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Educational Research (ISSN: 2141-5161) Vol. 4(9) pp. 659-673, September, 2013
DOI: http:/dx.doi.org/10.14303/er.2013.215
Available [email protected] http://www.interesjournals.org/ER
Copyright © 2013 International Research Journals
Full Length Research Paper
School meetings: Bliss or curse! Meetings management
skills in Lebanese private schools
Khalil Al- Jammal and Norma Ghamrawi*
Faculty of Education- Lebanese University
*Corresponding Authors E-mail: [email protected]
Accepted 11 September, 2013
This study is a quantitative study that addressed meeting management in Lebanese private schools
context. 587 teachers from in 118 private schools in Beirut, Lebanon responded to a survey in which
data was elicited from them regarding how staff meetings were conducted in their schools along with
their personal evaluation of such meetings and what they considered as main obstacles confronting
the optimal conduction of meetings. This was made against an extensive review of the literature of
meetings management. Data was analyzed using SPSS 18.0 for windows. Results indicated that
meetings were poorly managed according to the international literature of meetings management. In
addition, the majority of participating teachers considered staff meetings to be useless and provided
possible reasons for that. Limitations of the study and recommendations for both research and
practice are provided.
Keywords: Meeting management- school leadership- school improvement- school effectiveness.
INTRODUCTION
Several researchers argue that meetings are often
a colossal waste of time, that most of them are
really unnecessary (Bradt, 2010; Quinn, 2005). Some
of them call to “kill” meetings because they are “toxic”
to productivity (Sky, 2012). According to Bradt (2010), “at
their best, most meetings are a waste of time; instead
of inspiring and enabling, way too many of them actually
drain participants’ willingness and ability to do real
work” (p.12). Quinn (2005) says that “meetings consume
huge amounts of personal and corporate time, and
often, because they are poorly planned or conducted,
they end up wasting the time of those attending”
(p.26). In the same vein, Sky (2012) admits “that
maybe there is the odd rare occasion that a meeting is
well executed, achieves a set purpose, and utilizes time
effectively but sadly that is the exception rather than the
rule”.
Levin-Epstein (2011) distinguishes between the
theory and practice of meetings. He explains that “in
theory, meetings are a wonderful tool; you get together
with your colleagues, spitball ideas, pin down agendas,
and have some quality face-to-face interactions; they are
as much an opportunity to get work done as to team
build…[] But in reality, they can be a colossal waste of
time where mostly what you do is daydream about what
you're going to have for lunch” (p.45). This sarcastic view
about the worthiness of meetings is shared by Williams
(2012) who asks the participants of meetings: “how often
have you sat through a meeting and said to yourself,
what a waste of time, I could be doing something
better!”. He gives managers the following advice: “cancel
50 percent of your meetings and you will get more work
done” (p.8).
Horton (2010) makes a similar point and considers
that meetings are often a waste of time in the Enterprise.
According to him, every employee has sat in countless
meetings that drone on – meetings where he/she is not
really needed. With an estimated 11 million formal
meetings per day in the United States, corporate America
has been held hostage by 3 billion meetings per year
(Horton, 2010). Horton (2010) explains that it is not that
every meeting is a waste of time, or useless, but rather
that meetings are overused and often become
unnecessary when there are tools like social software
that can be used to collaborate instead” (p.17). Pozen
(2012) makes a similar point and invites organizations to
660 Educ. Res.
make better and more intelligent use of tools available to
them such as telephones and emails.
Thus the claim is that meetings could work against an
organization’s goals and hence decrease it’s productivity,
a point that Tice (2012) manifests by claiming posing the
question: “Have you been wondering how to get more
work out of your staff? There is one easy way: Stop
having meetings. Unnecessary meetings cost the U.S.
economy $37 billion a year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor
Statistics once estimated” (p.212).
In the same line, Haneberg (2004), Babauta (2007)
and Merchant (2011) asserted that time saved from
meetings is money gained for organizations. They
attribute this to the fact that time is money, when wasted,
it can never be regained. Everything that diverts the focus
of human resources from their core functions decreases
organizational productivity.
