Friday, July 24, 2009

Group Problem Solving with Montessori Teachers Helping Teachers

NAMC montessori teachers helping teachers group problem solving
Before I left my Montessori teaching position to be at home with my son, I shared a Montessori classroom with the best co-teacher. If one of us was struggling or challenged with something, the other would notice from across the room and find a way to assist. Before and after the school day, we spent a lot of time discussing and brainstorming our observations of our Montessori students and the classroom environment.

Sometimes, we had a situation with a student, or a curricular or logistical issue, that was particularly challenging. To resolve this type of issue, we employed a special role-playing/ brainstorming process introduced to all of our staff at our regular faculty meetings. Our school likes to refer to this process as “Teachers Helping Teachers”.

Group Problem Solving with Montessori Teachers Helping Teachers

Montessori educators Robyn Breiman and Pat Werner developed a similar group problem-solving process that helps teachers use the vast resources that exist among their colleagues. In one of their workshops, Breiman and Werner suggest starting preparation for the group problem-solving a week before the faculty meeting where the discussion will take place. One person is designated to gather all relevant information (or the “history) about the problem, student, etc. For example, they would look at all student records and documentation that exists related to the student. They could also interview anyone relevant to the situation. While the “historian” gathers information, three separate observations by three separate individuals should take place. Each observation should be 15 minutes and should be at various times. These observations should be performed by various people, including those who are involved and those who are not, new teachers, assistants, experienced teachers, inclusion specialists, guidance counselors, teachers from other age groups and classrooms. The more varied the observers, the more varied and helpful the potential information to come out of the observation. Remember to stress that observations are completely objective! This is not a time for assessments and formed opinions.
NAMC montessori teachers helping teachers group problem solving adults talking
At the scheduled meeting, allow five minutes for the historian to share the information they collected. Following this, each of the observers can report for two minutes apiece. Now the entire group can discuss and brainstorm all the positive aspects and attributes of the situation. This is done for five minutes and then the whole group has five minutes to brainstorm the negative aspects. Finally, the group can start to brainstorm and choose solutions. Five to ten minutes is allowed and in this time the group has to develop a plan for implementing the solution. This includes who is involved with implementing the solution, what the solution is and the deadline by which it is to be implemented. I personally think that role-playing, especially if a student is involved, could be helpful. Also, I would suggest setting a time to follow-up with colleagues on the success of the solution and as an opportunity for possible tweaking.

Simple Steps to Problem-Solving

Preparation (one week before meeting date):
  • “Historian” gathers information on the situation
  • Observations by three different people
Meeting:
  • Report by Historian (5 minutes)
  • Reports by Observers (2 minutes each)
  • Whole Group Brainstorms on Positives (5 minutes)
  • Whole Group Brainstorms on Negatives (5 minutes)
  • Whole Group Brainstorms Solutions and Plan for Implementation (5-10 minutes)
This collaborative process works well, whether you are a first-year Montessori teacher or a seasoned classroom veteran. The NAMC Classroom Guides provide helpful information on observation, assessment, and teacher collaboration and communication.
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Friday, July 24, 2009.

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