Radical ‘Open Space’ Staff Conference
I had my phone handy at our staff conference last week & began taping.
What I captured and have now compiled, below, brings home to me how lucky I am to be on such an optimistic, enthusiastic, open, creative team.
The format was based on ‘Open Space’ conferencing. We started with a blank canvass – no pre-defined program.
Colleagues then came forward to begin defining areas for discussion – 24 areas.
People then grouped around the themes that resonated, and were free to stay or flit from group to group (we invoked the concept of cross-pollinating bees).
This grassroots approach means you have authentic perspectives and harness intrinsic passions. It is driven from the bottom up, not the top down.
Some groups were big, some small, but I was struck in every case by a universal sense of engagement.
Finally we asked staff to nominate a short-list of discussions to move toward an action plan.
There were 12 of these final groups. Their resulting road maps have already been collated and combined into a google doc ready to be supported for action by the school senior exec. I dare say not every road map will survive in the busy-ness of 2011, but one thing is for sure: our community will look mighty different in 6 months from now than it would have had we gone with a series-of-lectures format.
My colleague Anne Knock blogged about the conference too: http://anneknock.wordpress.com/2011/02/03/professional-development-that-gives-voice/
You can follow Anne on Twitter.
If you have a chance to influence what staff workshops happen at your school, even just for a handful of colleagues, give the ‘Open Space’ format a go.