National Writing Project

Understand the Art of Ending a Meeting

Publication: JSD
Date: August 8, 2012

Summary: Robert J. Garmston, author of the column "Group Wise," offers useful techniques to improve the quality of professional meetings. When teacher-leaders and others who support professional groups don't attend to endings, Garmston says, efficacy and energy tend to dissipate. "Closing a meeting well requires as much purposefulness and art as opening a meeting."

 

Excerpt from Article

Afternoon shadows lengthen. The parking lot is nearly empty. A small group stands near one of the remaining cars. Voices are animated. "So what happens now?" asks one. "Who knows," says another. "It's the same old, same old — lots of talk, no action." "Did you notice that no one brought up the problems with the new reporting protocols?" "Yes, the administration has no idea how much time and paper this costs." "Who's having trouble?" someone asks. "Our team likes the new process." "That's probably because of the (grade level or subject) you teach." "Anyway," says another person, "I'm still not clear what we're supposed to do."

If your group, like this one, spends much time in parking lot meetings, the right things probably are not being discussed in the formal meetings or they are not being talked about in the right way.

One aid to effective meetings that is rarely focused on is properly ending a meeting. Closing a meeting well requires as much purposefulness and art as opening a meeting. Just as openings have goals, so do endings. Thanking participants, summarizing, and asking for agenda items or leaders for the next meeting are valuable practices. Some other purposes are to:

  • Understand agreements;
  • Clarify who is to do what by when;
  • Assess member satisfaction with the meeting;
  • Test commitments; and
  • Assess standards.

Copyright © 2006 Learning Forward. Posted with permission.
"Understand the Art of Ending a Meeting" by Robert J. Garmston, JSD Fall 2006. Reprinted with permission from Learning Forward, www.learningforward.org. All rights reserved.

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