|Teachers.Net Gazette Vol.5 No.6||June 2008|
|Cover Story by Alfie Kohn|
|Atrocious Advice from "Supernanny"|
|Behaviorism is as American as rewarding children with apple pie… but for how long does it work, and at what cost?|
|Harry & Rosemary Wong: Effective Teaching|
|Eight Year Summary of Articles, 2000 to 2008|
|»||Textmapping: Where Old Becomes NewCheryl Sigmon|
|»||Administrative BroadwayTodd R. Nelson|
|»||The Busy Educator's Monthly FiveMarjan Glavac|
|»||Easy Ideas to Wrap up the YearSue Gruber|
|»||Committees: Make Them More ProductiveHal Portner|
|»||Helping Children Cope After DisasterLeah Davies|
|»||The Dance of the Honeybee|
|»||June 2008 Writing Prompts|
|»||Your School's Mission in a Sound Bite|
|»||The Medicalizing of Education|
|»||I Used to Educate Students; Now I Prepare Them… for The Test|
|»||A Great Model Of Differentiation|
|»||Live Chat with Adora Svitak|
|»||Making the Most of Summer To Prepare for the New School Year|
|»||Printable Worksheets & Teaching Aids|
|»||Candles of Inspiration: June 2008|
|»||Teachers.Net Craft Favorite: Father's Day Project|
|»||Featured Lessons, Resources and Theme Activities: June 2008|
|»||Video Bytes: The human cost of war, in song, Literacy centers and more...|
|»||Today Is... Daily Commemoration for June 2008|
|»||Live on Teachers.Net: June 2008|
|»||The Lighter Side of Teaching|
|»||Apple Seeds: Inspiring Quotes for Teachers|
|»||What are some things you absolutely DO NOT miss about teaching?|
|»||How Many Years Did It Take You to Get It Together?|
|»||Newsdesk: Events & Opportunities for Teachers|
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Committees: Make Them More Productive
Are committee assignments a waste of your valuable time? Not if you implement the plans outlined here! Includes a PRINTABLE Action Minutes sheet!
|by Hal Portner
Regular contributor to the Gazette
June 1, 2008
It is through these kinds of committees that teachers collaborate to improve teaching and learning. A committee is a decision-making group. How it makes decisions and how it problem-solves will largely determine the quantity and quality of its decisions. We will examine problem solving and decision making shortly; but first, and perhaps even more basic to the effective functioning of the group, is the way individual members interact.
Let’s eavesdrop on the Xample School District’s Induction and Mentoring Committee meeting which is about to begin.
Chuck, a middle school Assistant Principal and elected chair of the group, claps his hands together and says, “OK, people, let’s get started.” He points to the agenda on the chalk board. “Lots to get through today.”
What’s going on in your committee?
A committee functions best when there are productive interpersonal relationships among committee members. Let’s gather some data. Think back to your last committee meeting, or note what goes on during your next one. In the charts below, write in the name(s) of the appropriate individual(s) or the information that an item calls for. Don’t forget to include yourself.
Now that you have a sense of the group’s dynamics — how various individuals interact with others in various situations — what can you do to facilitate productive interpersonal relationships among committee members? Here are some suggestions.
Group Decision Making
Members of a committee will need to make many group decisions; and they will be expected to support those decisions. It is not always easy for a group to arrive at a decision upon which every member will agree. Individuals tend to favor solutions they propose. Sometimes an individual, for various reasons, may decide not to favor one solution over another, but simply to go along with the majority or with a trusted colleague. Individuals tend to help implement and otherwise support decisions that they have helped to make. Therefore, a productive committee is dependent on full participation by all its members in its decision making process. Here are the most common group decision-making methods.
Beware The Illusion of Agreement
On April 17, 1961, a brigade of about fourteen hundred Cuban exiles, aided by the United States Navy, Air Force, and the CIA, invaded the swampy coast of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. The rest — as the saying goes — is history. Nothing went as planned and by the third day, the approximately twelve hundred invaders who had not been killed by Castro’s twenty thousand well-equipped troops, were captured and ignominiously led off to prison camps.
The irony of the Bay of Pigs fiasco — and the reason I refer to it here — is that the decision to go ahead with the ill-conceived plan was made by consensus of a popular president and a group of advisors who, as author Irving L. Janis describes them, had “considerable intellectual talent, capable of objective, rational analysis, and accustomed to speaking their minds.” (Victims of Groupthink. Houghton Mifflin, 1972.)
According to Janis, “when a group of people who respect each other’s opinions arrive at a unanimous view, each member is likely to feel that the belief must be true. This reliance on consensual validation tends to replace individual critical thinking and reality testing, unless there are clear-cut disagreements among the members.” Janis suggests that had even one senior advisor opposed the adventure during the group’s meetings, President Kennedy would have canceled it. No one spoke against it publicly, although privately — it was reported later — several voiced their doubts.
Ironically, the more amiable and cohesive your committee, the greater the danger that independent critical thinking will be replaced by what Janis calls ‘Groupthink.’ A built-in adversary — a designated “devil’s advocate” — can help dispel Groupthink. The concept of Groupthink need not cause you any paranoia, but by being aware of its possibility, your committee’s decision making will be less susceptible to miscalculation.
Reflect on Decisions Before Acting on Them
The probability exists that unanticipated consequences can result from your committee’s decisions. Therefore, it is a good idea to run them through the following test before confirming and acting on them.
A committee is a group that keeps minutes and loses hours - Milton Berle
Feel free to use the following organizer to record the minutes of your next meeting.
Note: This article is based on material from Training Mentors is Not Enough: Everything Else Schools and Districts Need to Do by Hal Portner (Corwin Press, 2001)