Leadership: Meeting Agendas

Guest Post from @_theteachr

How to have Impactful Meeting Agendas

  1. How can we improve teaching and learning?  – 55 mins
  2. AOB  – 5 mins

Before I continue, I might add here is if you have serious issues in the department with, for example, significant staff absence, the stability of the department, all the things that are stopping the department from functioning, you have to deal with those first. The point I was trying to make with the agenda above, of course, is that the main event in a subject or department meeting should be Teaching and Learning. What often happens is a lot of the time, subject meetings are dominated by administrative items and sometimes just plain, unnecessarily long monologues, about something unimportant.

People often ask how the housekeeping type of things are dealt with. Well, the reality is, that while you can make the main focus of meetings teaching and learning, sometimes you just have to deal with admin or address what you have been asked to by your line manager. The key, however, is to manage meetings well, because you usually only have an hour.

When I was a Head of Subject, I devised a way to help me do just that. I viewed department meetings as crucial and that every minute of time was valuable. The department all had strengths and contributions to make, and to not tap into that at every possible opportunity was a waste. Planning department meetings was a high priority and I never rushed out an agenda at the last minute in order to fill the time we had.

So bearing in mind that the main priority had to be teaching and learning and also, that sometimes it was just more effective to deal with some types of admin with the whole team together, I developed a way to help me plan the department meeting time and also let the team know what to expect at the meeting. It was a simple case of having a little icon next to each item. The icons stood for:

  1. a presentation
  2. a task, e.g. team planning a lesson for EAL students.
  3. a discussion, e.g. what the department felt were key priorities for the development plan.
  4. information, e.g. last minute information for an imminent event, e.g. open evening.
  5. upcoming dates or events.

Now some of these are mundane and could be done in other ways, but as I say, sometimes you have to deal with them. The key is to not let them dominate. So any agenda, to my mind had to have the majority of the time spent on 2 and 3. And adding those icons, with timings allowed me or anyone, at a glance to get a feel for what was going to happen in the meeting.

Oh, and I always asked for AOB items to be stated up front and noted them so that AOB didn’t become an open-ended, ‘let’s talk about whatever comes to your mind’ or worse, somebody drives the agenda with a random thought that has come to mind.

Oh, and I always asked for AOB items to be stated up front and noted them so that AOB didn’t become an open-ended, ‘let’s talk about whatever comes to your mind’ or worse, somebody drives the agenda with a random thought that has come… Click To Tweet

It takes a little time and effort to plan out a department meeting like this every time, but, teaching and learning is of the highest priority. You’ll notice this meeting’s learning focus was those well-behaved classes that are quiet as mice and work really hard. Very easy to neglect them and to often set unchallenging work for them to get on with for an hour. Every meeting had a different learning focus, differentiation, formative assessment, challenge and stretch, pupil premium, etc.

To me, department meetings were for allowing teachers to give their input, plan together and try new things and improve as teachers. This usually won’t happen by spending an hour telling them administrative things they could read in a bulletin.

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