Yesterday I had the privilege of attending a professional learning session with my colleagues from Parkland School Division, as well as, with colleagues from surrounding school districts. This session, hosted by the Edmonton Regional Learning Consortium, was entitled Groups at Work: Structures and Strategies for Professional Learning and was facilitated by Laura Lipton. Many of the people in attendance were in leadership positions who were looking for the strategies and structures to conduct meetings as learning sessions. This session focused on how leaders can maximize the time and productivity of work sessions and meetings to create powerful groups that can produce powerful results. I left the session with some key learnings that I can use moving forward in my work with groups. I learned that one of the fundamental ways to maximize the time and productivity of work sessions and meetings is to move them from information sharing sessions to information processing sessions. This requires skill on the part of the facilitator as just having people in the same room does not result in collaboration nor is time to meet on its own enough to influence change in practice. Thought, energy, and purpose must be put into the design and preparation of the work session or meeting in order for it to have the desired results. Another key learning was that having a clearly communicated, transparent purpose helps to engage group members in information processing. Group members also have to feel psychologically safe in order to be cognitively involved. It falls to the facilitator to intentionally build the relationship between group members so that they can talk about difficult things.
Throughout the day, Laura Lipton skillfully modeled a variety of individual, small, and large group strategies to teach us how to maximize the time and productivity of work sessions and meetings and how to engage group members in such a way that participation and learning is not optional. I left the session with a host of strategies that I can draw on upon when working with groups.
As a staff member in a school division where collaborating, creating, and learning is valued, I appreciated having the professional learning time to extend my repertoire for designing and delivering productive work sessions and meetings.
Diane Lefebvre is the Assistant Principal at Brookwood School in Spruce Grove.