrecord.org/Content.asp?contentid=15286.
    Gordon, D.T. (2002). Fuel for reform: The importance of trust in changing schools. Harvard Education Letter, 18(4), 1–4.
    Graham, P. (2007, January 22). The role of conversation, contention, and commitment in a professional learning community. Retrieved from http://cnx.org/content/m14270/1.1/.
    Grinder, M. (1996). ENVoY: A personal guide to classroom management. Battle Ground, WA: Michael Grinder & Associates.http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4615-4877-5_20
    Grinder, M. (2007). The elusive obvious: The science of non-verbal communication. Battle Ground, WA: Michael Grinder & Associates.
    Hargreaves, A., & Shirley, D. (2011). The fourth way: The inspiring future for educational change. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
    Heath, C., & Heath, D. (2010). Switch: how to change things when change is hard. New York: Broadway Books.http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1348-0421.12019
    Hock, D. (2000). The birth of the chaordic age. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.
    Hoy, W.K., Tarter, C.J., & Hoy, A.W. (2006). Academic optimism of schools: A force for student achievement. American Educational Research Journal, 43(3), 425–446.http://dx.doi.org/10.3102/00028312043003425
    Hyerle, D. (2000). A field guide to using visual tools. Arlington, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
    Isaacs, W. (1999). Dialogue and the art of thinking together: A pioneering approach to communicating in business and in life. New York: Random House.
    Johnson, B. (1996). Polarity management: Identifying and managing unsolvable problems. Amherst, MA: HRD Press.http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/EUM0000000003846
    Joyce, B. (2004). How are professional learning communities created? History has a few messages. Phi Delta Kappan, 86(1), 76–83.
    Klein, G. (1999). Sources of power: How people make decisions. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.http://dx.doi.org/10.1061/%28ASCE%291532-6748%282001%291:1%2821%29
    Kohn, A. (1993). Punished by rewards: The trouble with gold stars, incentive plans, A's, praise and other bribes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.http://dx.doi.org/10.4306/pi.2009.6.1.26
    Kruse, S., & Louis, K.S. (2009). Building strong school cultures: A guide to leading change. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
    Lankton, S., & Lankton, C. (1983). The answer within: A clinical framework of Ericksonian hypnotherapy. New York: Brunner/Masek.
    Lipton, L., Wellman, B., & Humbard, C. (2003). Mentoring matters: A practical guide to learning-focused relationships. Arlington, MA: MiraVia.
    Loden, M. (1985). Feminine leadership. New York: Crown Books.
    Losada, M., & Heaphy, E. (2004). The role of positivity and connectivity in performance of business teams: A nonlinear dynamic model. American Behavioral Scientist, 47(6), 740–765.http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0002764203260208
    Louis, K.S., Marks, H., & Kruse, S. (1996). Teachers’ professional community in restructuring schools. American Educational Research Journal, 33(4), 757–798.
    Malone, T.W. (2006, October 13). Transcript of remarks at the launch of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence. Retrieved from http://cci.mit.edu/about/MaloneLaunchRemarks.html.
    Marshall, J. (2010, September 30). How to measure the wisdom of a crowd. Discovery News. Retrieved from http://news.discovery.com/human/group-intelligence-wisdom-crowd.html.
    Martin, M. (2006, December 21). Survey questionnaire construction (Research report series: Survey methodology #2006–13). Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.
    Maturana, H., & Varela, F. (1987). The tree of knowledge: A new look at the biological roots of human understanding. Boston: Shambhala Publications.http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0022167891312007
    McLaughlin, M. (1990). The RAND change agent study revisited: Macro perspectives and micro realities. Educational Researcher, 19(9), 11–16.
    McKanders, C. (2009). Appendix M: Using conflict as a resource. In R.J.Garmston & B.Wellman, The adaptive school: A sourcebook for developing collaborative groups. Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon.http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2788.2006.00783.x
    Medina, J. (2008). Brain rules: 12 principles for surviving and thriving at work, home, and school. Seattle, WA: Pear Press.
    Mehrabian, A. (2007). Nonverbal communication. Piscataway, NJ: Transaction.http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/h0024648
    Miller, G. (1963). The magical number seven, plus or minus two: Some limits in capacity for processing information. Psychological Review, 63, 81–97.http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/h0043158
    National Commission on Teaching and America's Future. (2003). No dream denied: A pledge to America's children. Washington, DC: Author.
    National Commission on Teaching and America's Future. (2010). Team up for the 21st century: What research and practice reveal about professional learning. Washington, DC: Author.
    Page, S. (2007). The difference: How the power of diversity creates better groups, firms, schools, and societies. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
    Pfeffer, J. (2005). Changing mental models: HR's most important task. Human Resource Management, 44 (2), pp. 123–128.http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/hrm.20053
    Pink, D. (2011). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. New York: Riverhead Trade.http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/047134608X.W5826
    Poole, M.G., & O'Keafor, K.R. (1989). The effects of teacher efficacy and interactions among educators on curriculum implementation. Journal of Curriculum and Supervision, 4(2), 146–161.
