The title of this session was “Managing Conflict”, and I think many of the course participants (myself included), came into the evening with a preconceived notion of what the session would entail. I personally was a bit apprehensive and excited to discuss this topic as I know that conflict is not something I deal with in the best way. I tend to either avoid conflict entirely when possible, which often simply exacerbates the situation, or if avoiding is just not in the cards, I tend to retreat into myself and become very uncomfortable but also unable to extricate myself from the situation.
However, I was surprised and intrigued when personal or affective conflicts were only a small part of the agenda, and that there was a much more clear focus on cognitive conflict. I hadn’t actually heard this term previously, but now I know that I have most certainly engaged in many a cognitive conflict, and always to my benefit. Cognitive conflict was explained as being a conflict of ideas or approaches in which the issues are separated from the people. Cognitive conflict is an essential characteristic of high performing groups and teams because they push each other into new realms of understanding through the challenges of differing perspectives.
We were also given a framework for facilitating cognitive conflict in a group or team, which I want to bring to my learning team this semester to encourage deeper thinking and to clarify the positions of team members. Moving into more facilitator roles is something I want to try as a personal leadership goal, so I definitely see the framework as being an applicable tool for me.
Finally, the next day at school, my department head asked me about the session the previous evening, and I shared with her the focus on cognitive conflict. It was a PD Day for secondary schools and we were having learning team meetings that morning. My department head encouraged me to try to push in our group with my new knowledge of cognitive conflict as we would be discussing some hot topics such as triangulation of data and using professional judgement in determining our final grades. I was reminded how wonderful my department head is and how much she encourages me to take on small leadership roles on our French Immersion Department. Maybe I’m not so terrible at managing conflict after all!