12 Jul Make Your School Meetings and PLC’s Transparent
You know all those meetings you go to? Department meetings, PLC meetings, grade level meetings, faculty meetings, admin meetings, etc… (this list could go on forever).
- What do you do when you miss a meeting? You might ask someone but most likely just show up to the next meeting without context.
- What if you are intrigued by what others are talking about in their meeting? Maybe you catch them in the hall or staff room, but most likely you forget.
- What do you do with those meeting notes? Hmm…in a file, computer or brain, somewhere.
In order to support these conversations there is a group of schools who are transforming the way they capture, share, and reflect on these meetings using their Atlas system. Read their stories below.
Join the growing numbers of schools who are using Atlas to elevate their meeting and PLC process.
Documenting PLC Conversations
Nancy Lhoest-Squicciarini, Assistant Principal International School of Luxembourg
As Assistant Principal responsible for Teaching and Learning, one of my primary responsibilities is to provide the framework for a professional learning community.
According to Richard DuFour the core principles of professional learning communities include:
- What do we want each student to learn?
- How will we know when each student has learned it?
- How will we respond when a student experiences difficulty in learning?
Knowing these big ideas, platforms are created for teachers to engage and embrace their collective knowledge and intelligence. One such platform is the Meeting Highlights template located in our Atlas. Because all curriculum documentation, including learning objectives, syllabi, and policies, are already on Atlas, publishing meeting highlights, which encapsulate the subject meeting discussions, was an obvious step.
The meeting template not only highlights the decisions and thought processing of the Upper School staff, but also confirms our commitment to have discussions that support and impact student learning and teacher practice. Having meeting highlights documented in Atlas allows for greater transparency and communication between all teachers in the Upper School with a focus on student learning.
Mapping School Meetings
Julie Johnson and Marie Vandecoevering, Principal and Teacher at Holy Cross Catholic School
Holy Cross has embraced the use of Atlas not only for curriculum development but also as a communication tool among teachers. Under the leadership of our Curriculum Development Team, the teachers have come to see Atlas not only as a “mapping” tool but also a way to communicate among the grade levels.
The teachers were already looking for a way to communicate more effectively the discussions and concerns from our Professional Learning Communities. Our Pre-K through Grade 8 school has 3 different PLC’s: primary, intermediate, and middle school. We meet in our PLC’s about twice a month, and, for every meeting, we have an agenda to follow and are expected to take notes and submit them after the meeting. Historically, each PLC had their own method of taking notes: handwritten, own personal computer, a Google doc, e-mail to principal, etc. The problem is, for school-wide matters there wasn’t great communication among the grade bands.
Rubicon was able to customize a new “course” titled “Meeting Agenda and Minutes.” All PLC’s can access the meeting agenda on their maps and all teams submit minutes on it as an attachment. Atlas is an excellent way for us to document conversations, re-visit questions, and track concerns throughout the year. It has improved communication among all grade levels and it has helped us as a staff stay organized and consistent with our documentation of our meeting minutes.
Building a PLC Initiative
Materials prepared by Dr. Peter Lancia, Superintendent at Westbrook School Department
Like many schools throughout the US, Westbrook currently faces the challenge of integrating classroom practice with three levels of standards: Multi-state sets (like the Common Core State Standards), state sets (in this case, the Maine Learning Results), and locally-developed standards. Throw varying classroom experience levels, geographical distance between schools, and the switch to proficiency-based diplomas in with the mix and some serious communication needs arise.
Dr. Lancia and his team answered this call with a PLC initiative complete with dedicated workday time allotted to PLC planning! Every week, Westbrook students disperse early to make way for an hour of PLC time. Dr. Lancia noted that the PLC Teacher-Leaders take charge of maintaining the PLC information in Atlas. Captured in Atlas, like-minded colleagues across the district can reference the work of individual PLCs to inform their learning plans (or even simply assure themselves that their colleagues are rocking in the same proverbial boat—mathematical modeling isn’t just throwing you for a loop!)
A key feature of this template is its size. Dr. Lancia noted that preserving the content of the PLC is not the same as participating in the PLC itself. Templates should be direct and succinct, spurring the progress of the PLC (not a record of every word uttered during the gathering).
Improving Institutional Memory
Christina Botbyl, PK – 12 Curriculum Coordinator at American International School Kuwait
When AIS Kuwait began a self-study in preparation for an MSA re-accreditation visit, the focus on “evergreen” processes emphasized in MSA’s Excellence by Design protocol provoked thinking about systems and procedures. The Planning Team had a desire for the months of intense self-study to be sustainable, to endure beyond the tenure of its members. The Planning Team set an Organizational Capacity objective in the resulting School Improvement Plan that would directly impact Institutional Memory.
One action we took was to move the documentation of meeting agendas and resulting action notes to our Atlas system. This led to a significant increase in the need and desire to access information in Atlas. Through documenting and improved accessibility, we are now on a more direct path to sustaining consistent policies, systems, and practices that directly impact school improvement.
At AISK, Atlas users can access meeting agendas, see which decisions were made, and view who is responsible for carrying out different tasks. Through Atlas, AISK personnel can leave notes and engage in discussion about the plan, which encourages staff to share ideas, best practices, and get their questions answered. By expanding the scope of Atlas, schools encourage new and old users to more frequently access the system to gain familiarity with its many benefits.
Creating courses for different departmental and administrative groups gives Atlas users easy access to shared material. With a “course” built for each, schools can centralize material with “units” that house meetings minutes, shared resources, helpful curriculum examples, and more. With this streamlined documentation policy, translating meetings into action has become common practice.
Capturing Departmental Meeting Conversations
Amy Clerides, Principal at American International School in Cyprus
We use an Atlas template for our Departmental Meetings, Divisional Meetings and Student Study Meetings, and our Middle School student council supervisor just asked me to create a place for her to document those minutes as well. We find that this is a great way to get our teachers into Atlas more often and it gives us the opportunity to view each other’s minutes, so we have greater transparency and awareness of what’s going on across grade levels and subject areas. As an administrator, I can go in to add my comments and ask and answer questions as needed.