Faculty Meetings: Do they add value?

By Mel Riddile

In a recent post, Principal, Peter DeWitt asked, Do I do that enough in our faculty meetings?  He went on to state emphatically that “faculty meetings should mean something!

I started to write a comment, but the comment turned into an article.

Faculty meetings should be teacher-led, and, like student homework assignments, should add value and help to improve and enhance classroom instruction.

Professional learning is a process not an event. Experience taught me that continuing to shift topics with no follow-through only served to frustrate and confuse teachers. Instead, we collectively chose a theme and followed-through on that theme throughout the school year. We built a foundation of quality instruction one brick at a time.

The operative word here is implementation. If a topic is worth taking the time to address in a faculty meeting, it should be worth the time and effort needed to adequately follow-up. In the follow-up process, we learned what was working and which teachers needed additional help. We made use of our “bright spots” to share what worked in their classrooms.

Because we sought to create a culture of shared professional learning and build the capacity of our teachers, our follow-up was not an inspection, but more about reflection. Did we add value? Do we need to address this topic again? To us, it did not matter how long it took to put the learning into practice because, instead of ‘majoring in the minors,’ we only focused on that which we “must” do to raise student achievement.

We asked our teachers for evidence that their students learned and mastered the concepts contained in the day’s lesson. The closure of a lesson called for the teacher to conduct a “practice retrieval” or formative assessment to assess mastery. Teachers used the formative assessment to inform instruction, focus review, and target remediation. If the formative assessment indicated the students did not master the content, the teacher would re-teach the lesson.

Likewise, we looked for evidence that our faculty meeting met the stated outcomes? As principals, we have the advantage of daily contact with our staff and the ability to follow-up.

The decision as to the topic of the next faculty meeting was based on how well our teachers learned, mastered, and applied the concepts from the previous meeting.

In this way, our teachers saw true meaning and value in faculty meetings. Rather than viewing faculty meetings as a disconnected series of  ‘dog-and-pony shows’, our teachers took the teacher-led sessions to heart and understood that there was an expectation that the learning would be applied in the classroom. Because we modeled what we expected from teachers in the faculty meetings, they came to consider the content of these meetings as serious professional learning opportunities.

Yes, we covered fewer topics, but we learned more and we certainly implemented whatever we learned with fidelity.

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