How Do We Build Teacher Teamwork?
Reviewed by Laura Von Staden
Teacher Teamwork is one of the ASCD Arias series – books intended to be read in a sitting. It is just 64 pages including references, author bio and related products.
Margaret Searle and Marilyn Swartz start with a discussion of the key components of effective teamwork: unity, purpose, routines, norms, procedures, enthusiasm and engagement. The book then offers a brief review of the qualities and environment needed to accomplish these components.
The main portion of the book takes the reader through the stages of effective team building: Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. Meeting activities and suggested agendas are included. Several of the activities have a video link and call for brainstorming sessions or other teambuilding activities.
If meetings are about 30 minutes each, there looks to be about six in the Forming stage, five more in the Storming stage, four in the Norming stage, and two to three in the Performing stage to get the team ready to tackle the problems they are to solve. The authors also note that when teams gain or lose members, much of the process will need to be repeated in order to build buy-in and value among the reconstituted membership (a key to unity, enthusiasm and engagement).
For each 30-minute meeting, Searle and Swartz describe a general agenda which they say is important to follow to assure the effective functioning of the team. The agenda designates time to be spent on team activities and a review of norms and purpose, with seven minutes to discuss the issues and twelve minutes to decide on the action steps to be taken, followed by reflection and next steps.
This book can be useful as a short, to-the-point read on the essential elements of team building. While the authors are right on point in terms of activities, stages and suggested agenda items, I am not sure how feasible their method is in the typical school setting, if it requires 15-18 sessions to be running smoothly, plus the need to repeat at least several sessions when membership is changed.
Dr. Laura Von Staden is a Special Education Middle School Teacher in Tampa, Florida. She serves on numerous committees both at her school and within her district and works closely with the local university where she is a Professional Practice Partner and a master mentor. Dr. Von Staden also facilitates both online and face-to-face Professional Development for her school district.