I have never had to call a meeting in my life, except maybe in high school when I was the treasurer of the Community Service Club and I would talk during the meetings that happened every Tuesday during break. We were only teens though so I don’t think they really count.
Although I have never called any meetings, I have certainly been to many. It’s funny how meetings are different from country to country, but the general rule is that meetings go forever. Too much is always said and little is ever done. Meetings are a dreadful thing. Did you know that the average British employee sits through 6,240 meetings in their career? According to a recent article on HR Grapevine, the vast majority of meetings consist of catch-ups, client meetings and appraisals. Of the total 2,000 workers who took part in the study, six in ten described meetings as “pointless”. How many of you have felt like this in their career?
“There is nothing worse than being sat in a meeting that doesn’t really concern you,’ said Charlotte Gaskin, Marketing Manager at Sennheiser Communications, who conducted the study, “So it’s not surprising then that so many people zone out, nod off or doodle. Of the respondents we polled, many said that often a quick and concise conference call was more effective than a lengthy meeting which often resulted in expensive travel expenses,” Gaskin continued. (Steve Preston, 2015)
If you search online you’ll find plenty of tips to hold effective meetings. In my School Leadership class we have been introduced to the “7Ps Principle”, which apparently is the rule of thumb for many, so I thought it would be worth talking about it.
The 7P principle should be taken seriously so that effective meetings take place. As the picture above says:
Now, let’s put a case scenario; I will write what I think would be needed for a good meeting following the 7 Ps:
“You have read some authoritative research about the power of “assessment for learning” and “feedback” can have on students achievement. You know that the assessment strategies used in your school are limited. You hope to encourage colleagues to extend their skill-sets and make more effective use of AfL and feedback in lessons.”
Purpose: The purpose of the meeting is to explain the importance of “assessing for learning” and “feedback” in the classroom and introduce teachers to assessment strategies to improve the way they assess their students.
Product: Teachers will leave the meeting having learned what “assessing for learning” is and how “feedback” can improve their lessons. Moreover, teachers will leave the meeting having practiced two assessment strategies themselves during the meeting, with the purpose of boosting their confidence when it comes to assessment and provide them with real life experience strategies that they can apply in lessons straightaway.
People: The main people in the meeting will be the “teaching and learning” coordinator, the head of secondary and the heads of each of the departments. Since it’s the first time this kind of meeting takes place, educating teachers on assessment methods should be done little by little so as to avoid overwhelming them. The teaching and learning coordinator will be in charge of answering all questions that come up during the meeting since he/she will be the expert on assessment. He/she will also be in charge of modelling two assessment methods. The head of secondary plays a very important role too, since he or she will be in charge of moderating the meeting; the fact that he/she is a well-respected figure will make the meeting go smoother and prevent possible confrontations. The heads of departments will be the ones asking the questions and taking active part in the meeting by participating in the activity modelled by the teaching and learning coordinator.
Process: When introducing something new -like it is in this case with assessment for learning and feedback- it is important to find an appropriate time to call the meeting. No one is fond of meetings, especially when it means taking up their break time or their lunch (or free periods!). It will be hard to find a time that suits everyone, which is why, unfortunately, breaks, lunches or after school are the only options sometimes (or most of the time, especially if you need time to carry out the meeting).
Nonetheless, it doesn’t have to be a traumatic experience. In this case, the meeting can be used as a time to get together and have a laugh while at the same time they learn something new. People can bring their own goodies or their packed lunch, although I would suggest the school provides them with some sort of reward for being there. Good meetings will only go well if people WANT to be there; if they HAVE to be there, they aren’t likely to collaborate or take in the content of the meeting. A Google Document with a list of dates and possible times could be sent to all teachers by email and they get to choose when they would prefer the meeting to be held. This way teachers get to CHOOSE and a sense of democracy is fostered (it’s important to show your staff that their opinion matter and you care for them).
Pitfalls: It is possible that there might be conflict in the room, especially from those people who don’t want to be in the meeting and are unwilling to improve their teaching. The meeting will probably have the following types of people:
- The teacher who knows it all and doesn’t need to be in the meeting. What’s the point, right?
- The teacher who is afraid of anything that is new and can’t stop asking questions (as a result, the meeting is never-ending).
- The teacher who complains about having to change the way he does things and that will imply more workload. Actually, he/she complains about EVERYTHING.
- The teacher who likes to do things his/her own way and doesn’t need anyone’s help or suggestion.
- The teacher who is always too busy and can’t “waste” time being in “these type of meetings” (he or she might not even show up to the meeting).
- The teacher… fill-in-the-blank.
To avoid these pitfalls or at least try to overcome them the best possible way, clear rules have to be addressed before the meeting. Maybe it would be convenient to ask them to decide what the rules for the meeting should be. If you are short of time, set some ground rules like “not speaking out of turn” or “listening” so as to be able to start the meeting on time.
Prep: Teachers should be told to bring three post-its to the meeting:
- One post-it with what I know about assessment for learning and feedback
- Another post-it with what I want to know about assessment for learning and feedback
- And a blank post-it to write what they learned about assessment for learning and feedback after the meeting.
Practical concerns: Once teachers have come up with the day and time of preference, it’s important that the the meeting is held in a comfortable place that will suit everybody. A place with desks might be a good idea. The teaching and learning coordinator should have the meeting well prepared so that it is held effectively. Depending on when teachers want to have the meeting, the school should provide the appropriate goodies.
This is how I would try to plan a meeting given the case scenario above. It isn’t easy and I probably left many things out. Is there anything else you would add to my plan? I welcome suggestions!
Preston, S. (April 13, 2015). Meetings bloody meetings or making meetings clear? https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/meetings-bloody-making-clear-steve-preston