Richard DuFour

Richard DuFour, EdD, was a public school educator for 34 years. A prolific author and sought-after consultant, he is recognized as one of the leading authorities on helping school practitioners implement the PLC at Work™ process.

Should Teams Be Required to Submit Meeting Agendas?

We received a question from a principal who wanted to know if there was research to support requiring her teams to prepare and submit agendas for their team meetings. Here is our response:

Thanks for your question about agendas. We are not aware of any research about the importance of agendas. I did not require teams to use agendas when I was principal. If they felt it would be beneficial to have one, they did; however, if they preferred not to create an agenda, they didn't. In terms of PLC language, we were “loose” on agendas.

What we were “tight” on, however, was that teams would submit products that showed they were engaged in doing the right work. We worked with teacher leaders to establish a timeline for the products, and if a team was unable to generate a product according to the timeline, then we knew the team required some assistance such as clarification of the task, examination of samples created by other teams, or mediation of conflict.

The products came from the list of 18 critical questions (“Critical Issues for Team Consideration”) that are available under Tools & Resources. For example, we would want to see the team’s norms, SMART goal, expected learning outcomes for the semester and grading period, key prerequisite skills or vocabulary needed for success in the upcoming unit, the team’s plan for gathering evidence of whether each student had the necessary skills and vocabulary, and common formative assessments created by the team. Most importantly, we wanted to see the team’s data analysis protocol sheet for each common formative assessment to ensure they were using it to identify students needing help or enrichment, to share strengths, and to identify areas where the entire team needed support in helping students learn a particular concept. The data analysis protocol sheet (“Data Analysis Protocol”) is also available under Tools & Resources.

Remember you are asking for these products to see if teams understand the work to be done, if they are getting it done, and the quality with which they are getting it done. This puts you in a position to support teams that struggle. So which will give you better insights into these questions: having an agenda that says the team wrote a common formative assessment or actually looking at the common assessment?

I strongly recommend that you are much better off being loose on agendas and tight on clearly defined products being presented within a clearly designated timeframe.


Carla Myrie

Is there an agenda template available?

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Sharon K. Bultema

I agree with Richard DuFour’s answer to the question of “Should teams be required to submit meetings agendas?” I think that administrators should be “loose” on the requirement. Requiring agendas and their submission creates unnecessary work for both the administration and the team of teachers. If the team already has a timeline and goal, they might be able to use these things as sufficient guidance. Some teachers can easily see the big picture and do not need to break things down into agendas for each meeting. I think by being “loose” on the requirement of an agenda, administrators treat their teachers as adult professionals. As Cory Delgado mentioned in a post to respond to this article, collecting agendas “would demean the PLC – likening it to treating them like students – holding them accountable for low level homework tasks” (Delgado, 2014). I appreciate the freedom that we are given by our administration at my school. I think that when an administrator micro-manages it can have a negative effect on the morale of the staff both in dealing with PLCs and other areas.

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Richard DuFour

Several of the comments on the blog about requiring agendas are from people like Erica who believe that the creating an agenda helped her team work more effectively. Many of the teams in my former school felt the same way, and we encouraged them to continue to use agendas if they were helpful. We simply didn't require them. From the perspective of the principal, agendas alone are insufficient to determine if a team is struggling to produce quality work. For that purpose, the actual work produce by the team is necessary. An agenda or minutes that way, "We will develop a SMART goal" is not nearly as helpful as reviewing the SMART goal to determine if the team is clear on the task. So when a school is relatively new to the process, it is important that the leadership team have a procedure in place to review the products created by teams. Once teams become demonstrate deep understanding and proficiency in the process, submitting products to the principal may not be necessary.

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Erika Carter

After reading this article, I can understand the perspective of the principal. However, I still believe that it is beneficial for PLC's to have some sort of agenda for meeting. O think this will continue to hold members accountable. I compare the agenda to a teacher's lesson plan. We may not refer to it often during the instructional day, but it still serves as a guide to produce some a product. I do not think that agenda should be the highlight of the meeting but it should show that the group did communicate and are working towards a common goal.

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Elizabeth E

Prior to reading this blog, I believed that it was important for my PLC to submit an agenda to our principal every time we met. I believed this because I feel it is important to have a focus-driven meeting in which the conversation stays on track. However, after reading your blog, I agree that submitting a project that demonstrates the work we have done is sufficient. I think that a project submission would hold the PLC members accountable and provide a sense of focus and direction. An agenda could also be created to assist in the time management of the project, but I don't feel that it is necessary to submit this to administration.

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April Childers

I am a kindergarten teacher and I meet with my grade level team twice a week. On the first day, we discuss struggling students and strategies we can use in the RTI (Response to Intervention) process. This meeting takes place during our common planning time. The second day is spent talking about curriculum and the standards being taught the following week. We schedule this meeting on our own time, after work. The principal at my school requires grade level teams to submit a meeting agenda each week. I agree that an agenda is a good way to keep the teachers focused during the meeting. However, I feel as though we spend so much time worrying about filling out the agenda; we miss an opportunity to do the work that is relevant and important in helping our students achieve.
I recently watched a video that focused on professional learning communities. The video showed a group of science teachers meeting to discuss the progress of their students. I was amazed at what the team accomplished in a short amount of time. The teachers looked at the data from a formative assessment given; then analyzed the results from each teacher. They found areas where the educators struggled to effectively teach the students a standard. But, they also found strengths. The teachers were able to discuss what they were doing in their classrooms that worked. This discussion gave everyone in the professional learning community a list of strategies or ideas they could take back and try in their classrooms. I would like for my grade level team to be focused and have meaningful conversations; similar to the conversations presented in the video.
I believe meeting with my grade level team can be beneficial. These meetings force us to look at the everyday learning of our students, beyond the required state tests. By meeting with my colleagues, we have an opportunity to inquire deeply about challenges we face in the classroom. I want to focus on improving my instruction, which will increase the learning of my students. I completely agree with Rebecca about turning in the agenda. If the students continue to make progress; the teachers must be reflecting and making the necessary changes to increase the success of the students. I feel the student progress speaks for itself.

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Rebecca Kornblum

I personally find it extremely helpful to use an agenda for PLC meetings. During the time between meetings, there are very frequently questions or concerns that come up. These questions or concerns should be mentioned to the head of the meeting in order to be listed on the agenda. An agenda is a great way to focus a team and address the most important factors of improving classrooms and student achievement.
I do not believe that the agenda should be submitted. Let the results of the meetings do the talking. If no progress is being made, there should be administrative intervention. But if it seems that students are making progress, clearly the teachers have been properly handling situations, so why should they have to submit anything?
Having a meeting without an agenda feels somewhat disconnected. There is no clear mission of the meeting. It is important to ensure that the meeting has a goal and can therefore have an impact on the students.

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Cory Delgado

We strongly encourage agendas as it helps to focus a meeting and increase preparedness for team members. However as an admin team we always felt like if we were to collect the agendas weekly it would demean the PLC - likening it to treating them like students - holding them accountable for low level homework tasks.
Whenever we are coaching a struggling team we do help create agendas and periodically review agendas with the them but then phase back out.

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