School Organizational Teams will have many opportunities to assist and advise on important issues in their schools. This page provides resources that Teams can use in order to better understand the value of diverse perspectives and establishing common goals in order to build consensus. Strategies and resources that can be used in order to build consensus are also shared.
Consensus Building: Three Foundational Pieces
School Organizational Teams create the conditions in which stakeholders can talk about what will be best for students. However, the formation of the team does not ensure that all stakeholders will be actively engaged or that student performance will improve.
To maximize the benefits of School Organizational Teams, it is critical to talk about consensus-building and shared decision-making. As you begin your term on the SOT, we hope that you will take time as a group to reflect on collaborative practices that have been successful at your school in the past and then plan for how you will ensure effective consensus-building and shared decision-making. This video can help provide some structure to those conversations.
Shared decision-making is a process that provides an opportunity for members of a school community to collaborate in solving problems, defining a course of action, and shaping direction for the individual school.
Consensus-building is a creative and dynamic way of reaching agreement between all members of a group. Instead of simply voting for an item and having the majority of the group getting their way, a group using consensus is committed to finding solutions that everyone actively supports or at least can live with.
Understanding Diverse Perspectives
DIverse Perspectives Within the SOT
Understanding diverse perspectives is crucial to the success of SOTs, as consensus building and shared decision making are most effective when all members are appreciated and heard.
In order to understand diverse perspectives and ensure all members of the SOT feel valued, Teams should:
- Create an environment of trust and respect.
- Ensure everyone has an opportunity to speak.
- Address all ideas and concerns.
- Allow processing and response time.
- Ask for clarification.
Teams should think of ways these guidelines can be incorporated into their norms so that the Team always operates with these in mind.
Diverse Perspectives Among School Stakeholders
Beyond a consideration of how Teams will embrace diverse perspectives among themselves, they must consider how they will gather input from various stakeholders in their school and how that information will be used to make decisions that benefit students.
Watch the videos below to hear firsthand why having opportunities to provide input is important for students, school staff, and parents.
Schools should have many strategies to ensure all perspectives are heard. Other stakeholder groups, such as PACs or grade level teams, should continue to operate to inform the School Organizational Team’s work and other school decision making. Principals may also choose to ask other members of the school community to come to School Organizational Team meetings to present or share their perspective. The School Organizational Team should be only one of multiple structures to include stakeholder input.
Guiding questions regarding valuing diverse perspectives can be found on the "Reflection and Planning Guide," provided below in English and Spanish. This guide can be used by Teams to reflect on their experiences and plan ahead. Teams should consider the way input is currently gathered from stakeholders, and come up with a plan to ensure that they have actionable ways to gather and consider input.
Establishing Common Goals
Establishing common goals is a critical component of creating the School Plan of Operation. The Plan of Operation will take the perspectives of all stakeholders into consideration and will drive the work of the team throughout the year.
In order to establish common goals, Teams should consider the following:
- Goals should be based on student data and needs.
- Advise and assist on the Plan of Operation keeping all stakeholders in mind.
- Establish norms to ensure meetings are focused on implementing goals.
- Build consensus so that everyone can support decisions and understand how they align with common goals.
Guiding questions regarding establishing common goals can be found on the "Reflection and Planning Guide," provided above in English and Spanish. Teams can use this guide to reflect on their experiences and plan ahead. Teams should consider how stakeholder needs and perspectives can guide goal-setting, and how they will hold themselves accountable to stay on track to meet goals.
Using Strategies for Consensus
In order for Teams to be successful, Team members must come together to create common purpose to guide the group’s decision-making. Consensus building is a creative and dynamic way of reaching agreement between all members of a group. Instead of simply voting for an item and having the majority of the group getting their way, a group using consensus is committed to finding solutions that everyone actively supports, or can at least live with.
Remember – consensus building is not automatic; it takes time and requires the participation of all members.
Easing into Consensus Building
It can be helpful for Teams to participate in a low-stakes activity before embarking on more complex projects that require consensus building and shared decision making. The following activities are a great way for members to get to know one another and work together to solve problems during one of the first Team meetings.
In this activity, groups have 18 minutes to build the tallest free-standing structure using spaghetti, tape, string, and a marshmallow. Multiple themes can be explored using this challenge, such as:
- Prototyping matters
- Diverse skills matter
- Incentives maximize outcomes
- The hidden assumptions of a project
The Team can work as one group or break up into smaller groups of 3-6, depending on how many members there are. Groups have 18 minutes to build the tallest free-standing structure using spaghetti, tape, string, and a marshmallow.
The Marshmallow Challenge was developed by Tom Wujec. Click here to view instructions and materials needed for the challenge. The TED talk accompanying the instructions may be useful to show once the challenge is completed, as it elaborates further on what can be learned by studying the groups that are most successful compared with those that were least successful.
Lost at Sea
In this activity, the group must pretend that they’ve been shipwrecked and are stranded on a life boat. Each group has a box of matches and other items that they’ve salvaged from the ship. Members must agree on which items are the most important for survival. The Team can work as one group or break up into smaller groups of 3-6, depending on how many members there are.
Click here to view instructions and printable resources for this activity. Many variations of this activity exist and Teams may want to search for other versions as well.
Consensus Building Strategies
There are multiple strategies that can be used to facilitate the consensus building process. Below are five strategies that your team may choose to use. This is not an exhaustive list, and Teams are encouraged to use strategies that they find to be most effective.
Guiding questions regarding consensus building strategies can be found on the "Reflection and Planning Guide," provided above in English and Spanish. Teams can use this guide to reflect on their experiences and plan for incorporating consensus building strategies.