While some meetings are unnecessary, some others
are necessary, even indispensable (Bhatia,2010;
Davies,2012; Forhan, 2008; Hall, 2011; Hochman, 2011;
Hyatt, 2011). They suggest tips than can make the
difference between “wasteful” and “wonderful” meetings.
What is said about meetings, in general, can also be
said about those that take place in schools.
Education World’s “Principal Files” team says:
“Staff meetings can be the most important and
productive professional development opportunities of the
school year; on the other hand, they can be the most
dreaded and squandered time a teacher will spend”
(p.67).
The purpose of this study was to investigate the
degree meetings in Lebanese school settings were well
managed according to criteria derived from the
international literature.
Purpose of the Study
The literature provides rich indicators for effective
meetings (Bhatia, 2010; Davies, 2012; Forhan, 2008;
Hall, 2011; Hochman, 2011; Hyatt, 2 011). Such
meetings are described to consist of extensive prior
preparation and post follow up (Hyatt, 2011). There is a
whole list of tiny details that work for or against the
success and productivity of a meeting (Davies, 2012).
The purpose of this study was to investigate the
degree to which meetings within the Lebanese private
school context were well managed according to criteria
that is derived from the descriptors of effective and
ineffective meetings within the international literature.
Research Questions
School staff meetings can “provide opportunities for
teachers to interact and engage, which helps build strong
relationships” (Bhatia, 2010, p.19). They allow for goals
achievement through effective problem solving and
intelligent decision-making (Hochman, 2011). By allowing
staff to meet and talk about issues, meetings allow all
staff to have their voice heard and ensure that everything
within the school runs smoothly (Davies, 2012). This
would be to the benefit of school in general and students
in particular; thus contributing to school effectiveness
(Forhan, 2008). However, staff meetings at school can
also be a waste of time and effort (Forhan, 2008). Many
elementary school teachers dread faculty and staff
meetings, as they are all too often tedious and
unproductive (Bhatia, 2010) .
The purpose of this study was to investigate the
degree staff meetings in school were well managed. The
research questions addressed this study were:
1. How are staff meetings managed at Lebanese private
schools?
2. How do teachers evaluate staff meetings in Lebanese
private schools?
Review of Relevant Literature
Meetings can be very productive, yet can also be a waste
of time (Davies, 2012). There are three phases for
effective meeting: pre-meeting preparations, the meeting
itself, and post-meeting follow up (Bhatia,2010;
Davies,2012; Forhan, 2008; Hall, 2011; Hochman, 2011;
Hyatt, 2011).
Descriptors of the effectiveness of each of the
mentioned phases are enlisted in tables (1), (2) and (3)
which are derived from the literature.
Phase I: Pre-meeting Preparation
Descriptors of the effectiveness of pre-meeting
preparations are detailed in table (1).
Thus the elements that characterize effective premeeting preparations are plenty. The above researchers
assure that when in place, these elements contribute to
successful meetings. However, before getting indulged in
such tedious preparations, one should make sure that
there is a real need for the conduction of the meeting.
Lee (2008) and Jarrow (2011) defined the ways to spot
unnecessary meetings.
Lee (2008) argues that the meeting is unnecessary
when the “owner is not able to express a valid purpose
for the meeting objectives, goals, and desired
accomplishments in one or two written sentences” (p.
124). The owner is encouraged to pose the following
question on his/herself: ”Why is this particular meeting
needed at this specific time? (p. 124). If the purpose for
Al- Jammal and Ghamrawi 661
Table 1. Characteristics of Pre-meeting Preparations
Item
1. Define clearly and succinctly the purpose and outcomes of
the meeting (in one or two sentences at most).
2. Set a clear agenda. List the items you are going to
review/discuss/inspect.
3. Assign a time limit to each agenda item.
4. Selecting participants depends on what you want to
accomplish in the meeting. (Don’t invite people to a meeting
who have nothing to contribute. And don’t hold a meeting
unless the key contributors can be in attendance.)
5. Send to the participants a meeting notice, including the
purpose of the meeting, where it will be held and when, the list
of participants and whom to contact if they have questions.
