Welcome to the fourth installment in my blog series, Smart Supports for Professional Learning Communities. In this piece, I focus on how to plan and lead effective PLC meetings to achieve your desired outcomes. For a meeting to be effective, it has to enable powerful interactions, and offer an environment conducive to learning and working together. I am sure we have all experienced ineffective meetings. To avoid those in the future, I am sharing three domains that help design and run effective PLC meetings.
But before diving into the three domains, let's examine some do's and don'ts in a PLC meeting.
PLC meetings are opportunities to learn and grow. The agenda topics should revolve around curriculum, instruction, assessment, interventions, and extensions of learning. Most importantly, teams should engage in specific activities that result in collaborative artifacts.
Domain One: Planning
Here are a few of the specifics to keep in mind when planning PLC meetings:
- Clearly articulate the purpose and desired meeting outcomes upfront and connect them to the school's vision, mission, and big goals.
- Strategically select a variety of structures or protocols to achieve the desired outcomes. When making these decisions, it is important to anticipate the emotional, cognitive, and energy needs of the participants.
- Structure meetings to ensure equity. Planning should reflect an awareness of how power dynamics and systemic oppression may manifest in the group and seek to interrupt these dynamics. We want to ensure that all voices are heard and have equal access to decision-making and input.
- Make plans keeping in mind where the team is in its stage of development and how we can help this team move to the next stage. (Remember Tuckman's Stages of Team Development.)
Domain Two: Technical Facilitation Skills
Some of the skills that are helpful to facilitate effective meetings include:
At the Opening
- Frame the purpose and desired outcomes for the meeting and review the agenda. (If relevant, identify how this meeting connects to prior meetings and previous work engaged in by the team.)
- Articulate the role participants will play in the meeting (engaging as learners, making decisions, problem-solving, creating a product, etc.)
- Name any decision-making points and processes that will be used.
- Identify the structures or activities that will be used in the meeting and how they'll connect to the desired outcomes.
- Supply resources and materials necessary for participants to meet desired outcomes.
- Articulate expectations for behavior or procedures (i.e. no cell phones, start and end on time, etc.)
- Identify processes for determining norms or agreements for the meeting (i.e. use existing set of team norms, select individual norms for that meeting, etc.)
- Determine structures to hold members accountable (self-monitoring and reflection, use of process observer, use of a team process rubric.)
During the Meeting
- Use a variety of listening strategies including paraphrasing and active listening.
- Employ a variety of questioning strategies to probe thinking and elicit new ideas.
- Invite constructive dialogue and dissent.
- Monitor participants' understanding and engagement. (Use data gathered in the moment to modify and inform facilitation, and adjust meeting to be responsive to team needs).
- Engage in small group work and be sure to circulate, monitor, and adjust to ensure equitable participation.
- Protect time for reflection and feedback within the established time.
Domain Three: Managing Group Dynamics
During a meeting, a facilitator should:
- Intervene when an agreement or norm is not upheld to protect a safe space for learning. When necessary, follow up with one on one conversations.
- Name and mediate interpersonal or inter-team conflict; use various strategies to help a group recover from a breakdown.
- Read the group's emotional and energetic state and adjust accordingly.
- Hold the expectation that members will learn, think creatively, and push each others' thinking.
- Show up as a grounded, calm presence that believes in the capacity of team members.
While there is more to say about how we plan and lead effective PLC meetings, I hope you find these domains to be helpful and provide you with the essential facilitator skills to run effective PLC meetings. Much of this information was adapted from Manual del Funcionamiento de las CADS, Universidad del Norte and the book Facilitating Teacher Teams and Authentic PLCs by Daniel R. Venables. If you would like to dig deeper into PLCs, I invite you to engage in the Supporting Professional Learning Communities Cycle on LINCspring!