The “tuning protocol” was developed by David Allen and Joe McDonald at the Coalition of Essential Schools primarily for use in looking closely at student exhibitions. In the outline below, unless otherwise noted, time allotments indicated are the suggested minimum for each task.
I. Introduction [10 minutes]. Facilitator briefly introduces protocol goals, norms and agenda. Participants briefly introduce themselves.
II. Teacher Presentation [20 minutes]. Presenter describes the context for student work (its vision, coaching, scoring rubric, etc.) and presents samples of student work (such as photocopied pieces of written work or video clips of an exhibition).
III. Clarifying Questions [5 minutes maximum]. Facilitator judges if questions more properly belong as warm or cool feedback than as clarifiers.
IV. Pause to reflect on warm and cool feedback [2?3 minutes maximum]. Participants make note of “warm,” supportive feedback and “cool,” more distanced comments (generally no more than one of each).
V. Warm and Cool Feedback [15 minutes]. Participants among themselves share responses to the work and its context; teacher-presenter is silent. Facilitator may lend focus by reminding participants of an area of emphasis supplied by teacher-presenter.
VI. Reflection / Response [15 minutes]. Teacher-presenter reflects on and responds to those comments or questions he or she chooses to. Participants are silent. Facilitator may clarify or lend focus.
VII. Debrief [10 minutes]. Beginning with the teacher-presenter (How did the protocol experience compare with what you expected?”), the group discusses any frustrations, misunderstandings, or positive reactions participants have experienced. More general discussion of the tuning protocol may develop.
Guidelines for Facilitators
1. Be assertive about keeping time. A protocol that doesn’t allow for all the components will do a disservice to the presenter, the work presented, and the participants. understanding of the process. Don’t let one participant monopolize.
2. Be protective of teacher-presenters. By making their work more public, teachers are exposing themselves to kinds of critiques they may not be used to. Inappropriate comments or questions should be recast or withdrawn. Try to determine just how “tough” your presenter wants the feedback to be.
3. Be provocative of substantive discourse. Many presenters may be used to blanket praise. Without thoughtful but probing “cool” questions and comments, they won’t benefit from the tuning protocol experience. Presenters often say they’d have liked more cool feedback.
Norms for Participants
1. Be respectful of teacher-presenters. By making their work more public, teachers are exposing themselves to kinds of critiques they may not be used to. Inappropriate comments or questions should be recast or withdrawn.
2. Contribute to substantive discourse. Without thoughtful but probing “cool” questions and comments, presenters won’t benefit from the tuning protocol experience.
3. Be appreciative of the facilitator’s role, particularly in regard to following the norms and keeping time. A tuning protocol that doesn’t allow for all components (presentation, feedback, response, debrief) to be enacted properly will do a disservice both to the teacher-presenters and to the participants.
The California Protocol
Many teachers in California’s Coalition member schools routinely use the tuning protocol to surface issues arising from close examination of student work. But the state’s Restructuring Initiative, which funds some 150 schools attempting whole-school reforms, has also adapted and expanded the protocol for a new purpose: to examine how such issues relate to the larger school organization and its aims, and to summarize and assess its progress. Instead of having teachers present student work, the California Protocol has a school’s “analysis team” work through an important question (possibly using artifacts from their work) in the presence of a group of reflectors, as follows:
The moderator welcomes participants and reviews the purpose, roles, and guidelines for the Protocol. [5 minutes]
1. Analysis Team provides an introduction including an essential question that will be the focus of the analysis. [5 minutes]
2. Reflectors ask brief questions for clarification, and the Analysis Team responds with succinct information. [5 minutes]
3. Analysis Team gives its analysis. [25 minutes]
4. Reflectors ask brief questions for clarification, and the Analysis Team responds with succinct clarifying information about the Analysis. [5 minutes]
1. Reflectors form groups of 4 to 6 to provide feedback; one member of each is chosen to chart warm, cool, and hard feedback. The Reflector Groups summarize their feedback as concise essential questions (cool and hard feedback) and supportive statements (warm feedback). Each group posts the chart pages as they are completed so Analysis Team Members can see them. [15 minutes]
2. The Analysis Team observes and listens in on the feedback process. They may also wish to caucus informally as the feedback emerges and discuss which points to pursue in the Reflection time to follow.
3. Each Reflector Group shares one or two supportive statements and essential questions that push further thought. [5 min.]
Team Reflection and Planning
The Analysis Team engages in reflection, planning, and discussion with one another (rather than in direct response to the Reflectors). Everyone else in the room observes silently as members of the Analysis Team reveal how they reflect, think, plan, and adjust.
The Analysis Team and the Reflectors engage in an open conversation about the school’s work. [10 minutes]
Debrief and Closure
Moderator facilitates an open discussion and debriefing of the experience of the Protocol among all participants. [10 minutes]