6. Send out a copy of the proposed agenda to all of the people
who are expected to attend the meeting (along with the
meeting notice).
7. When is the best time? Make sure that the meeting time will
be most convenient for your target audience.
8. Only hold meetings because you need to and because you
have a clear plan of what needs to be said and discussed. If
our only purpose is to deliver information, consider using
phone call, e-mail or voice mail rather than a meeting.
9. Before the meeting, forward any long or important
supporting documents to individuals who are invited to the
meeting, so that they will have time to think about the topic
and form opinions before the meeting.
10. If a decision needs to be made, agree on the process of
making the decision beforehand (by consensus, by vote, by
majority rule, etc.).
11. Define roles: assign a person to each of the following
roles: timekeeper, facilitator, and note taker (scribe).
Reference
Bhatia(2010), Hall(2011), Hochman(2011), Hyatt(2011),
League of Women Voters-LWV(2011), Mackie(2009),
Myatt(2011), Rains(2011), Shore(2012), Stannard(2008),
Tracy(2012), Woods(2010)
Bhatia(2010), Davies(2012), Forhan(2008), Hall(2011),
Hochman(2011),
Hyatt(2011),
LWV(2011),
Mackie(2009), Myatt(2011), Rains(2011), Shead(2010),
Shore(2012),
Stannard(2008),
Tracy(2012),
Woods(2010)
Bhatia(2010), Davies(2012), Forhan(2008), Hall(2011),
LWV(2011), Rains(2011), Shead(2010), Tracy(2012)
Bhatia(2010),
Forhan(2008),
Hochman(2011),
LWV(2011), Mackie(2009), Myatt(2011), Shead(2010),
Shore(2012), Stannard(2008), Woods(2010)
Forhan(2008)
Bhatia(2010), Davies(2012), Hall(2011),
Hyatt(2011), Mackie(2009), Myatt(2011), Rains(2011),
Shead(2010), Stannard(2008)
Hall(2011), LWV(2011), Woods(2010),
Bhatia(2010), Butcher(2010), Davies(2012), Hall(2011),
Hochman(2011),
Mackie(2 0 0 9 ) ,
Myatt(2011),
Shead(2010), Stannard(2008) Woods(2010)
Davies(2012),
Woods(2010)
Rains(2011),
Stannard(2008),
Woods(2010)
Stannard(2008)
12. Set a time limit on how long you are willing to allow people
to debate before a decision is made.
Davies(2012),
Forhan(2008),
Stannard(2008), Tracy(2012)
13. Where is the best location? Choose the type of location
that will be most successful in attracting your target audience
and in helping you meet your goals for the meeting.
14. Set up appropriate seating and make sure that the room
meeting is well equipped: tables, chairs, microphone,
overhead projector, LCD, etc.
15. Set a start and end time.
Forhan(2008), Hall(2011), LWV(2011), Woods(2010)
the meeting cannot be defined, then the meeting is
irrelevant and would be a waste of everyone's time.
Lee (2008) and Jarrow (2011) said, a meeting without
an agenda is unnecessary and Wasteful. According to
Shead(2010),
Forhan(2008), Hall(2011), LWV(2011), Woods(2010)
Bhatia(2010), Davies(2012), Forhan(2008), Hall(2011),
Mackie(2 0 0 9 ) , Myatt(2011), Shead(2010), Tracy(2012)
Jarrow (2011), “everyone would agree that all meetings
should have an agenda, yet almost no meetings actually
have one” (p.47). Lee (2008) agrees with Jarrow (2011)
that a meeting is not necessary when the meeting leader
662 Educ. Res.
Table 2. Actions that Foster Effective Conduction of Meetings
Items
1. Meetings need to start on time: this respects those who showed up
on time and reminds late-comers that the scheduling is serious.
2. Welcome attendees and thank them for their time.
Authors
Bhatia(2010), Davies(2012),
Hyatt(2011),
Mackie(2009),
Shead(2010), Tracy(2012).
Forhan(2008),
Forhan(2008),
Rains(2011),
3. When someone arrives late, don't go back and review what has
already been covered.
Shead(2010), Tracy(2012).
4. When someone comes in late, ask that they catch up with someone
else in the group to find out what they missed.
5. Summarize each major point before moving on to the next topic.
Shead(2010).
6. Ask questions throughout the meeting to test for understanding and
agreement.
Hochman(2011), Tracy(2012).
7. Explain the ground rules for discussion. Stay focused on the topic.
Stop digressions from the topic and remind participants of your desire
to keep the meeting short but productive.
Davies(2012), Forhan(2008), Hall(2011),
Hochman(2011), Rains(2011), Shore(2012),
Stannard(2008), Tracy(2012).
Forhan(2008), Hochman(2011), Mackie(2009),
Shead(2010), Tracy(2012).
8. Give the participants the opportunity to ask and to discuss. There is
little reason to convene people if we expect them to be passive.
9. Meetings must have a relaxed, non-intimidating, and
professional atmosphere. Attendees must know that they are valued
and respected.
10. If a meeting is important enough to attend, it should demand the
participant’s full attention. (Blackberrys, iPhones, and other PDA’s
need to be turned-off, side conversations must stop, etc.)
11. Make it known that meetings are not to be interrupted unless it is
an emergency (an “emergency” needs to be defined as both urgent
and important).
12. Your responses should encourage fresh ideas while avoiding offtopic rambling. Ask for input from specific people who should have the
most pertinent insights.
13. Highlight the meeting’s accomplishments at the end of the
meeting.
14. Leave 5-10 minutes at the end of the meeting to evaluate the
meeting; don't skip this portion of the meeting.
15. Always end meetings on time and attempt to end on a positive
note. When you finish late, you frustrate participants.
16. Determine the next meeting date. This is easy to do when
everyone is together.
doesn’t set an agenda stating topics and group of actions
to be taken on each. He argues that if the person
organizing the meeting cannot focus well enough to plan
the action steps, the meeting should progress through,
then most probably, people may not be able to focus on
arriving at the desired goals.
Jarrow (2011) warns against reading meetings in
which information is read to attendees. He explains that
meetings are designed to discussing ideas. When the
sole purpose of a meeting is to deliver information, then
using emails or memos would be more suitable. Jarrow
Tracy(2012).
Bhatia(2010), Forhan(2008), Hall(2011),
LWV(2011), Myatt(2011).
Forhan(2008), Myatt(2011).
Hyatt(2011).
Hochman(2011), Rains(2011), Shead(2010).
Davies(2012), Hochman(2011), Hyatt(2011),
Shore(2012), Stannard(2008), Tracy(2012).
Hochman(2011).
Bhatia(2010), Davies(2012),
Hyatt(2011),
LWV(2011),
Shead(2010), Tracy(2012).
Forhan(2008), Myatt(2011).
Forhan(2008),
Mackie(2009),
(2011) also warns against the invitation of a large number
of participants to meetings. He states that: “If you get
more than six people together, the ability to hold a
conversation goes downhill quickly… [and] when you
see a meeting request with 8-12 people on it, it usually
means that the organizer didn’t know who they should be
talking to” (p.67). According to Lee (2008), meetings are
unnecessary when the right people may not attend. In
this case, decisions taken during meetings would
contribute to real internal problems within the
organization.
Al- Jammal and Ghamrawi 663
Table 3. Post-meeting Follow-up
Item
1. The minutes of the meeting should be distributed to all who
attended.
2. Forward minutes to participants as soon as possible after
the meeting (usually within 24 hours).
Authors
Bhatia(2010),
Hall(2011),
Hyatt(2011),
Rains(2011), Stannard(2008), Tracy(2012),
Woods(2010).
Hyatt(2011), Tracy(2012).
3. The minutes of the meeting should be distributed to any
invitees who did not attend to inform them of the progress that
was made and reminds every one of their action items.
4. Encourage participants to ask questions: respond properly
to any concerns, correct promptly any wrong thinking and give
guidance as needed.
Hall(2011).
5. Follow up: lastly, you want actively investigate the progress
of the meeting's action items and to inform the other attendees
of the progress of the action items that all of you agreed upon.
Mackie(2009),
Woods(2010)
When meeting organizers fail to locate the meeting
venue in their memos, then this often indicates that they
did not plan effectively for such meetings (Jarrow, 2011;
Hall, 2011).
Another point made by Jarrow(2011) relates to time
management of meetings. He explains that meeting
memos should indicate the length of meetings, the time
they are expected to start as well as time they are
expected to adjourn. The failure to indicate such
information in the calls for meetings constitutes
introductions to meetings failure (Jarrow, 2011). In the
same vein, Jarrow (2011) warns against ‘lunch time
meetings’ by stating that:
“disorganized people love to call for lunch time
meetings. They have little regard for other people’s
schedules or lunch activities. They figure they aren’t
going to enjoy their lunch, so they might as well bring
others with them.” (p. 51).
Planning an effective meeting should be based on
the following questions: why? who? what? where? when?
how? (Lee, 2008). The meeting organizer should be able
to determine the type of meeting that is most suitable for
its purpose. Some meeting objectives are more
conducive to quick, impromptu formats; while others
require more preparation and more time (Davies, 2012).
Several authors have tried to define the types of
meetings, including: Jantsch (2012), Petty (2012), Smith
(2010), Yip (2011), York (2008). Though the typology
differes from one another, yet most meetings fall into one
of three categories:
1- Huddles or Stand-up Meetings: This is a brief and
informal meeting. Normally lasts 5-15 minutes. Purpose
is to share minor issues or problems that can be
addressed immediately, including making daily work
assignments or discussing the day’s priorities. It does not
Davies(2012), Rains(2011),
Stannard(2008), Tracy(2012)
Shore(2012),
Stannard(2008),
need a formal agenda, but decisions and action items
should be documented and distributed, especially if some
team members were not in attendance. (Yip, 2011; York
2008)
2- Information Sharing or Status Meetings: They are
scheduled, formal and often routine meetings lasting 1530 minutes. Purpose is to ensure that all members have
a chance to speak up and ask questions about the topic.
Otherwise, information could be communicated in a
memo or email. This type of meeting should have a
formal agenda, ground rules, and assignment for meeting
roles. It is used to report progress on action items and to
update meeting attendees. (Petty, 2012; Smith, 2010)
3- Problem-Solving or Working Meetings: They are
scheduled, formal meetings that usually last 1 to 2 hours.
Purpose is to solve a problem. The group previously
agreed to work on together and to make decisions. This
type of meetings should have an agenda, ground rules
and assignments for meeting roles. Emphasis is on
participation, interaction by all members and consensus
building (Smith, 2010).
Once the meeting organizer has determined the type
of meeting that is most adequate for the purpose, he/she
can develop a clear agenda, choose participants to be
invited and specify the duration of the meeting, its
location, the layout of tables and chairs, and other
logistics.
Phase II: Actual Conduction of a Meeting
Descriptors of the effectiveness of the actual conduction
of a meeting are enlisted in table (2).
Table (2) enlists the desirable actions that need to
be conducted by the director of the meeting during the
664 Educ. Res.
second stage which often bears several names according
to the literature: leading the meeting, conducting the
meeting, management of meeting, running the meeting,
during the meeting (Davies, 2012; Petty, 2012; Smith,
2010).
Obviously table (2) stresses the importance of time
management within meetings. This has been indicated as
a sign of respect to those who show up on time and
reminds who arrive late that the scheduling is serious.
Two of these authors (Shead, 2010; Tracy; 2012) note
that when late-comers arrive, the director of the meeting
should not go back and review what has already been
covered.
“If someone comes in late and finds out they’ve
missed important information, refuse to start over for
them. They will eventually get the message, be more
punctual, and help you improve your management skills
in a respectable manner. Many companies have a policy
where if a meeting is called for 10:00 am, they lock the
doors from the inside at 10:01. You only have to do that
once to get people to be on time” (Tracy, 2012, p.23).
As the meeting should start on time, it must also
adjourn on time (Shead, 2010) and the meeting organizer
should agree on the next meeting’s date with
participants- if need be- before they leave (Forhan, 2008;
Hyatt, 2011).
Other elements indicated in the table describe the
overall climate of meetings, the rules that govern
discussions, the management of actions, and the
principles that must be respected to make it more
effective. Meetings’ climate should be relaxed, positive
and friendly as it would more likely to increase the
effectiveness meetings (Myatt, 2011).
“Meetings must have a relaxed, non-intimidating,
and professional atmosphere. If candor and trust aren’t
fostered within a framework of accountability, no amount
of talking will overcome the tension and animosity always
lingering just beneath the surface. Again, the purpose of
a meeting is to be productive – to actually accomplish
something. Leave the political correctness at the door.
Meetings aren’t for coddling, and neither should they
resemble a dance contest. Meetings must be challenging,
welcome dissenting opinions, and encourage candid
discourse. If people know that they are valued, respected
and won’t be publicly embarrassed they will come
prepared to deliver.” (Myatt, 2011, p.98)
The meeting organizer is advised to be kind and
welcoming from the start of the session (Forhan 2008).
According to him, the meeting organizer must welcome
attendees and thank them for their time at the very
beginning of the meeting. (Myatt, 2011) argues that
meetings are not to be interrupted by anyone unless it is
an emergency. Participants must also respect certain
rules of discipline and control their behavior and one way
to reflect that is to switch off their mobile phones and
other technological devices (Forhan, 2008; Myatt, 2011).
Disruptions of meetings can come in many different
forms. Cutting people off, changing subjects, expressing
sarcasm, and challenging almost everything said are all
examples of such disruptions (Rains, 2011). Rains (2011)
explains that these actions constitute an attempt to take
over a meeting or undermine leadership and can result in
an unsuccessful meeting and wasted time. He identifies 6
types of meetings disruptors: the storytellers, the
unprepared, the point-makers, the complainers, the
detailers and the question-askers.
Many actions can be taken by the meeting organizer
both, before and during a meeting to prevent disruptions
from ruining the meeting. Obviously, the respect of rules
and principles contained in the two previous tables can
mitigate the impact of the few participants who tend to
dominate and drag out meetings.
Whenever it is possible, the meeting organizer should
anticipate disruptions and try to prevent them from
occurring (Shore, 2012). Several options to help prevent
disruptions include: asking the potential disruptor for his
cooperation before the meeting, structure the meeting to
include discussions, if possible, remove the items that
may cause the disruptions from the agenda, make the
potential disruptor aware of consequences for his actions,
and give the potential disruptor a special assignment
during the meeting to keep him distracted (Hochman,
2011).
However, it’s not always possible to stop disruptions
from occurring, so a meeting organizer needs to be able
to stop them once they occur (Rains, 2011). A good way
to control disruptions during a meeting is to only allow
one person to speak at a time and to have designated
time for questions whether it’s after each topic or at the
end of the meeting. If someone tries to interrupt the
meeting with a topic that’s not on the agenda, simply let
him know that now is not the time for that and you will be
happy to discuss it with him after the meeting (Rains,
2011).
The meeting organizer should set and explain the
ground rules for discussion (Davies, 2012; Forhan, 2008;
Hall, 2011; Hochman, 2011; Rains, 2011; Shore, 2012;
Stannard, 2008; Tracy, 2012). This can help him to stop
digressions from the topic and remind participants of
his/her desire to keep the meeting short but productive.
Organizers are encouraged to: pose questions during the
meeting on participants, and get feedback from them
(Stannard, 2008; Rains, 2011); and to summarize each
major point discussed before moving on to the next topic
(Hall, 2011). The constructive and positive discussion
between the organizer and participants could encourage
fresh ideas while avoiding off-topic rambling (Shore,
2012).
Al- Jammal and Ghamrawi 665
The meeting should not be adjourned without having
the organizer underscore the achievements or
agreements taken during the meeting (Stannard, 2008).
Tracy (2012) suggests securing few minutes at the end of
a meeting to have participants evaluate the meeting.
Phase III: Post-meeting Follow-up
The meeting organizer should not assume that ideas
discussed during a meeting will be put into action or even
remembered (Hyatt, 2011). To ensure follow-through and
accountability a meeting leader needs to do key tasks
after the meeting ends. These are presented in the
following table.
