Search This Blog

Monday, March 29, 2010

Collaboration - The Role of Communication - Part ll

Over the last 10 years, I have observed a marked decrease in students' ability to communicate clearly with one another in a group.  Consequently, it is an area we need to address as educators especially due to the emphasis placed on our students ability to collaborate in the 21st century. Classrooms provide learning labs for these strategies.  Following are some guidelines.

According to To the Handbook for SMART School Teams by Conzemius and O'Neil there are 4 types of communication essential to collaboration.
  1.  Sharing:  Information needs to be shared with everyone involved.  This can consist of keeping records, inviting feedback during team meetings, sharing information outside of the team, and checking with team members between meetings.  During school implementation, the failure to share information in a timely manner can be viewed as an attempt to exclude others.  This can sabotage the best of intentions and programs.  With the technology  available, it is easy to create one center for posting information and sharing with everyone.
  2. Discussion: Individually, discussion has to do with clearly expressing one's thoughts.  However, in a team, collaborative format, members of the team need to have the skills to stimulate thinking in the group and keep the team productive.  Here is the list from the SMART Handbook.  You will recognize many of them from the work we have done around purposeful language in EDU 590 and 591.
    • Leading: Introducing new topics and keeping the discussion moving.
    • Innovating: Introducing new ideas and strategies in order to think outside of the box.
    • Summarizing: Restating key ideas and decisions, checking to be sure everyone is on the same page.
    • Clarifying: Identifying confusion and asking clarifying questions.
    • Advocating: Challenging underlying assumptions in order to rethink roadblocks.
    • Resourcing: Bringing new information and strategies to the group that is pertinent.
    • Integrating: Merging disparate conversations, ideas, and concepts together into an integrated whole.
    • Initiating: Initiating new models of working together and working to implement them.
  3. Dialogue: Balancing Advocacy with Inquiry - The SMART Handbook defines dialogue this way, "Dialogue is a special way of talking together.  Its purpose is to explore meaning - to create mutual understanding, not necessarily to come to an agreement,  a decision, or a solution.  Dialogue is a balancing act - balancing speaking and listening, reflection and assertion, advocacy and inquiry." Page,47.
Here, advocacy is defined as making your thinking or personal point of view clear including assumptions, the rationale for your assumptions, and how you feel about the topic.   Inquiry is defined as asking others to share their thinking, points of view, assumptions and feelings and listening in order to understand.  The  glitch occurs, in my experience, when members come to the collaborative group, committed to their point of view and unwilling to listen or consider others.This is often based on strong beliefs about what is best for students, but does not make the mind set any easier to change. 
 4.   Active Listening:  Providing feedback to the person who is talking.  Following are some
        suggestions from the SMART Handbook.

    • Paraphrasing: Repeating or summarizing what is said to the speaker to clarify what you heard, i.e. "If I heard you correctly..."
    • Perception Checking: Interpreting what is heard and stating to the speaker for accuracy, i.e." I hear your frustration."
    • Probing: Taking the conversation deeper by expanding ideas, going deeper in understanding, getting clearer about meaning, unearthing assumptions, and exploring applications - all within the comfort zone of the speaker.
 These strategies must be taught explicitly and practiced consciously - by adults and students.
Remember to practice the conventions of conversation: don't interrupt, respect everyone's opinion, and keep an open mind. 
Bookmark and Share

No comments: