A few years ago, when I was working in a district near my home (a very fine district by most conventional measures), I received a call from my contact: “The head of the science department is eager to talk with you about a problem.” I naturally thought it was about some design or implementation issue with UbD.

No, it was about Dept. meetings: what can be done to make meetings more productive? “We never get anything done, and some people just hold forth unhelpfully.” He asked me if I had a meeting protocol.

I have thought about this problem a lot. Because so often ongoing meetings in schools are, indeed, so unhelpful and frustrating. They are often just about ‘administrivia’ that could be better covered in writing, or there is no protocol to ensure that the meeting is productive and all voices are heard.

I had quickly cobbled something together for the science chair, but I now have an opportunity, as a result of two current projects, to develop, try out, and refine a meeting protocol for admin. teams and academic departments. Readers, do you know of or have you worked in a school that has really effective processes? Please share.

My friend and colleague Andy Greene, Principal of Candlewood Middle School in Half Hollow Hills NY, is a great facilitator of staff meetings. He makes each of his 8 staff meetings per year focus on some important PD issue. He publishes an agenda in advance that also asks people to read something and come prepared to discuss the issue at hand, the meeting consists of small-group discussions and exercises designed to yield products and shared understandings, and it ends up with action items. (We have video of Andy facilitating these meetings and I will post some clips soon.)

At the least, we can use UbD thinking to improve meetings:

Goals: What’s the intended outcome of the meeting? Action, new ideas, understanding, some or all of the above? State the outcomes on the agenda in UbD terms – transfer, understanding, knowledge & skill.

Evidence: what counts as an effective meeting and outcome? What product/performance would count as evidence of success? What rubric can we use to frame meetings in terms of the conditions and indicators of success? Can we thus take stock formatively during the meeting as to how we’re doing against those criteria? Any productive meeting ends with follow-up: is it clear what the next steps are, who will do what, on what timeline?

What then follows for the agenda, the activities, and the sequence of topics in the meeting? Who should fulfill what roles to make the meeting effective? What training might be needed to ensure that unhelpful behavior is called out as such and lessened?

All examples of effective meeting protocols or summaries of them are welcome, by posting or email. I will soon put up a draft here and get your feedback.