We've Weathered the Storm
Stefan Anderson

"Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it." ~ George Santayana

In 1965 Bruce Tuckman proposed a model of group development referred to as forming-storming-norming-performing. Over the history of Conserve School, I have come to see this model as a helpful road map for building a strong community. This semester, on the students first night on campus, I shared a bit about this model with them. At that time the CS16 community was at the forming stage. This is a stage where students typically avoid conflict and keep their heads down as they strive to become oriented with the landscape, the rules and their peers.

The forming stage is followed by the storming stage. In this stage students begin to assert their opinions and push against the rules. In this stage the community clarifies what it wants to get done. Individuals develop a sense of how they fit into the community. It is normal and healthy for some conflicts to arise at this stage. Letting the students know that this would happen and that it would be okay was an important part of my message to the students of CS16 on that first night.

As the storms settle, the community moves into the norming stage. In this stage the community has achieved an equilibrium and is moving forward towards a common goal. Students typically feel more secure with their knowledge of how the unique community that their semester has built works. Individuals have identified the eccentricities of others and come to accept them as they are. However, there is a trap at this stage. Some individuals may decide to bury their needs or strong beliefs in order to avoid conflict. These decisions to "go along to get along" can plant seeds for conflict and major storms late, thrusting the community back into the storming stage. This is something that I will be talking with the students about soon.

After the community becomes more comfortable in the norming stage it is hoped that it will move on to the performing stage. At this time the students are taking increased ownership for their experience, and Conserve School staff are working to provide opportunities to serve more as facilitators of student experiences rather than leaders. Working collaboratively, students amplify each others learning and impact. There is a shared feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction. When problems arise, the community can typically deal with them without traveling all the way back to the storming stage. At this stage students become increasingly hopeful about the roles they can play in the future and about how their new found Conserve School family can support them in those roles.

forming storming norming perfroming

Later, Tuckman added a fifth stage to this model of group development: Adjourning. This is the stage where the community begins the transformation from its 17-week on-campus incarnation to become embedded in the greater Conserve School alumni community. It is a stage marked with tearful goodbyes for now and hopeful shared plans for the future.

The students of CS16 have weathered the storm. They have moved smoothly into the norming stage and are showing early signs of becoming incredible performers. I can hardly wait to see that stage unfold. I invite you to watch along with me as glimpses of the process are shared through Conserve Schools news articles and social media posts.


Stefan Anderson
Head of School

(frog image from the internet - multiple blog uses with no attribution available)

Additional information on this topic:

From Edutopia: https://www.edutopia.org/blog/establishing-classro...
From Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuckman's_stages_o...