nextTALK Value Proposition

Core purpose

In professional life meetings are pivotal means of deliberation, planning, decision-making, capacity development, and community building. However, meetings are often badly prepared and conducted. This is even more the case for on-line meetings (e.g. via Skype or other web-conferencing tools), which require special skills and careful preparation. While students increasingly spend time in groups in many subject areas, rarely is that kind of work used to foster facilitation skills systematically. This scenario allows students to experience facilitation first-hand, thereby developing a set of competencies that are useful for the life in school and beyond. This scenario applies to many subject areas where meetings are required to discuss complex problems and decisions.

Narrative overview

Mr P is a teacher of Design and Technology (D&T). The work that he does with his students is often based on collaborative projects. Students work together to solve design challenges; some of these challenges are set by P according to curricular requirements, others are negotiated between him and the students to allow pupils to pursue personal interests in the area of D&T. (Personal learning goals might be developed using e-portfolio technology like Mahara, an open source e-portfolio).

Halfway through the academic year, P decides that he should set some time aside to help students develop meeting-facilitation skills, which will be important for the rest of the year (and beyond!). At this point in time, students have gathered enough background knowledge to support informed discussions during meetings. Therefore, Mr P outlines a structured process based on the following tasks that his students need to perform:

  1. to prepare face-to-face and/or on-line group meetings for 5-7 of their peers;
  2. to conduct the meetings;
  3. to document and communicate meeting outcomes.

The meeting topics are set in advance by P and are based on different aspects of the design challenge. The aim of the meetings is to focus on idea generation and problem solving, not on learning as such. The students who are charged with preparing and conducting the meeting do not have a teaching role; instead, they act as facilitators: they help their peers to do their best thinking in the team in a limited amount of time.

A facilitator prepares the meeting agenda and discusses it with P before conducting the meeting. P provides feedback and guidance on how to improve the meeting agenda. Then, the facilitator ‘runs’ the meeting, with 3-7 peers. If the meeting is face-to-face, P provides a device for audio-recording, and sometimes video-recording of the meeting. If the meeting is conducted on-line, P prepares the conferencing technology (usually Skype), and a documentation tool (usually one of the Google Apps: Document/Spreadsheet/Presentation) that everybody in the group can access. If Skype or such is used, P requests that the session is recorded from one of the screens with tools such as Camtasia or Audacity. Even if the meeting is conducted face-to-face in the classroom, P makes the documentation tool (usually Google Docs) available in class so that the team members and the facilitator can record process and outcomes of the meeting. After the meeting (usually 40-60 minutes length) is conducted, P asks the facilitator to document meeting outcomes and to reflect on the process, using the audio- and video recordings. Time allowing, the facilitator prepares and communicates the outcomes in a short formal presentation for the whole class, using Google Presentation or equivalent. Throughout the activity P’s role is about advising the facilitators rather than managing the various groups. Only in case of conflicts or sustained non-activity does P intervene directly in a group.

Trends

  • Young people are always connected and make heavy use of digital media, this is posing challenges to teachers and education systems
  • The challenges of supporting SMT subjects in the classroom
  • Learners work on projects, using technology for authentic tasks

Possible approaches to teaching and assessment

Instructional design and project based learning, complemented by teacher facilitation to support students before, during and after the meeting. Skills which are developed include:

  • Complex problem solving,
  • decision making,
  • creativity (idea generation)
  • Leadership development

Rubrics can be developed to assess progress and achievements in the above mentioned skills.

Environment

  • In the classroom: Initial practice in a ‘save’ and guided environment
  • Outside of the classroom: apply facilitation skills in various settings where deliberating is important.

People and roles

  • Facilitators: Students charged with the task to prepare, conduct, and document team meetings;
  • Students: In the role of team members, addressing a problem, an issue.

Activities

  • Face-to-face, classroom based
  • Online, classroom based
  • Online, outside of classroom (e.g., from home)
  • Planning activities
  • Communication, including communication in difficult situations; conflict resolution.
  • Visualization, documentation, and presentation activities

Resources

  • Audio/Video recorders
  • Screen-recorders (video&sound, such as Camtasia, or sound only, such as Audacity)
  • Shared notation/graphing tools such as Google Apps (Docs, Spreadsheets, Presentations, Draw)
  • Audio/video-conferencing such as Skype; optionally fully immersive environments, such as SecondLife
  • Optionally e-Portfolio tool (e.g., Mahara)

The nextTALK Value Proposition is available as a German PDF file too.

The ready-made software bundle for this NEXT-TELL package will be accessible here in Q3 2014.