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Dealing with Differences in PLTs

December 12, 2010

The greatest obstacle to the success of professional learning teams (PLTs) seems to be the inability of teachers to address differences among themselves. This is not a characteristic of teachers alone: look at our communities, our government, and nations around the world. It is difficult to deal with difference.

When teachers in a PLT differ, individuals likely respond by pretending there is no disagreement or by exerting their power so that their view prevails. Neither of these approaches is productive in the long run.

I am thinking deeply about how teachers can deal with difference as a part of their PLT work. I will share my ideas here on this blog as well as in workshops that I am creating for PLTs.

The first step in addressing disagreements among PLT members may be to recognize that disagreements will always occur in groups of people. It is “normal” for people to see things differently.

Further, differing views can actually enhance the process, if PLT members can see the potential for learning from competing viewpoints.

The researchers Pam Grossman, Sam Wineburg, and Stephen Woolworth (2001) found that a sign of a mature PLT is that its members expect conflict and deal with it openly and honestly.

So, the starting point for PLT members is to recognize their differences and approach them without fear or panic.

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