Table (3) indicates that the meeting organizer should
ensure that minutes are produced and promptly
distributed to all attendees. Hyatt (2011) and Tracy
(2012) argue that the minutes should be sent to
participants within 24 hours after adjourning the meeting.
This ensures accountability, providing the chance for
participants to act out immediately, and obviously allow to
accurate writing of those minutes as ideas will be freshly
captured (Earnest, 2002)
Hall (2011) and Krutza (2012) recommend that the
meeting organizer also sends the minutes of meetings to
absent invitees to inform them of the progress that was
made and reminds every one of their actions.
Krutza (2012) describes what the minutes of meetings
need to contain by the following:
- Date, time, location.
- Names of the people that attended.
- Topics that were discussed and decisions made.
- Motions and voting results if votes taken.
- Who is responsible for what follow-up action and by
when.
- Name of the Recorder.
He suggests that all meeting documents including the
agenda, minutes and supporting documents should be
kept together and archived.These records can be
checked when questions arise about past decisions or
actions. It is discouraging to committee or group
members to rehash prior discussions or decisions
because of poor record keeping.
The meeting organizer must assist employees in
performing their tasks (Davies, 2012; Rains (2011). Thus,
he/she must respond properly to any concerns, correct
promptly any wrong thinking and give them guidance as
needed.
Finally, checking on the progress of action is the duty
of the meeting organizer as well (Mackie, 2009; Stannard,
2008; Woods, 2010). He/She must actively investigate the
progress of the meeting's action items. Indeed, often
employees need a gentle nudge to remind them about
completing action items. Managers need to check to
ensure that action is taking place as agreed. The check
can be made via an E-mail or a phone call to the point
person or a meeting devoted to checking on progress
(Mackie, 2009; Stannard, 2008; Woods, 2010).
In short, the last phase of the meeting includes two
steps: (1) Preparation and distribution of the minutes; and
(2) Checking on progress of action and giving guidance
to employees (element 4 and 5).
Earnest (2002) adds two more points to this list: (1)
meeting evaluation; and (2) development of the agenda
of the next meeting. He suggests that ends mark
beginnings. So, he strongly recommends that the
information gathered and developed through the process
of writing the minutes, conducting follow up, and
evaluating the meeting; serve as the basis for the
development of the agenda of the next meeting. He
assures that provides continuity and keeps work focused
on the goal (Earnest, 2002).
METHODOLOGY
Research Instrument
The study was quantitative in nature and employed
surveying as a tool for data collection. Based on an
extensive review of the literature of meetings
management, the researchers developed a questionnaire
consisting of 4 sections: A, B, C and D. Section A,
consisted of 7 questions, that collected demographic
information about respondents.
Section B, consisted of 43 items, and covered the
various elements of each of the three phases of the
meeting. Thus, some items were related to the
preparation and the planning of a meeting, some others
were related to the management of a meeting, and finally
some items related to the measures that are
recommended to be taken after a meeting.
A four point Likert scale was used to rank teachers'
attitudes about meetings management. Response
choices were: Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always. For the
majority of items (38 of 43 items) responses were
organized as follows: 1=Never, 2=Rarely, 3=Sometimes,
4=Always. In this case, “never” responses were the
poorest responses, “always” responses were the optimal.
Concerning the other 5 items, responses were organized
as follows: 1=Always, 2=Sometimes, 3=Rarely, 4=Never.
In this case, “never” responses were the optimal
responses, and “always” responses were the poorest.
Section C, requiring participants to assess their
school meetings, included 5 ranks (or degrees):
A=Excellent,
B=Good,
C=Acceptable,
D=Weak,
F=Unacceptable. Section D included 27 items
representing obstacles that could adversely affect the
666 Educ. Res.
school meetings. Each teacher had to choose 6 of them
which prevent meetings in his school to be more effective
and more productive.
Note that the questionnaire was piloted on a sample
comprised of 25 teachers from different schools localized
in Beirut and Mount Lebanon Governorates and few
amendments for language and syntax were introduced.
