Elizabeth Doty writing on the website, Strategy + Business, explored the need to end meetings with clear decisions and shared commitments. She writes, “I have argued that leaders need to set the tone in the first five minutes of their meetings and then actively design the middle to keep people energized and productive. These steps are critical, but they are not the whole story. Leaders also need to be thoughtful and deliberate about how they end meetings to ensure the team walks away with clear decisions and shared commitment to implementing the next steps.”
“By cuing the close more effectively, you can move your team from conversation to action.”
– Elizabeth Doty
Doty’s writing confirmed some of the recommendations that I make regarding the facilitation of PLCs. I suggest that sessions should end with setting the agenda for the next meeting. That process can encourage clarity of decisions and commitments.
I have written and presented often on the power of PLC’s functioning as team meetings rather than franchise meetings. As franchisees, teachers share concerns, opportunities, tips, resources, or strategies and leave the meeting with individual responsibility for student success in their classrooms. As team members, teachers leave the meeting with shared responsibility for all the students in each other’s classrooms. Teams need clarity of decisions and commitments.
Tight timelines, such as the start of the next class period, can lead to rushed endings that at times leave members feeling stressed with what was left “in the air” or sense that their time was just wasted. Doty provides four suggestions for facilitators concerning meeting endings:
- Cue the close- A usual meeting process is open-narrow-close. Cuing the members to be narrowing can increase the likelihood of ending with action. I’ve suggested for most PLCs that 20 minutes of discussion should lead to action. That action may not be that we have a plan to implement. It could be that we have raised questions that need to be explored so that we start the next meeting with information that leads us forward. Discussing a struggling student, members might ask about information from last year’s teacher, specialist teachers’ experiences, and the student’s interests outside school. The team can make commitments for different members to gather pieces of information prior to the next PLC meeting.
- Call for the decision- Agreement on how a decision will be reached should be part of the PLC norms and/or decided upon before the group begins exploring options on a particular decision. Is the group under a fixed deadline for a decision to be reached in this meeting or is there time to leave the meeting to explore further and decide at the next meeting? Is the decision a critical one and time is available for coming to a consensus or is a majority view decision agreeable to members. Commitment to the decision is needed in either case.
- Outline next steps and open questions- If a decision was reached and action is to begin, it is critical that next steps with a suggested timeline are stated. If the decision was delayed, what are the questions that still need to be explored? What research does the group desire to gather? I am a big fan of minutes being taken at PLC meetings and forwarded to members along with the agenda for the next meeting. Most PLC sessions should end with homework to be completed prior to the next session. Nothing is worse than starting the next meeting with different expectations of what was agreed to be done or data to be collected and brought to the meeting. Minutes encourage the commitment of team members. I also believe that reading minutes assists administrators in assessing how PLC time is being invested. Some schools share minutes with everyone or with all PLC facilitators to encourage teaming across PLCs, using each other as resources.
“Great teams build a habit of continuously improving their meetings”
– Elizabeth Doty
- Reflect on the process- Having quality PLC time requires each member to take some responsibility for the group’s effectiveness. All members learning facilitation skills (which also apply in the classroom) advances greater learning and success from the time invested in PLCs. School leaders should look to provide opportunities for training in key facilitation skills and coaching feedback to support internalization. Teachers serving as PLC facilitators and instructional coaches might provide peer coaching among the PLC leaders.
As members fulfill commitments, trust builds among the team. Increased trust leads to members being more vulnerable which increases risk-taking and increases member learning, leading to increased student success. A strong upward spiral!
Photo by Allison Shelley for EDUimages