Process

Process

This process will help districts create frequent opportunities for staff to build supportive professional relationships and a sense of shared purpose, decision-making and efficacy. This includes establishing staff norms or shared agreements, providing dedicated time for collaborating and building community, and using data on staff perceptions to improve work climate. Use the Rubric to assess your current level of implementation.

Collect and review data around staff perceptions of their work climate, including levels of trust, community, and collective efficacy.

Begin by collecting and reviewing data about the level of trust and connection between the SEL department and support team and the schools and individuals they serve. This data can provide insight …More

Begin by collecting and reviewing data about the level of trust and connection between the SEL department and support team and the schools and individuals they serve. This data can provide insight into implementation challenges and potential inequities in how schools are served, and can also help to identify the team’s most successful engagement practices. Consider using a range of data sources to access diverse perspectives. To gather and assess this data, you may wish to:

  • Include a feedback survey link in the email signatures of district team members.
  • Analyze the responsiveness of principals or SEL leads to emails and calls from the district team and the relative ease of scheduling visits to each school.
  • Track which schools do or don’t send staff to voluntary and mandatory professional learning provided by the department. While there may be many reasons for non-attendance, in combination with other data sources this information can provide clues about how school leaders perceive the department.
  • Use department team meeting time to map the close/personalized connections between district team members and school-level leaders (e.g., they have exchanged cell phone numbers, they worked together in the past, they interact socially, or they have worked closely on a major project). Analyze how the presence or lack of a close/personalized connection may impact the school’s participation and implementation of SEL.

You may also want to collect and review data about the level of trust, connection, and collective efficacy within central office and within individual school communities. Since a strong staff culture is an important prerequisite for any school improvement initiative, this information can help a district team determine which schools are ready to learn and implement a new SEL practice right away, and which schools would benefit from support to build adult community first.

This data may come from school climate surveys, which often include measures of staff relationships, or other staff surveys. Here are a few examples:

Beyond direct surveys, these other data sources can be indicators of the strength of the adult community within a school:

  • Staff attendance and turnover.
  • Breadth of implementation of schoolwide initiatives (e.g., if all teachers are expected to use a specific questioning technique, monitor the hallway during passing periods, literature circles, etc., what is the real rate of “uptake” across the school?).
  • Percent of staff who are involved in teams or activities outside of their contractual obligation.
  • Percent of staff who participate in existing opportunities for collaboration and community-building.
  • Observations during team meetings: who does and doesn’t speak or express opinions, and what is accomplished? It’s a mistake to assume that a lack of feedback is a sign that people are content, as withdrawal is a common response to a distrustful work environment.
  • Observations of informal social networks (e.g., where staff gather during unstructured time, where people sit during staff meetings).

When reviewing these data sources, it is important to probe for root causes of any potential disconnection and nonparticipation. Look for patterns (consider race, age, grade band, hire date, social networks, or other relevant factors) that can help the team take a step back from their ideas about the individual people who make up the adult community, and instead think more deeply about the structures and patterns of interaction that are leading to disconnection. Teams should seek to learn more, particularly from those who seem disconnected, through low-threat means such as anonymous surveys, informal one-on-one conversation with a trusted leadership team member, and exit interviews with those who choose to transfer.

2. Establish norms or shared agreements between district staff to guide respectful interactions, effective collaboration, and an inclusive district culture.

A district team’s cohesion is visible at trainings, events, and meetings and can serve as a model for schools that are working on their own community development.

As a starting point, it’s h…More

A district team’s cohesion is visible at trainings, events, and meetings and can serve as a model for schools that are working on their own community development.

As a starting point, it’s helpful to bring central office staff together to develop shared agreements that help set the context for how staff will interact to foster a supportive work environment. If you work in a smaller district, this may involve bringing a representative from each department together as a group. In larger districts, each department may wish to develop its own shared agreements, or you may wish to begin with the SEL team or a subset of departments that work closely on SEL-related work. As a group, you’ll want to consider setting shared agreements that address:

  • How do staff, including leadership, agree to interact with each other?
  • How do staff agree to interact with school communities?
  • How will staff model self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making through all of their interactions?
  • How will staff hold each other accountable for living up to these agreements?

Once shared staff agreements are developed, you’ll want to reflect and review these throughout your work, including during routine staff meetings. Here are some examples of shared agreements and processes for creating them:

3. Provide regular opportunities for staff to build supportive professional relationships and engage in collaborative reflection and problem-solving, sharing ideas, and community-building.

Building staff trust, community, and collective efficacy is not a simple matter of having more social events or staff appreciation days. A group of adults can enjoy each other and feel appreciated …More

Building staff trust, community, and collective efficacy is not a simple matter of having more social events or staff appreciation days. A group of adults can enjoy each other and feel appreciated without doing the hard collaborative work of learning something new, changing their practices, sharing and accepting professional feedback, making important decisions, and following through on commitments. While a staff retreat or community-building workshop can help, a trusting, collaborative community is built through the accumulated day-to-day interactions, shared reflection and decision-making, and group successes that continually validate trust and collective efficacy (Bryk & Schneider, 2003).

Beyond developing and committing to shared agreements, district teams can set up a variety of opportunities and structures to enable the interactions that develop trust, community, and collective efficacy. For example:

  • Establish regular space in the district calendar for both informal connection and professional collaboration. Use these spaces to reflect on progress and review evidence of success, engage in real problem-solving and decision-making, and strengthen social ties. You may wish to:
    • Create dedicated time for departments to work together on planning and monitoring progress toward shared goals (See also Focus Area 1, Key Activity: Collaboration).
    • Create space for all team members to share about their lives and formative experiences, including why they decided to pursue a career in education.
  • Invite shared leadership for major initiatives through rotating responsibilities, project-specific working groups, and steering committees.
  • Provide opportunities for staff to contribute to districtwide initiatives in ways that showcase their strengths or creativity.
  • Communicate openly about major decisions and changes, and encourage and respond to team input.
  • Set up clear, welcoming ways for individuals to seek support or share a concern about the district.
  • Use restorative practices to address conflicts.
  • Foster a growth mindset among staff about the schools and leaders they work with, and ensure that all staff view their role as supportive rather than oversight.

4. Support schools in analyzing data and planning structures to build trust, community, and collective efficacy among their staff.

As you develop a district plan for SEL rollout across schools (See Focus Area 1, Key Activity: …More

As you develop a district plan for SEL rollout across schools (See Focus Area 1, Key Activity: Shared Vision and Plan), it’s important to include adult community-building as a component of the work. You can support school staff communities in engaging in processes similar to the district process, including developing shared agreements for interaction, establishing regular structures for connection and open communication, creating opportunities for leadership, and addressing conflicts restoratively.

CASEL’s Guide to Schoolwide SEL provides additional resources for staff collaboration and community building (including tools for school staff to create shared agreements, form professional learning communities and mentoring relationships, integrate SEL practices into meetings, mindfully model SEL practices in their interactions, and engage in collaborative problem-solving.)

In addition to including staff trust and community as a component of a schoolwide SEL rollout plan and sharing resources, a trusted district staff member (such as a district SEL coach) can provide personalized support for targeted schools in a number of ways:

    • After collecting data on staff trust and collective efficacy, help SEL leadership teams analyze data objectively to aid problem-solving.
    • Facilitate communication between staff and leadership, particularly if staff do not feel comfortable sharing their views or do not trust that leaders will listen. For example, a district staff member might conduct individual interviews or group circles without leadership present, and summarize general feedback.
    • Provide guidance or facilitation support for consensus practices.
    • Coach school leaders on how they provide feedback and communicate, and how they invite staff engagement.
    • Share successful community-building structures from other schools and districts by arranging cross-school visits or featuring them in newsletters and at professional learning communities.
    • Build collective efficacy through vicarious experience by organizing visits to similar schools that have experienced success with SEL implementation and student growth.

5. Plan to define metrics for success, and continue to use data on staff perceptions for continuous improvement.

Once new practices have been put in place to strengthen trust, community, and collective efficacy, determine when and how you will check in on progress. District SEL staff should plan to monitor progress for their own district teams and coach schools to do the same. For more on continuous improvement, see Focus Area 4: Practice Continuous Improvement.

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