Some of our most important learning occurs in conversations. And because learning is a prerequisite to sound decision making, good decisions are often preceded by good conversations.
Conversations for learning matter so much that virtually all meetings and even one-to-one discussions with colleagues, parents, and students within the school community should be designed to maximize learning.
Unfortunately, some leaders believe that effective leaders make decisions independently. Such decision making, they think, is a sign of decisiveness and strength.
For these leaders the purpose of meetings is to tell others about their decisions.
Their subordinates are so accustomed to a passive role in which they simply receive what their bosses tell them to think, say, and do that it may be hard for them to even imagine participating in conversations for learning and decision making.
But not all conversations are created equal.
Conversations for learning require:
• Deeply-attentive listening;
• A willingness to go beneath the surface of conventional assumptions and understandings;
• Slowness that provides space for thinking and elaboration (think “wait time”);
• An openness to learning based on a deep respect for the experiences and perspectives of others; and
• A belief that everyone has something worthwhile to contribute….
How is it in your setting— are conversations for learning an essential part of professional learning and decision making, or are “conversations” more often monologues that communicate what has already been decided?