Series: Interview - Bruce Wellman

  • About
  • Other videos by related topic:
    Interview Series 2023

Interview - Bruce Wellman

This interview features a master class in productive group and team work by Bruce Wellman. It delves into both leading and being a productive member of a team. If you don’t have much time, go directly to the chapters on “Group Size” and “What Hot Teams Do.” You won’t be disappointed.

“I don’t know many principals who actually visit team meetings, observe and give feedback to their team leaders as part of their supervisory practice.”

This is a big flag for leadership prep programs. Not many principals visit team meetings because we don’t make it a priority or train them to do so with feedback that is timely, appropriate, and helpful. This is a giant gap in instructional leadership preparation, because teams (grade level and subject specific) are prime sites for teacher learning and improving instruction if they function at a high level.

“Within school variation is greater than between school variation. Now how do you break that down?”

Bruce also tackles this with some powerful ideas. Overcoming this hang-up breaks the dam of getting teachers in each other’s room and learning from one another.

About Bruce Wellman:

Bruce Wellman is a founding partner of the publishing, training, and consulting firm, MiraVia LLC.  

Mr. Wellman is an award-winning writer whose work has been honored by the Education Writers Association and the National Staff Development Council. He is the author and co-author of numerous publications related to organization and professional development, mentoring, quality teaching, and improving professional cultures.

Mr. Wellman has served as a classroom teacher, science curriculum coordinator, and staff developer in the Oberlin, Ohio and Concord, Massachusetts public schools. He holds a B.A. degree from Antioch College and a M.Ed. from Lesley College.

Selected publications include: Data-Driven Dialogue: A Facilitator’s Guide to Collaborative Inquiry (with Laura Lipton, MiraVia LLC), Learning-focused Supervision: Developing Professional Expertise in Standards-Driven Systems (with Laura Lipton, MiraVia LLC), Got Data? Now What?: Creating and Leading Cultures of Inquiry (with Laura Lipton, SolutionTree), Groups at Work: Strategies and Structures for Professional Learning (with Laura Lipton, MiraVia LLC), Mentoring Matters: A Practical Guide to Learning-focused Relationships (with Laura Lipton, MiraVia LLC), The Adaptive School: A Sourcebook for Developing Collaborative Groups (with Robert Garmston, Rowman & Littlefield.

He can be reached at:,

In this series:

1. Full Interview: Bruce Wellman

In this hour-long interview Jon Saphier and Bruce Wellman delve into both leading and being a productive member of a team.

2. Part 1: Bruce Wellman: Group Size, Structure, and Making it Safe

"A group is not a group unless it knows it is a group."

This section covers the most important parts of how people learn together. "Do I see my colleagues as part of my work, or what keeps me from my work?"

3. Part 2: Bruce Wellman: Hot Teams

"Listening is the primal group skill." In this part of the interview Bruce breaks down the four blocks to understanding, all of which involve listening.

4. Part 3: Bruce Wellman: What is the Learning Underneath it All?

"Start by looking at causation before swapping strategies." When teachers see a gap they often start swapping strategies for how they approach the topic instead of digging deeper to try to understand what is at the root of the misunderstanding.

5. Part 4: Bruce Wellman: Rigor

"Rigor: Do we know what it is and do we think kids are capable of it?" Groups must ask, "What would intellectual rigor look like for these kids, this content, this culture?"

6. Part 5: Bruce Wellman: Where to Start

"First assess the definition of group success." Ask the leader about what isn't going well. Do they want to empower the team, or do they want them to do what they want them to do?

7. Part 6: Bruce Wellman: Selective Abandonment

"What needs to die here?" Sometimes the best move is to let go - to dig in and prioritize. Implementation is hard work. We need to resist the urge to continue to add on to the next new thing.

8. Part 7: Bruce Wellman: Rigor and Relationship

"Are we loving them to failure?" Instead of relationship before rigor, it is relationship and rigor - they are not mutually exclusive.

9. Part 8: Bruce Wellman: Expertise

"Yes, there is such as thing as teaching expertise." We haven't invested in the teacher core to seriously grow their expertise.

10. Part 9: Bruce Wellman: The Purpose of Schooling

"How do you educate for an unknowable future?" The purpose of schooling can be different depending on if we are educating for a knowable or unknowable future. If it is unknowable, we have to teach adaptability.