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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Can a group demonstrate habits of mind?

I chose this image for this post because, like many people, I often understand concepts through images and the interconnectedness represented here helps me clarify my thinking about my answer.
It reminds me of the language pathways or neurons in the brain where electrical energy (we know as ideas) move along pathways, sending messages and eliciting responses. As responses become habituated, the neuron thickens, making the response quicker and smoother.  
Sometimes as I sit "outside" of a group and watch the interaction, I visualize a big brain.  If the synergy is good and the group is functional, the ideas ping around the group, gaining meaning, clarity, and engery as they move across the members.  Harvey and Daniels address this in their book on Inquiry Circles. 
As an agent of change, I have often analyzed groups and tried to focus on what it is that makes one group or staff more productive than another.  This year I have worked with the Mt. Blue year two teachers, our study of Costa's habits of mind has intersected with some of my group observations.  I am beginning to speculate that people who practice habits of the mind carry them over into their group interactions.  Here is an example.

Last Thursday we met as a group to review the literacy fair the staff participated in on October.  It was a pretty intense day and the different levels of buy in were apparent on this day.  As in all schools, every staff comes to a point when change is moving ahead and some teachers are hesitant.  How they handle this varies.

Clearly, this is a vulnerable time for any implementation, so we decided to address the situation during our debriefing - first thing.  
We began by reporting out separately.  We slowly recreated the day and identified our challenges and successes.   Next we analyzed the dynamics of the "change landscape."   We were soon into our problem solving mode, trying to formulate a plan for addressing the elements we had identified.

Here are the traits I identified at work in our collaboration.
1.  Persisting= Everyone was engaged and committed to formulating an effective, doable plan. 
2. Listening with Understanding and Empathy= Each of our team had different experiences during the early release day.  As they shared, everyone respected and supported the other's experience.
3. Thinking Flexibly= Moving through our options, we looked at all of the suggested solutions - building a model together =Thinking Interdependently.
4. Thinking about Thinking (Metacognition) and  Managing Impulsivity =We carefully thought through our options and were sensitive to those present and those not present  - playing out a variety of scenarios = Striving for Accuracy,Questioning and Posing Problems, and Applying Past Knowledge. The level of reflection - emotional and cognitive - was shared freely, honestly and was received in a respectful manner.
5.  Remaining Open to Continuous Learning=The final solution we came up with came from the material that had just been introduced to the group.  However, the group took it in a completely different level, from a new perspective= Creating, Imagining, Innovating.
6. Taking Responsible Risks= After examining the proposed solution thoroughly, we devised a plan to put our solution  in place.

7. Thinking and Communicating with Clarity and Precision= the first part of our plan would be to present our idea to the faculty and then to gather input from them in order to work with them as part of a team.
8.  And of course as always, we laughed all the way through our time together=Finding Humor.
I am aware that this is a surface analysis of an indepth, complicated situation. This is my starting point, my basic thesis and I will be trying to categorize my observations in this manner, looking for confirmation or eventually reshaping my ideas or disproving them.
As my time with this group increases, it will be interesting to see how automated their problem solving becomes.  They work well together, always in a similar format and always ending with a solution or a next step that works. 
Stay tuned!  It will be interesting - and as always - join in the discussion. 

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