Show Menu

Seven Norms of Collaborative Work Cheat Sheet (DRAFT) by [deleted]

Seven Norms of Collaborative Work

This is a draft cheat sheet. It is a work in progress and is not finished yet.


Like any new skill or behavior that has to be learned, these seven norms require practice and conscious attention. Indivi­duals using them for the first time may find the exercise awkward until the seven norms become more automatic behaviors


Pausing actually slows down the "to and fro" of discus­sion. There are fewer 'frames per second' to deal with. It provides for the precious "wait time" which has been shown in classrooms to dramat­ically improve student critical thinking. Pausing and the acceptance of moments of silence creates a relaxed and yet purposeful atmosp­here. Silence, however initially uncomf­ort­able, can be an excellent indicator of productive collab­ora­tion. Pausing also signals to others that their ideas and comments are worth thinking about. It dignifies their contri­bution and implicitly encourages future partic­ipa­tion. Pausing enhances discussion and greatly increases the quality of decision making.


To paraphrase is to re-cast or translate into one's own words, to summarize or to provide an example of what has just been said. The paraphrase maintains the intention and the accurate meaning of what has just been said while using different words and phrases. The paraphrase helps members of a team hear and understand each other as they evaluate data and formulate decisions. Paraph­rasing is also extremely effective when reducing group tension and individual anger. "The paraphrase is possibly the most powerful of all non-ju­dgm­ental verbal responses because it commun­icates that 'I am attempting to understand you' and that says 'I value you' (Costa & Garmston, 1994, p. 49).


Probing seeks to clarify something which is not yet fully unders­tood. More inform­ation may be required or a term may need to be more fully defined. Clarifying questions can be either specific or open-e­nded, depending upon the circum­sta­nces. Gentle probes increase the clarity and precision of a group's thinking and contribute to trust building because they commun­icate to group members that their ideas are worthy of explor­ation and consid­eration

Putting forward ideas

It takes a degree of self-c­onf­idence and courage to put forward an idea and it is vital that collab­orative groups nurture such self-c­onf­idence and courage. Ideas are the heart of a meaningful discus­sion. Groups must be comfor­table to process inform­ation by analyzing, comparing, predic­ting, applying or drawing causal relati­onships

Paying attention to self and others

Collab­orative work is facili­tated when each team member is explicitly conscious of self and others - not only aware of what he or she is saying, but also how it is said and how others are responding to it. "­Und­ers­tanding how we create different percep­tions allows us to accept others' points of view as simply different, not necess­arily wrong. We come to understand that we should be curious about other people's impres­sions and unders­tan­dings - not judgme­ntal. The more we understand about how someone else processes inform­ation, the better we can commun­icate with them (Costa & Garmston, 1994, p. 59)."

Presuming positive presup­pos­itions

Of all the seven norms of collab­ora­tion, this one may be the most fundam­ental, for without it, the rest are meanin­gless. Simply put, this is the assumption that other members of the team are acting from positive and constr­uctive intentions (however much we may disagree with their ideas). Presuming positive presup­pos­itions is not a passive state but needs to become a regular manife­station of one's verbal responses. The assumption of positive intentions permits the creation of such sophis­ticated concepts as a "­loyal opposi­tio­n" and it allows one member of a group to play "the devil's advoca­te."­ It builds trust, promotes healthy cognitive disagr­eement and reduces the likelihood of misund­ers­tanding and affect­ive­/em­otional conflict.

Pursuing a balance between advocacy and inquiry

Both inquiry and advocacy are necessary components of collab­orative work. Highly effective teams are aware of this and self-c­ons­ciously attempt to balance them. Inquiry provides for greater unders­tan­ding. Advocacy leads to decision making. One of the common mistakes that collab­orative teams may make is to bring premature closure to problem identi­fic­ation (inquiry for unders­tan­ding) and rush into problem resolution (advocacy for a specific remedy or solution). Mainta­ining a balance between advocating for a position and inquiring about the positions held by others further inculcates the ethos of a genuine learning community.