Building capacity for teachers and leaders within schools is critical for long-term success, and the protocol known as Problem of Practice (PoP) is one way to do so. The process is simple, but a deep understanding of the roles and responsibilities is necessary. That foundation is the purpose of this blog.
The PoP protocol only has three roles, yet each has distinct responsibilities. Here they are:
1. FACILITATOR – this individual guides the process and subsequent conversations by keeping the group on task and in the appropriate phase.
2. PRESENTER – this person shares the real-world dilemma that will be discussed by the group. They will answer questions of the group and, at the end, will also share what they learned by through the process.
3. CONSULTANTS – most of the team falls into this category as they ask questions and provide insight into solving the dilemma.
To initiate the process, the FACILITATOR meets with the PRESENTER to shape the question and supporting details. Recognize that first drafts of anything are rarely a polished and finished form – and that’s okay! Intentional planning in a smaller group maximizes the power of the larger group during the PoP process.
Once clarity has been achieved, the meeting date and time are set. As the team convenes, the FACILITATOR shares the ground rules and provides a brief overview. So as not to disrupt the process once it begins, the FACILITATOR must pause and answer any lingering questions.
The area that needing the most clarification is the subtle differences between clarifying and probing questions. This delineation is needed to ensure that CONSULTANTS stay in the right phase to explore the problem deeply before shifting into the whole-group discussion of that problem.
1. Clarifying – as the name implies, these questions help with the acquisition of more facts. They must be brief and can be answered quickly or easily. Questions that could be answered with a “yes” or “no” are good examples of clarifying questions.
2. Probing – these questions are more challenging and should get the PRESENTER to think more deeply about the issue. These inquiries must follow the clarification phase to ensure the group fully understand the problem and its context. As a note of caution, beware question formation. Often in this phase, a leading question is asked that points the PRESENTER to consider a solution. The FACILITATOR must intervene and ask it to be rephrased to that it probes instead.
Establishing clear roles and questions build capacity of the team by modeling how all meetings should proceed. Without a doubt, the first couple of PoP experiences will be the longest and most challenging as everyone learns; however, this collaboration brings long-term benefits.