Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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II. ON-LINE ACTIVITIES

About the discussion


Discussion will be prompted by Jennifer Mueller, Dean of Faculty at Souhegan High School. Possible questions include:
  • Are there any clarifying questions about Souhegan High School and what you saw in the video?

  • How does a school start to work towards the kind of collegiality seen at Souhegan?

  • Think about your school. What observations can you make about collegial behavior in your school? How do you imagine a faculty might go from "conversations at the copier" to creating and sustaining a culture of collaboration in the school? What would need to be different in your school if you were to begin to have the kinds of conversations demonstrated in the video?

Jennifer Meuller and her colleagues will pose and respond to other questions raised by discussion participants as well.


On-line Consultancy


A consultancy is a structured conversation that provides the presenter an opportunity to get feedback from others on a dilemma. Two consultancies were demonstrated in the video: one by Sue Downer and three of her colleagues, and another by Amy Oliver and her Critical Friends Group. This consultancy will take place in written form on the Web site. A Souhegan faculty member will serve as the presenter, and Jennifer Mueller, Dean of Faculty at Souhegan, will be the facilitator. Therefore, as people enter the "conversation" in different places, they can follow along by reading what has been discussed and then participate.

The presenter of the consultancy (a member of the Souhegan faculty) will provide a written overview (approximately one page, distributed to participants in the on-line discussion) to be reviewed by the participants. The written overview will include the following:

  • Describe the issue. What is the problem or dilemma?
  • Context. What information is necessary for the participants to know in order to give feedback?
  • Background. What strategies have you attempted already to try and solve this dilemma?
  • Framing question. What is the question you want participants to address?


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Consultancy Schedule


(Developed as part of the coalition of Essential Schools' National Re: Learning Faculty Program, and further adapted and revised as part of work of the Annenberg Institute's National School Reform Faculty Project)

Time: 9 days
Roles: Presenter (whose work is being discussed by the work)
Facilitator (who also participates)

Step 1: Presenter posts the written overview on the Web site to be reviewed by
participants. (One day)

The presenter provides a written overview of their work. The presenter highlights the major issues or problems with which he/she is struggling, and frames a question for the consultancy group to consider. The framing of this question as well as the quality of the presenter's reflection on the work and/or issues being discussed, are key features of this protocol.

Step 2: Clarifying questions (One day)

The consultancy group asks clarifying questions of the presenters - that is, questions that have brief, factual answers.

Step 3: Probing questions (Two days)

The group then asks probing questions of the presenter - these questions should be worded so that they help the presenter clarify and expand his/her thinking about the issues and questions raised for the consultancy group. The goal here is for the presenter to learn more about the question framed and to do some analysis of the issues presented. The presenter responds to the group's questions, but there is not "discussion" by the larger group of the presenter's responses.

Step 4: Group discussion (Two days)

The group then writes to each other (on the Web site) about the work and issues presented. What did we hear? What didn't we hear that we needed to know more about? What do we think about the questions and issues presented. The "conversation" should include both "warm" and "cool" comments. The presenter is not allowed to respond during this exchange, but instead reads and takes notes.

Step 5: Presenter responds (One day)

The presenter then responds to what he/she heard. A whole group discussion might then take place, depending on the time allotted.

Step 6: Debrief (Two days)

The facilitator leads a brief conversation about the group's observations of the process. Was this medium an effective way to receive and give feedback? Were the allocations for time appropriate?


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Some Tips for a Consultancy


Step 1:

The success of the consultancy often depends on the quality of the presenter's reflection in Step 1, as well as on the quality and authenticity of the question framed for the consultancy group. However, it is not uncommon for presenters, at the end of a consultancy to say, "Now I know what my real question is." That is OK, too. The brief (one-two page) description of the issue prepared by the presenter is very helpful for the consultancy group to read as part of Step 1.

Steps 2 & 3:

Clarifying questions are for the person asking them. They ask the presenters "who, what, where, when, and how." These are not "why" questions. They can be answered quickly and succinctly, often with a phrase or two.

Probing questions are for the person answering them. They ask the presenters "why" (among other things), and are open-ended. They take longer to answer, and often require deep thought on the part of the presenters before they speak.

Step 4:

It is OK for the consultancy group to write about the presenters in the third person. As awkward as this may feel at first, it often opens up a richer conversation. Remember that it is the group's job to offer an analysis of the issues presented. It is not necessary to solve the problem or to offer a definitive answer.


Norms for an On-line Consultancy


Modified from Group Norms for a "Library Virtual CFG", initially defined 5/4/96 in Santa Cruz, CA.

  1. Be honest.
  2. Use "I" statements instead of "you" statements
  3. Acknowledge and recognize all ideas.
  4. No put-downs
  5. Humor, yes; sarcasm, no!
  6. Ask clarifying questions.
  7. Disagree with ideas, not people
  8. Find ways to code on-line messages for special needs. e.g. "urgent response needed."
  9. Try to ask questions, not make statements
  10. Generate thinking - rather than make judgements.

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