Perspective, Assumptions, and Decision-Making in PLC Collaboration | Steve Barkley

Perspective, Assumptions, and Decision-Making in PLC Collaboration

In a Ted Talk video,  Patrick Cisler and Patrick Moran raise three areas for self-reflection as you collaborate that I believe are applicable to individual members in PLCs and to those facilitating PLCs.

#1 Change Your Perspective

I needed to explore the word perspective and wondered how it connected with perception.

Perception is your understanding and/or interpretation of people, situations, and the world around you – it’s your mental impression.

Perspective, on the other hand, is the angle you are looking from – it’s your point of view.

Perception is the way you think about or understand someone or something. It can be influenced by past experiences, feelings, and thoughts. Perception can be affected by perspective. Perspective is a way of regarding something. It can be influenced by your attitude. Looking at things from a new perspective can change your perception.

Interesting that I found the above descriptions in an article from an online site for yachting. I’m assuming that is a place with a high need for collaboration.

In workshops that I do around facilitation, I identify using perception questions, “What do you see and hear?,” and induction questions, “What patterns or generalizations emerge?” when guiding PLC collaborative conversations.

#2 Challenge Your Assumptions

Cisler and Moran describe the need to challenge our assumptions. Our perceptions can influence our assumptions that impact our decision-making. They shared two historical examples of limiting assumptions.

  • Charles Duell, Patent Office Commissioner (1899)
    “Everything that can be invented has been invented”
  • Ken Olson, CEO of Digital Equipment Corporation
    “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their

Analyzing the similarities and differences among the group’s perceptions, perspectives, and assumptions should be a continuous process for PLC facilitators to promote. The power of learning with colleagues is the opportunity to gain from differing perceptions and perspectives, which can challenge one’s assumptions. I have had teachers in groups of three observe in a colleague’s classroom and then debrief. Often, they are surprised about the different things they saw and heard and the differing generalizations they made. The discussions often challenge perspective. Teachers frequently report “noticing” different things in their own classrooms following the activity.

Adam Grant, in Think Again, encourages us to have a “challenge network, not just a support network.” It’s helpful to have cheerleaders encouraging you, but you also need critics to challenge you. These are both great roles for PLC members to provide each other.

Opportunity Missed and Taken Green Road Sign Over Dramatic Blue Sky and Clouds.

#3 Move from Fear-Based to Opportunity-based Decision Making

When we take a fear-based approach we hold on tightly to what we have, perhaps scared of competition. Letting go of fear allows for opportunity-decision making that promotes growth.

Reading a blog post, 5 Ways to Stop Making Decisions Out of Fear,  I found several elements that fit with facilitating team (PLC) decision-making.

  • Face your fear- “What are we really afraid of?” “What is the worst-case scenario?” I found the power of that question years back when exploring optimism. Optimists identify the worst-case possible outcome and decide they can handle it should it happen, or they modify the plan to lessen the negative impact. They then place the positive outcome they seek in their mind and move forward not having to worry about what “could” happen.
  • Know your why- PLC members spending time to establish their common goals, beliefs, and values is important in decreasing the impact of fear. Opportunity- decision-making frequently involves some risks …. some vulnerability. When the outcomes we seek for students are important enough, our willingness to be vulnerable is more likely. It’s the reason for my PLC statement: “Goals before norms.”
  • Focus on growth. We can trust that whatever decisions we make; we will learn from them. Failure and mistakes are part of learning that create new opportunities. This is the reason I like the hypothesis/evidence collecting process (earlier blog.) Our decision is based on a hypothesis of what we believe is the best decision for achieving our “why”. Then as soon as we implement, we begin collecting evidence along the way that influences our learning. Modifications/changes can occur at any point as learning emerges. Learning is an ongoing opportunity.

Facilitating collaboration is a challenge for PLC leaders and all members of a PLC in order to maximize our learning for student learning. What conversations might emerge from a PLC discussion around this blog?

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