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Effective Planning Time

As a team, you're now going to develop shared norms for common planning time (CPT). CPT is a period during the school day during which teachers on an interdisciplinary, partner, or grade level team meet together to share instructional strategies, plan curriculum, design assessments, organize team events, discuss student issues, and communicate with parents. As you move forward with designing and implementing Personalized Learning Plans (PLPs) in your school, collaborating effectively becomes all the more important.

Common planning time can be both promising and problematic. Research suggests that teams should have CPT for a minimum of 30 minutes per session, at least four times a week. However, CPT is often scarce, and even teams with daily CPT frequently report that they make poor use of their time. Effective teams adopt practices that encourage efficiency and intentionally monitor how their CPT is used. The best hope for making the most of CPT is to establish agreed-upon norms that teams can refer to when they find their common planning time drifting off track.

 Here's an example of a team meeting agenda that honors the importance of group norms as a starting point for collaboration.

While various formats exist, researchers recommend that interdisciplinary teams have at least four CPT periods per week for a minimum of 30 minutes per session (Flowers et al.,1999; Mertens & Flowers, 2004; Cook & Faulkner, 2010). Research has revealed that interdisciplinary teams with common planning time:

    • Provided a greater opportunity for students to be better known by their teachers (Lipsitz, 1984).
    • Led to higher overall self-concepts, increased self esteem, and more positive perceptions of school climate (Mertens, Flowers, & Mulhall, 1998; Warren & Muth, 1995).
    • Produced lower levels of depression and fewer behavior problems (Mertens et al., 1998).
    • Led to higher levels of student achievement (Flowers et al., 1999; Mertens & Flowers, 2003; Mertens & Flowers, 2006; Mertens et al., 1998).
    • Reported higher levels of job satisfaction (Flowers et al., 1999).
    • Experienced more positive interaction and heightened collegiality with their teammates (Flowers, Mertens, & Mulhall, 2000; Lipsitz; Warren & Payne, 1997).
    • Incorporated higher levels of interdisciplinary team and classroom instructional practices (Felner et al., 1997).                                                                                         (Cook & Faulkner, 2010)

Think:

        2.     Review the CPT norms developed by this newly forming team

Discuss:
        1.  Which of the 5 conditions are the easiest or most challenging for your team?
        2.  Which, if any, of the sample CPT norms will support effective use of common planning time by 
       your team?

Act:  Establish and record in a Google Doc the norms you and your teammates will abide by during common planning time.  Consider the following:
    • What is the purpose for meeting?
    • How important is it to arrive on time to CPT meetings? And what about leaving early?
    • Are there any acceptable excuses for missing a CPT meeting?
    • Is it acceptable to grade papers or fill out paperwork during CPT?
    • Will you maintain accurate minutes containing an explicit agenda and record key decisions?
    • How will you facilitate meetings to insure that the agenda is adhered to, that time is well managed, and that minutes are dutifully recorded?
    • How will you manage interruptions such as phone calls or colleagues stopping by?
    • How will you limit discussions of individual student issues since they tend to crowd out conversations about bigger but perhaps related issues, such as solving team-wide behavior problems, designing more engaging curriculum, or adopting differentiation strategies?
    • Can CPT be used for parent conferences, IEP meetings or other purposes given that you need a minimum of 4 true CPT meetings per week to yield the benefits of teaming?
    • What other obstacles to effective CPT do you anticipate? What norms can you adopt to address these obstacles? 


Examples - click here to see what others have created


Extension:

How will you limit discussions of individual student issues since they tend to crowd out conversations about bigger but perhaps related issues, such as solving team-wide behavior problems, designing more engaging curriculum, or adopting differentiation strategies?

Resources:

Cook and Faulkner (2010)

Flowers, Nancy, Mertens, Steven B., & Mulhall, Peter F. (2000). What makes interdisciplinary teams effective? Middle School Journal, March, 53-56. 

Rate Your Teaching Team

Spencer, Jill (2010). Make the most of common planning time. In Teaming rocks: Collaborate in powerful ways to ensure student success. Westerville, OH: NMSA.


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