Pearce Associates, Inc.

Contexts In Which We Work

Schools, Colleges & Universities

Schools and colleges are complex organizations whose cultures and purposes differ from others. Like other organizations, however, educational institutions function best when the interpersonal relationships among staff, students, and professors is characterized by trust and respect. When administrators see the opportunity for improving the quality of these relationships, they ask us to help by:

  • Facilitating meetings of students, faculty, staff and administrators
  • Training personnel in the abilities for dialogic communication
  • Designing and consulting with public dialogue processes
  • Helping specific individuals and groups resolve conflicts

Because of our intensive experience with higher education and contributions to the scholarly literature, we are also invited to:

  • Consult with program and curriculum review teams
  • Perform performance assessments
  • Give lectures and workshops on communication theory and practice

Ways In Which We Work

A department at St. Mary's College had been working to revise its curriculum for several years, but found itself blocked. We were invited to consult with them about the curriculum. After reading the documents, it seemed clear that the proposed revisions had surfaced conflicting professional agendas and interpersonal relations among the faculty. We wrote a lengthy response and then met with the faculty to discuss it. Rather than focus on specific aspects of the curriculum, we facilitated a collaborative construction of a time-line showing the history of the department. This activity enabled the faculty to understand the contexts out of which they approached the present curricular revision. We were then invited to facilitate a two-day off-site team-building retreat in which the faculty identified and addressed the issues that were preventing them from moving ahead together on the curriculum and other departmental matters.

Others With Whom We Have Worked

Foothill-De Anza Community Colleges District: we planned and facilitated a two-day off-site team building retreat focusing on "Enriching Our Stories: Who We Are; Where We Have Been; and Where We Are Going." We trained a dozen students from the District to act as table facilitators.

Universidad de Los Andes: full day training of faculty and staff who were starting a program in which students debate public policy issues

University of Sunderland (U.K.): workshop on "Improving Public Discourse" for a general audience as part of an initiative to expand graduate programs that focus on the quality of public participation in civic life. We have also provided graduate level workshops in communication theory, conflict management, and dialogic communication.

De Anza College: consultation with a department experiencing levels of conflict that they could not handle effectively. We interviewed each member of the department privately and then facilitated department meetings.

University of South Florida: day-long training in dialogic communication for 30 faculty and staff as part of their Organizational Development and Training program

College of San Mateo: consultation with the administration and with a department whose work was blocked by interpersonal conflict

San Jose State University: day-long training of faculty and staff about "Conversations that Dis/Connect Faculty"

Denison University: two days of consultation and training that culminated in the facilitation of a meeting of over 100 students, faculty and staff to envision and make plans for better communication in a multicultural community. The meeting used the "concerns - visions -actions" format.

Cupertino High School: the Public Dialogue Consortium planned and collaborated in a half-year public dialogue process in which students identified issues that concerned them, developed action plans, deliberated their merits and made recommendations to their Site Council. As part of this process, we trained students to facilitate public meetings including other students, teachers, staff, and parents.

Monte Vista High School: the Public Dialogue Consortium was part of the "Umbrella Committee" for a year-long emphasis on diversity. Our role included training students to facilitate public discussions of sensitive public issues.