Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Facilitator's Book of Questions: Tools for Looking Together at Student and Teacher Work

Blythe, T., & Allen, D. (2004). The facilitator's book of questions. New York City, NY: Teachers College Press.

In this book, the authors provide guidance, frameworks, and activities to promote the use of protocols and facilitation. The book is a helpful corollary to The Power of Protocols. It has several chapters that allow people who are eager to improve their use of protocols to get better. These include chapters on what facilitators do, what kinds of questions to ask, any challenges that come up and how to choose, adapt and create protocols.

The chapter I found most helpful in thinking about collegial coaching was in chapter 2. The authors argue that collegial conversations, especially when guided by protocols, create an environment for teachers to grow in their own skill and judgment. They compare the use of protocols that is an essential part of collegial conversation and inquiry with a more traditional model of workshops or training. They also differentiate between traditional coaching/ mentoring and collegial conversations that happen when protocols are used.

The book focuses on how the "locus of expertise" needs to be on the participants in order to have rich and engaging conversations that improve teaching and ultimately student outcomes. The theory of why combining protocols with collegial relationships is so important is that it allows teachers to deepen their own understanding, develop new teaching approaches based on the understanding which will change the way they teach and increase student achievement. This theory seems very plausible but is hard to assess other than anecdotally.

"Mentoring or coaching relationships involve a bit more negotiation. The mentor or coach might have certain ideas, based on her observations of the teacher being coached, about the issues the coached teacher most needs to focus on. Just as often, however, the teacher being coached is likely to say, "What I need right now is help with..." In collegial conversations, especially protocols, the group itself usually determines the goals for the conversation and how the members will pursue those goals. The goals may reflect school-wide focus areas; however, such focus areas typically are interpreted, or "customized," by the group." (p. 28)

"The special province of protocols is in creating a space in which participants, by virtue of their experience-- no matter what the experience is-- can make important contributions to the conversation and, consequently, to the group's learning." (p. 28)

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