Friday, July 30, 2010
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
- Have a clear goal in mind. Make sure everyone involved understands what the goal is and believes that the goal is worthwhile. The overarching goal of collaboration is to achieve something together that you would not be able to achieve alone. Sometimes that's in the nature of the finished product, but other times the gain is efficiency. Either way, the people who are collaborating should have some kind of shared vision.
- Create a results-driven structure within your team that is appropriate for the goal you want to achieve. There are three kinds of teams that are commonly used, based on the type of results desired:
- Problem resolution teams: The problem solvers. In order for this team to work, it's especially important that members are able to trust their co-collaborators in a secure atmosphere where they feel respected. Brainstorming should be encouraged, which means people must be able to suggest ideas without fear of getting immediately criticized.
- Creative teams: The innovators. This team needs to be independent of established systems and procedures, enabling them to explore new possibilities and alternatives.
- Tactical teams: The implementers. This team needs to have a well-defined plan.
- Give each member of the project a way to define his or her own role on the team. One way to approach this is to write down all the tasks that need to get carried out. For each task, ask who's interested in that task, and write their names next to it. Ideally, everyone will gravitate towards different roles, but many times a few roles are in high demand, and a few roles are unpopular. A solution to this is to rotate the most unpleasant roles (which are usually monotonous enough for this). Another idea is to outsource the unpleasant task(s).
- Establish a communications system. Make sure it allows collaborators to discuss team issues in a relaxed environment. Create ways of documenting issues raised and decisions made. Using wikis and shared documents can help with keeping everyone in the loop.
- Establish ways to monitor performance and provide feedback. Periodically, meet together to discuss ways to improve on the project. There should be some metrics by which you can monitor your progress. It might be as simple as how many pages of a book has been written, or as complex as a series of traffic analytics. Try to identify any bottlenecks--that is, areas where something isn't getting done, and that's slowing down the rest of the progress. If that bottleneck points to a single person, do not attack; ask the person what is making his or her tasks difficult, and seek ways to make it easier.
- Seek consensus. Disagreements are common in any group effort. When conflicts arise, seek consensus from all members on resolution. It's important that every person in the group stands behind the group decision, whether they agree with it or not.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
In thinking about what to talk about in this week’s blog, I stumbled across the phrase “collaborative learning.” Seems simple enough. But it made me think how could collaborative learning benefit our association members more than traditional student-teacher or expert-novice relationships.
I first went to Wikipedia, its own example of collaborative learning, to see what others thought of the term. There isn’t just one good definition; there are quite a few in fact. A lot of them include ideas about working together in groups to solve a problem or share ideas. But I liked this one the best:
"Collaborative learning occurs when we stop relying on experts and teachers to transfer their knowledge to us and instead engage together in making sense and creating meaning for ourselves."
At Alpha Zeta’s national conference this past April, one of the most successful and most talked about workshops among attendees was not one put on by an industry expert but one conducted by three student members of our Cal Epsilon Chapter. Cal Epsilon is a chapter that has worked extremely hard over the past few years to reinvent themselves and has become a very active chapter. They started their workshop by discussing some of their successful and not-so-successful activities and then opened the floor for discussion. Some talked about the problems they have had getting their members involved in activities while other chapters gave tips and new ideas to try that have worked for them.
I stood in the back of the room, like a fly on the wall, observing these college students get inspired and excited about finding ways to help their respective chapters be more successful. I even heard one member whisper to her friend, “Why didn’t we think of that, that’s such a good idea.” If we didn’t have to stick to our schedule for the day, I bet that workshop could have lasted a few hours.
As we’ve started planning for next year’s NALC, not only will we have an entire track of workshops devoted to just chapter development, but we want to continue to have sessions hosted by our student members as well as alumni and board members. I’d love to have another chapter come in and host a similar workshop as Cal Epsilon did. Or have one of our successful alumni chapters come in and host a workshop on alumni development.
This year we plan to utilize table discussions as well so the conversations don’t have to stop just because the workshop ended.
I think this type of collaborative learning is a great fit for Alpha Zeta. Since such a vast number of our members are student members and are constantly being talked at by professionals and experts, I’m sure they love any opportunities to get together and share ideas amongst themselves. It allows them to make the information relevant and relatable for each individual. The learners are responsible for the group's learning as well as their own.
Now that’s not to say that collaborative learning eliminates the need for experts. It wouldn’t be very efficient to keep reinventing the wheels that keep your association going. Instead, collaborative learning taps into the power of an inclusive and active group of learners to turn those wheels as fast as the speed of change.
What types of collaborative learning methods does your association currently use?
Here are some collaborative learning practices:
The Power of Collaborative Learning for Associations: