Co-ordination strategies

Establishing a sustainable community of practice requires a strategic approach.  Some of the techniques that have worked at Woolley Wood are:
Whole school briefings: For the staff team to unite behind the challenge of learning and developing intensive interaction it is important that they all trust the co-ordinator and share the same basic language.  I think it is difficult to achieve this unless the team hear things directly ‘from the horse mouth’ and have a chance to interact directly with the co-ordinator.  At Woolley Wood I have achieved this partly through a 20 minute whole school briefing held four or five times in a term during which I have introduced key concepts, explained these concepts through reflection on video clips and held question and answer sessions.
Mentoring: The heart of the my co-ordination role is the provision of staff mentoring in Intensive Interaction.  For staff to understand the practice they must have some theory (presented through discussion, briefings and video reflection) and direct experience.  A programme of mentoring is how they gain this experience as reflective Intensive Interaction practice is first modelled and explained after which I gently offer opportunities for staff to have a go while I watch and film.  In the beginning it is important to praise the mentee for the things they do well, explaining the rationale behind what they are doing.  This process can lead staff to reflect on how they can improve their practice.  Once I have developed a relationship with the staff member and they trust me, it is possible for me to be a little more (constructively) critical about their practice.
Use of iPads for video feedback: Time is at a premium in the classroom and arranging extra meetings for video feedback can be logistically challenging.  At Woolley Wood I use an iPad to film interaction and the large screen means that we can immediately view the footage and reflect on it.  The advent of tablet computers seems to have enabled this immediate format for reviewing films and I think it has been critical for the progress of the mentoring work at Woolley Wood.
Developing relationships: As mentioned above, I believe that good relationships are the basis of effective mentoring.  I feel I need to be available to encounter staff and engage with them socially, talking about both the practice and also small talk.  Each encounter leads to more warmth and increases the chances that the person will become a member of the community of practice, choosing to learn more about Intensive Interaction and reflect on their own approach to social engagement with the children.
Newsletter: Each week I write a one page newsletter that includes a photo of an interaction that happened that day, a short article of interest usually about principles, a list of who was involved that day and some basic ideas to keep in mind.  The purpose is to keep a memory of the work within the school, something that each person can read so that they hopefully feel part of a project that is moving forward even if they did not participate directly that day.  The newsletters are also put on a display board each week.  The board is therefore changing week to week and is something that is more likely to attract interest of people walking past.  As time passes it is possible to look back and see how far we have come. The board looks good for visitors too.
Blog: As you are aware if you are reading this, I have been keeping a (roughly) weekly blog of the work taking place at Woolley Wood.  The purpose is to communicate the work happening inside the school externally and connect with other communities of practice.  So far this seems to be working quite well.  The blog posts are also posted to the Facebook Intensive Interaction Users page.  In terms of return on time invested I think that a blog is a good strategy and it isn’t too tricky to set up with a service like wordpress or blogger.
Parents sessions: I have delivered one parents session so far and we plan to run one per half term.  Extending the community of practice to parents is an important goal for this year and has often been the missing like when I have worked in school previously.  Conversations with parents have already yielded much information that is useful when understanding the meaning of a child’s behaviour and the parents have shown a lot of energy for learning more about Intensive Interaction.  We ran a 2 hour session involving some theory, fun games and watching films of children at the school.  It seems to be a good format (don’t forget the tea and biscuits) and we will continue in this way for the future sessions.
Assign Roles: Perhaps the most critical part of setting up a sustainable community of practice is to make sure that the co-ordinator is not responsible for all of the above jobs.  It is important to find people in the organisation that have pre-existing skills or the willingness and enthusiasm to contribute in some way.  So tasks like organising the newsletter, liaising with parents, chairing meetings etc can be led by other staff members.  At Woolley Wood for example, one of the teachers has been working with me for over a year now and is now able to help other staff develop reflective practice skills.

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