At Learning 2.014 in Africa this year I was a cohort facilitator of the Middle/High School Tech Leaders cohort with Sol. Leading up to the conference and during our first meeting it was our job to collect ‘burning questions’, desired takeaways or goals for the conference from our cohort members. During our second meeting 24 hours later, at about the half way point of the conference, our goal was to process together what we had learned and how we might use it in our situations – we were trying to answer our own questions based on the conference. Our fearless leader, Nick Kwan, suggested that we use a simple protocol similar to Final Word to facilitate our discussion. As a recent convert to Critical Friends Groups and protocols, I was on board!
During our first meeting, Sol and I created a Google Doc for our cohort notes. We made a table in the document for our cohort’s ‘burning questions.’ We asked our cohort to then go into the document and vote for their top 3 ‘burning questions’ during the next 24 hours (or vote for it as an unconference session). At the next meeting we ‘discussed’ the 3 most popular questions. Sol and I took notes during the process so that everyone could listen instead of try to process all the information immediately. This process was probably the most worthwhile of the cohort time (and maybe conference!).
When I came back to school, I was telling our curriculum coordinator (and CFG coach) about the protocol. She was preparing for our staff PD day at the time and there was time built in for cohorts to process the information learned during the first 2.5 hours of the meetings. We decided to create a Burning Questions protocol based on my experience at Learning 2. It was a little different at our school but I thought it went well. Some takeaways:
- We needed more space. We had all the cohorts in the auditorium. It was too much going on. In the future the cohorts should be split into different (smaller) areas.
- It needs to be clear that the questions are conceptual or debatable. It also went better at Learning 2 when we had the questions compiled before the learning started.
- We should have reiterated the purpose of the protocol.
- We have done the Compass Points activity with our staff. It would have been worthwhile to remind them of how different people process and interact.
The protocol that Christina and I adapted is below. Feel free to contact either of us if you have questions!
Since September I have participated in a Critical Friends Group at my school (with our coach Christina). It’s been a great experience to get to know, grow and collaborate with a small group of teachers. I would consider professional learning a weakness at our school so it’s been an enriching experience to be around people who share my professional values. We’ve met about once a month and used a variety of protocols to examine and enhance our practice. I’ve also participated in several protocols during school divisional meetings.
Today I facilitated my first protocol! Our MS principal (Dave) wanted a productive way for his staff to reflect on their weekly team meetings. I pre-conferenced with Christina and we decided on a Back to the Future Protocol. Dave is currently away on a site-visit so he wasn’t able to present. I subbed steps 1-3 with a list of questions Dave had thought of. Usually this protocol is done with 3 pieces of large butcher paper and the faciliator writes down what the group is saying. My handwriting isn’t awesome and I can type way faster than I can write. Also, I wanted something that would be easily shareable and would stick around (not be in the way or thrown away). I created a Google Spreadsheet and hoped for the best!
I gave the shortened link (view only) to all the participants in the protocol so they could follow along and see whichever of the sheets they wanted (on iPads they had to refresh to see the updates). On the classroom computer & projector, I kept the Projected Future sheet so they could always be reminded of what they were aiming for. I brought my Chromebook to the meetings so I could move around and edit whichever sheet I needed to be on.
The protocol went really well :). My experience presenting at conferences has made me comfortable in front of my peers. Plus protocols aren’t about me or my ideas…they’re about what the presenter wants accomplished. I was just the facilitator. During the debrief I specifically asked what they thought about using the Spreadsheet instead of butcher paper…they much preferred it! They liked that it was professional and didn’t make them feel like elementary teachers ;). I’ll be running another one for a different team on Sunday so I’m hoping it goes just as smoothly! [It did!]
I’ve created a template of the Back to the Future document so that anyone can view it and copy it…would love to hear how it works for you and if there are any improvements that I can make!