Fostering Constructive Norms and Meeting Protocols

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To maintain an honest, constructive dialogue that advances understanding and collaboration within a diverse community a set of norms and meeting protocols are recommended.

According to the research of Patrick Lencioni in his book Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, there are five areas where collaborative learning teams fall apart.

  • When teams have an absence of trust
  • When teams are unable to have honest conversations about their disagreements because they are afraid of conflict
  • When teams lack commitment to one another
  • When teams avoid accountability
  • When teams don’t maintain a focus on results

To avoid these dysfunctions creating a set of norms are highly recommended. in their book Learning by Doing, Richard DuFour, Rebecca DuFour, Robert Eaker and Thomas Many offer additional suggestions for creating norms. They suggest the following:

  • Each team should develop its own norms that reflect the expectations and vision of the members of a specific team.
  • Rather than be written as belief statements, norms should be written as commitments or promises. For instance, norms are stated as “We will…” “We commit to…” or “We promise to…”
  • Teams should review norms at both the beginning and end of meetings until they have been internalized by all members of the team.
  • Teams should hold themselves accountable for following norms and be prepared to address team members if they are not following the norms. Teams should ask questions like:
    • Are we following the norms we set?
    • Do we need to eliminate, revise, or add any norms?
    • Are all members of the team making contributions and participating?
    • Are we working together to reach our goal?

Finally, to maximize the efficacy of a meeting the following practices are recommended:

  • Ensure a safe, equitable, and trusting environment where team members are safe to ask questions of one another
  • Ensure meaningful and sustained dialogue
  • Structure the time during meetings
  • Provide built in time to think and time to listen without the need for team members to continually respond
  • Promote reflection by individuals and teams
  • Help members gain differing perspectives and insights
  • Focus the team’s work on the issue at hand
  • Prevent off topic conversations
  • Prevent individual team members from dominating the conversation

Thanks to: Clayton, Heather. “Norms and Protocols: The Backbone of Learning Teams.” Making the Common Core Come Alive! Volume IV, Issue III, 2015. Available at www.justaskpublications.com. Reproduced with permission of Just ASK Publications & Professional Development (Just ASK). ©2015 by Just ASK. All rights reserved.

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