Tools for Teams: Building Your Collaborative Resource Kit

Teams need tools to make their work both easier and more productive. This is true for professional learning experiences and team meetings.  These seminar offers a menu of strategies and protocols built on the Pathways Learning Model (LINK TO THE MODEL), a three-phase model for learning. Experience tools for activating prior knowledge, exploring and discovering information and ideas, and organizing and integrating learning.

Topics include:

Strategies for Activating Prior Knowledge

Access to prior knowledge is the best predictor of success in any learning activity. What happens early in a session creates norms of participation by engaging participants with ideas and one another. Well-chosen activators produce this readiness so that sessions begin on time, on task, and on topic. The repertoire presented here includes both easy to apply tools for quick starts and more involved protocols for setting the scene during extended projects.

Strategies for Assessing, Goal Setting, and Planning

Groups that are too busy to reflect and plan are too busy to learn and improve. Structuring reflection – affective and cognitive, personal and collective — creates the difference between groups stuck in a rut and groups that learn and grow. Templates for goal-setting and tools for planning increase clarity of purpose, energy for taking on difficult tasks, and confidence in these undertakings. These strategies for assessing, goal setting, and planning bring outcomes and explicit success criteria to the center of the conversation.

Strategies for Dialogue, Discussion, and Decision Making

Meaningful group work relies on the engaged minds and hearts of all group members. Strategies for including all voices, listening to others, and being listened to by others develop mutual respect and balance a willingness to entertain new ideas with the passion for expressing one’s own.

  • Dialogue is a reflective listening process in which group members seek to understand one another’s viewpoints and deeply held assumptions. In dialogue the goal is shared understanding, not agreement.
  • Discussion breaks issues and problems into components and parts. The purpose is to generate and analyze ideas, clarify distinctions between these ideas, and define success criteria. In discussion, group members critique and advocate, sort, and prioritize. The goal is agreement on the distinctions between and the implications of possible actions.
  • Decision making is choice making. The purpose is to weigh options against success criteria, select the most viable outcome, and set the scene for action planning. With decision making the group commits to one course of action.

Strategies for Generating Ideas

Ideas are the currency of group work and projects. Tasks, products, and decisions improve when teams produce a wide menu of options from which to draw. Productive groups require strategies that balance engagement and open space for everyone’s thinking, not just those who are most passionate, energized, or opinionated. Well-structured strategies stimulate idea generation and reignite productivity when energy flags. These strategies counter non-productive patterns, including dominance by individuals, digressions via anecdote, and criticism of others’ ideas.

Strategies for Text and Information Processing

Structuring interactions between group members and text or media creates a psychologically safe environment for sharing and exploring individual perspectives, experiences, connections, and questions. Implementing thoughtfully structured protocols with relevant information sources promotes the social construction of knowledge so group members can learn with and from the text or media source and with and from one another. Providing equal access to information develops a shared knowledge base and gives individuals the confidence to counter opinions not encumbered by facts, and eliminates the confusion between personal relationships and ideas. Building on this foundation enhances the ultimate outcomes and satisfactions of group work. When group members are limited by their own experiences and perspectives, meetings become a serial pat on the back that reinforces present practices and beliefs. Using text and other materials, as a source of external expertise counters this tendency toward self-confirming logic.

Strategies for Summarizing and Synthesizing

Ending a meeting or learning session by providing participants with opportunities to clarify understandings, perceptions and next steps increases satisfaction and commitment of future action. Group members need opportunities to express what they are taking away, how they will use new information and what they will do next. These personal and collective summaries increase transfer and support application. Summarizing and synthesizing strategies allow group members to describe to what degree they understand, agree and are ready to move forward. Giving individual perspectives a public voice offers a values-check within and across group members and develops a deeper understanding of oneself and others. This culminating connection-making creates a bridge between what happens in meetings and work sessions and what happens in practice.