Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The World Café in a School Meeting

One of our school's principles is to: "Offer Definitive Preparation for College and Life".

Faculty and administrators are expected to provide a learning environment that allows students to:

Think Critically
Communicate cogently
Collaborate purposefully and
Create meaningfully

We refer to these skills as the four Cs.

Our Upper School faculty and administrators have been divided into four groups under each of the Cs. Each team is to develop and present a session at a faculty meeting.

I was assigned as the team leader of the ‘Creativity’ strand. The group was composed by 10 faculty members representing all subject areas and administration. We met three times prior to our presentation to brainstorm the protocol and expected outcomes of our session.

I learned about the World Café from Susie Demarest our Head of Upper Elementary and I presented it to the team as a creative way to facilitate conversations. This is how we implemented the Café Design Principles:

Set the Context
The objective of our meeting was to use the World Café process to enable conversations among faculty that related to projects and activities that demonstrate Creativity and Innovation in the classroom. 

Create a Hospitable Space
We created a Café ambiance by setting up the space with round tables. Each table was covered by a colorful plastic tablecloth and a simple but nice flower arrangement at the center.

Since we divided our faculty and administration into six interdisciplinary groups we printed place cards with their names for each table. We also designated a facilitator for each group.

Our Head of Upper School provided cake, iced tea, lemonade and coffee. As faculty arrived, they were invited to get their cake and beverage before entering the meeting room. They all smiled when they discovered that the impersonal room was transformed into a lively Café with samba music playing in the background!

 Explore Questions That Matter
Our team came up with two questions for our session:
1. What activity or project have you done in your class that has some of the attributes of creativity?
2. Is there a project that you want to implement in your class about which you would like to receive feedback from others?

Prior to the meeting we had sent an e-mail with the following information so that we all had a common ground when defining a ‘creative project’.

Attributes of a Creative Project or Activity
New or original
Stimulates curiosity
Challenging and engaging
Promotes divergence

Key Terms of Creative Activities or Projects

Encourage Everyone's Contribution
At each table a member of the team was designated as a facilitator. They were in charge of engaging everybody in the conversation. 
Connect Diverse Perspectives
Listen Together and Notice Patterns
We had a laptop available for each of the teams. We created separate pages for each team on a wiki and each facilitator entered the contributions from the members of their table.

An online timer was set up on the screen with a 20 minute countdown for each question.

Share Collective Discoveries
Because of the limited amount of time we were not able to create posters and do a Gallery Walk. However, we briefly showcased a couple of pages on the screen.  Faculty and administrators were excited to see how they could access the conversations by visiting the wiki at their own pace anytime.

Wrapping Things Up
By the end of the session we showed the video Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson.

Did it Work?
Our team felt that the session went really well!

We heard positive feedback from our colleagues and administrators about how everybody enjoyed the opportunity to share, listen and collaborate with each other.

This is our wiki page with the links to Creativity Resources for the classroom.

Images: Café Image Bank


Larry Kahn said...

Terrific concept; well executed and reported. Thanks for sharing.

dgende said...

Thank you Larry, you are very kind!

Anonymous said...

Ditto to Larry's comments, Delores. You continue to inspire and astonish me! I'm asking to help run faculty meetings next year, so that we can increase the discussions about teaching and how to do it effectively. I just posted this to my diigo account so I can remember it for next year. Thanks for the idea!

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