    Powell, B., & Powell, O.K. (2010). Becoming an emotionally intelligent teacher. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
    Rock, D. (2009). Your brain at work: Strategies for overcoming distraction, regaining focus and working smarter all day long. New York: HarperBusiness.
    Rokeach, M. (1964). The three Christs of Ypsilanti. New York: Vintage.
    Rosenholtz, S. (1989). Teacher's workplace: The social organization of schools. New York: Longman.
    Rowe, M.B. (1974). Relation of wait-time and rewards to the development of language, logic and fate control: Part II-Rewards. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 11, 291–308.http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/tea.3660110403
    Rowe, M.B. (1983). Getting chemistry off the killer course list. Journal of Chemical Education, 60(11), 954.http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/ed060p954
    Rowe, M.B. (1986). Wait time: Slowing down may be a way of speeding up. Journal of Teacher Education. 37(1), 50.
    Rugg, D. (1941). Experiments in wording questions: II. Public Opinion Quarterly, 5(1), 91–92.http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/265467
    Sanford, C. (1995). Myths of organizational effectiveness at work. Battle Ground, WA: Springhill Publications.
    Saphier, J., Bigda-Peyton, T., & Pierson, G. (1989). How to make decisions that stay made. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
    Schwarz, R.M. (2002). The skilled facilitator: Practical wisdom for developing effective groups (
    2nd ed.
    ). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
    Seeley, T. (2010). Honeybee democracy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
    Seligman, M.E. (1993). What you can change and what you can't. New York: Fawcett.
    Sergiovanni, T. (1994). Building community in schools. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
    Showers, B., & Joyce, B. (1996). The evolution of peer coaching. Educational Leadership, 53(6) 12–16.
    Simon, H.A. (1982). Models of bounded rationality: Empirically grounded economic reason, Vol. 3. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
    Sternberg, R.J., & Horvath, J.A. (1995). A prototype view of expert teaching. Educational Researcher, 24(6), 9–17.
    Supovitz, J., & Christman, J.B. (2003, November). Developing communities of instructional practice: Lessons from Cincinnati and Philadelphia. (CPRE Policy Brief, RB-39). Philadelphia, PA: Consortium for Policy Research in Education.http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-9620.00214
    Surowiecki, J. (2005). The wisdom of crowds. New York: Anchor Books.http://dx.doi.org/10.1119/1.2423042
    Syed, M. (2010). Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckman and the science of success. New York: HarperCollins.http://dx.doi.org/10.1299/kikai1938.16.54_157
    Tapscott, D. & Williams, A.D. (2008). Wikinomics: How mass collaboration changes everything. New York: Penguin.
    Taylor, S.E., Klein, L.C., Lewis, B.P., Gruenewald, T.L., Gurung, R.A., & Updegraff, J.A. (2000). Biobehavioral responses to stress in females: Tend-and-befriend, not fight-or-flight. Psychological Review, 107(3), 411–429.http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0033-295X.107.3.411
    Tschannen-Moran, M. (2004). Trust matters: Leadership for successful schools. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
    Verdoux, P. (2011, January 19). Group intelligence, enhancement, and extended minds. Retrieved from http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/4525.
    Von Hippel, E. (2005). Democratizing innovation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
    Waldrop, M.M. (1992). Complexity: The emerging science at the edge of order and chaos. New York: Simon & Schuster.http://dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.2809917
    Wellman, B. & Lipton, L. (2004). Data-driven dialogue: A facilitator's guide to collaborative inquiry. Arlington, MA: MiraVia.
    Wheatley, M.J. (1992). Leadership and the new science: Learning about organizations from an orderly universe. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.
    Wheatley, M.J. (2006). Leadership and the new sciences: Discovering order in a chaotic world. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler.
    Woolley, A.W., Chabris, C.F., Pentland, A., Hashmi, M., & Malone, T.W. (2010). Evidence for a collective intelligence factor in the performance of human groups. Science, 330(6004), 686–688.http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1193147
    Wuchty, S., Jones, B., & Uzzi, B. (2007a). The increasing dominance of teams in the production of knowledge. Science, 316(5827), 1036–1039.http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1136099
    Wuchty, S., Jones, B., & Uzzi, B. (2007b). Science commentary: Why do team-authored papers get cited more?Science, 317(5844), 1496–1498.
    Yoram, J., Crook, C., & Gunther, R. (2005). The power of impossible thinking: Transform the business of your life and the life of your business. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Wharton School Publishing.
    Zimmerman, D. (1995). The linguistics of leadership. In L.Lambert (Ed.), The constructivist leader (pp. 104–120). New York: Teachers College Press.
    Zoller, K., & Landry, C. (2010). The choreography of presenting: The 7 essential abilities of effective presenters. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

    • Loading...
Back to Top

Copy and paste the following HTML into your website