Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Setting Norms Without Saying It: Locus of Control

I spend a lot of time with other educators discussing curricular design and the craft of teaching. Given the tremendous challenges facing teachers today, these conversations can get hopelessly off-track and stunningly negative. Fast.

In an effort to help guide these ideas to more positive, productive places, I've been using Covey's concentric circles. These are sometimes referred to as Locus of Control.

I wanted to share this strategy with you because it's had a host of positive consequences that I didn't quite anticipate. In short- it's a great strategy to frame a tenuous or delicate discussion.

First, teachers begin by working in small teams to brainstorm everything that's in their control, everything that's in their influence, and everything that's out of their control. There is often healthy discussion at this point as people disagree about what is in their influence and what is actually within their control.

Next, have an open discussion about what each team identified within their Locus of Control. Remind folks that everything "up for discussion" today has to be within their control. Perseverating on things outside of one's control only lead to frustration and helplessness. Undoubtedly, we need to be aware of factors we cannot control, but we cannot allow them to consume the day!

Then, as the day and discussion proceeds, you can point to the circles as a visual reminder to stay internally, proactively focused. Saying "refocus your locus of control" is a powerful way to shut down unproductive talk. It ends up being a great way to set norms without actually having a list of do's and don'ts.

This strategy has been really helpful for me when guiding, leading, and learning alongside teachers. I hope you find it helpful!

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