Tool: Setting norms
Purpose of this tool: This tool provides a process to set norms of interaction for your learning
community. Forming learning communities is risky and challenging work. Though teachers often assume that they will naturally engage constructively
with one another, this is often not the case. Setting norms can
facilitate productive collaboration as it requires teachers to consider
the behaviors that facilitate their learning. It also helps teachers identify
unproductive behaviors, such as monopolizing conversations, silencing
disagreement or rushing to judgment, and provides agreed upon ways of
How to use this tool:
This tool should be used at one of the learning community's first meetings. It should also be revisited in later meetings, particularly when the group
tries new approaches or practices or needs to engage in difficult conversations.
Overtime, your group may find that it has begun to develop new norms of
interactions. Revisiting stated norms can help the group to acknowledge
the productive norms that have emerged and to deal with the unproductive
ones that may have emerged, as well.
The group should appoint a facilitator to lead the group through the following steps:
- Brainstorming. The facilitator asks the group to think about their expectations for
the group and the behaviors that will help them to meet these expectations. The facilitator then leads the group in brainstorming all the possible
norms. Remember to include the norms of risk-taking and expressing
and respecting competing perspectives. If the group does not mention
these, the facilitator should. During this time, the facilitator
or another group member writes all of the norms offered on chart paper.
- Discussion. After brainstorming,
the facilitator asks the group if they want to discuss any of the norms
in further detail or if there are any norms that people want to question.
The purposes of the discussion are to reach agreement on which norms
are essential to the group's collaborative learning and to develop a shared vision of what those norms look like in action.
- Consensus. The
facilitator notes that consensus means that all the group members can
live with the norms and then moves the group to amend and/or approve
Adapted from McDonald, J.P., Mohr, N., Dichter, A., & McDonald, E.C. (2003). The Power of Protocols. New York: Teachers College Press, pp. 27-28.
Rich Text Format, for revising