Rationale for Department Meetings
The most common way for people in a department to talk together is in a department meeting. Department meetings are an important way of ensuring collaboration with teachers in each department. They allow for both horizontal and vertical planning. It is a good idea to invite someone on the senior leadership team to the meetings. He should be someone who knows enough about (and supports) what you are doing. Thus, they can champion your cause at the highest level.
A department meeting should be a meeting of the minds rather than a meeting of an agenda. The meetings are a good chance to find out how the courses are progressing and to exchange ideas and information on the students’ progress. The members should come together to share best practices and identify areas for growth. If there are teachers who have taught the course before they can advise newer staff members.
Meetings done properly can be the most effective way of making decisions and motivating staff. Participants will feel more engaged with your school by contributing and sharing their thoughts. Meetings can lead to tangible results provided the discussion is properly documented in meeting minutes and a comprehensive tasks list is prepared and shared. (MeetingKing, n.d.)
But, remember that the primary purpose of school staff is to provide education. Teachers should be spending more time with their students and not so much in meetings. Hence, department meetings should be short and effective. (MeetingKing, n.d.)
Some Challenges of Department Meetings
• Participants are usually not optimally prepared
• The minutes take a lot of time to write
• There is no good task follow-up
• Need to juggle meetings and tasks related to very different departments and projects (MeetingKing, n.d.)
How to Improve Department Meetings
There are several things that need to be done before, during and after departmental meetings to make them effective in achieving their objectives.
1. Preparation for the Meeting
Set an agenda because a meeting without it is like going to an exam without studying. Ensure that all participants receive the agenda and supporting materials at least 48 hours before the meeting. This will allow them to prepare and add any other topics to the agenda. Following this procedure makes your staff much more engaged. (MeetingKing, n.d.)
Items that can be on the agenda are things like (IB Coordinator, n.d.):
• Approaches to Teaching and Learning
• Course Pacing
• Peer observations
• Internal Assessments
• Lesson Observations
• Sharing good practices
• Student concerns
• Teacher Observations
2. The Actual Meeting
Ideally, department meetings should last no longer than 30-45 minutes, covering the following areas:
• Warm Up (5-10 minutes) – Watch a 3-5 minute video that models an effective instructional practice or offers the opportunity to critique a moment in a lesson.
• Teacher Spotlight (15-20 minutes) – Each teacher in the department identifies lessons that worked well and ones that fell flat, trying to pinpoint what might have been amiss. This allows colleagues to learn from each other’s successes while offering the opportunity to provide their reflections and advice for improvement. Sharing good practices in meetings gives teachers the opportunity to teach, coach and learn from each other.
• Resource Sharing (5-10 minutes) – Each teacher shares a website, digital tool, or resource that worked for them in the past month.
• Department Goal for the Month (5-10 minutes) – Members vote on a specific focus for the next 30 days. It may be a professional goal like fine-tuning questions on final exams or it could be personal ones like fine new ways to make students comfortable in the classroom. (Sztabnik, 2014)
3. Post-Meeting Follow-up and Task Tracking
Circulate a summary or meeting minutes within 24 hours of the meeting. This ensures that memories are still fresh. Hence, any differences in interpretations can be clarified. Follow-up on tasks assigned. Hold people accountable for their tasks. Start your next meeting with an overview of what was accomplished. (MeetingKing, n.d.)
Call to Action
Butterfly Fields is a pro when it comes to what makes meetings tick. Perhaps not a week goes by at Butterfly Fields without some meeting or the other taking place in our corporate office or in virtual space via conference call. So, you could say that we are far ahead on the learning curve as far as meetings are concerned. Please schedule a meeting with us so that we can share our thoughts with you on this topic and also showcase to you what else we can offer you to make your school forge ahead and be a trailblazer.
IB Coordinator, n.d. Departmental Meetings (Including Meeting Agenda). [Online]
Available at: https://www.ibcoordinator.com/department-meeting-agenda-template
[Accessed 19 Feb 2020].
MeetingKing, n.d. Effective school staff meetings. [Online]
Available at: https://meetingking.com/effective-school-staff-meetings/
[Accessed 19 Feb 2020].
Sztabnik, B., 2014. Department Meetings Done Right. [Online]
Available at: https://www.edutopia.org/discussion/department-meetings-done-right
[Accessed 19 Feb 2020].