Can the key to educational change be found “below the green line”?

My work as an educator has been guided by a firm belief in the power of the collective wisdom of groups to engage in their own professional learning and work collaboratively to improve learning for all students. Richard and Becky DuFour, Michael Fullan and others have promoted this idea as a key to educational change.

Yet, this simple idea has remained elusive. Working together is tougher than it would seem. Educators struggle with how to make their collaborative work with colleagues productive, engaging and transformative. Throughout my own career, I have had two kinds of experiences. I have participated in lively discussions with colleagues, asking tough questions and really pushing to make our classrooms engaging places for students to learn. I have also been a part of other group or team efforts that are nothing more than an exercise of going through the motions — filling out a meeting log, following a perfunctory protocol, and having stilted conversations. I have wondered what makes the difference between these two very different team processes.  Continue reading