Collaboration is not natural or common in the traditional school environment. For generations, teachers characteristically closed the classroom door behind them and acted as independent monarchs of their own domains, expecting neither oversight nor support from colleagues (p. 137).
When planning to establish collaborative practices for educators, whether in grade level, departmental, or any other team configuration, including Collaborative Team Meetings, establishing team norms are an important but sometimes overlooked process. However, these team norms are crucial, particularly for staff teams just venturing into the collaborative waters.
Some points when developing team norms:
Utilize a template
Using a template helps to direct the discussion for the team and can provide a visual document upon which to focus. We have developed a team norms template to assist in this exercise.
Model the process
Modelling the process of developing team norms can be beneficial for teams when they engage in the work on their own. Utilize an initial staff meeting to develop staff meeting norms or develop team norms with team leaders. We have found the latter suggestion to be successful, as a leader from each of the teams meet as a leadership team and develop their own norms. They then replicated the process in their own teams.
One way we’ve found successful in the past was for the principal to meet with teams (in this case, grade level teams) to review their team norms (and other team planning). Staff teams were given opportunity (and support) to develop their own norms and then the principal met with each team to review their norms and refine understanding. This review was then replicated later in the year, to ensure that the norms still rang true for the team.
Showing teams different samples can help generate ideas of what norms to include. A number of school samples have been collected in our Team Norms Samples Google drive, including the sample shown below.
Obviously, establishing team norms is just one element of effective collaboration for teachers in schools. However, the development of these norms can be a vital starting step to working effectively together and can be a valuable resource to building interdependence. All the best in planning for collaboration in your schools!