The sample
The sample of this research consisted of 650 teachers
equally distributed in 130 private schools (5 teachers
from each school); all these schools were localized in
Beirut. Along with the survey, a cover letter and an
informed consent form were attached beside the full
contact information of the researchers. The cover letter
detailed the purpose of the study, guarantee of anonymity
for respondents and how data will be used. Teachers
were invited to complete the questionnaire and return it
back, along with the signed consent form, to the given
address by regular mail, as a scanned document via
email or fax. 605 surveys were returned, out of which 587
questionnaires were usable. The 587 teachers were
equally distributed in 118 private schools (about 5
participants from each one).
Note that the empirical part of this study was
conducted between 11th February and 17th April, 2013.
Data Analysis
Data was analyzed using Statistical Package for Social
Sciences (SPSS 18.0) for windows. Descriptive statistics
were used to describe and summarize the properties of
the mass of data collected from the respondents. Means
scores, standard deviations and percentages were
calculated per each item of the survey instrument.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSIONS
Research Question 1: How are staff meetings
managed at Lebanese private schools?
To respond to this question, data collected via teachers’
questionnaires are analyzed. Table (4) displays
frequencies of teacher responses on management
conditions of staff meetings in schools.
As shown, table 4 included 43 items related to the
three phases of meetings: "before the meeting", "during
the meeting" and "after the meeting." In other words,
these items represent the conditions that must be met for
an effective and productive meeting to be in place. For
the majority of items (38 of 43 items), “Never” responses
are the poorest responses, for the other 5 items (15, 16,
27, 28 and 33) “Always” responses are the poorest one.
Table 4 shows that all respondents (587 teachers)
answered "never" to 21 of 43 items (4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 13,
17, 19, 22, 23, 25, 30, 34, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 42 and 43):
1. People invited to the meeting are “never” involved in
defining the objectives of this meeting (item 4).
2. The meetings “never” have an agenda (5).
3. Agenda is “never” distributed in advance to people
invited to the meeting (6).
4. Agenda is “never” distributed to people invited to the
meeting before a period of time sufficient to permit them
to prepare themselves well for this meeting (7).
5. People invited to the meeting are “never” involved in
determining the agenda items (8).
6. The school meetings “never” end on time (12).
7. A specific time is “never” allocated for each item
listed on the agenda (13).
8. The meeting organizer “never” chooses the right time
for our school meetings (17).
9. The meeting organizer “never” chooses an
appropriate room in terms of sound and lighting for
holding the meeting (19).
10. The meeting room is “never” equipped with materials
that facilitate the presentation of information and the
discussion (22).
11. Meeting requirements are “never” locked (papers,
pens, etc.) to the participants attending the meeting (23).
12. Documents and reports are “never” distributed in
advance to the people invited to the meeting to carry out
the preparation for the meeting in sufficient time limit (25).
13. Various materials are “never” used for data
presentation and discussion. The choice of these
materials “never” depends on the purpose of the meeting
(30).
14. I “never” think that all the school meetings are
necessary; they cannot be replaced by other alternatives
to save time and effort: telephone conversations, e-mails,
communication by social media, circulars, periodic
newsletters, reports, etc. (34).
15. At the end of the meeting, the meeting manager
“never” summarizes verbally the most important points
that have been agreed upon (36).
16. At the end of the meeting, the meeting manager
“never” determines, with the agreement of the
participants, the following steps (37).
17. Minutes of the meeting are “never” distributed to
participants at a later time (38).
18. Minutes of the meeting are “never” distributed to the
participants in the shortest time (39).
19. Minutes of the meeting are “never” distributed to
those who were unable to attend (40).
20. Follow-up is “never” made to implement what was
agreed upon at the meeting (42).
21. The Direction “never” listens, from time to time, to the
Al- Jammal and Ghamrawi 667
Table 4. Frequency Rating of Meetings Management Conditions
Item
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
Items
Our school meetings have specific goals.
The objectives of our school meetings are clear.
The objectives of the meeting are announced in
advance to the participants.
People invited to the meeting are involved in
defining the objectives of this meeting, if
necessary.
Our school meetings have an agenda.
Agenda is distributed in advance to people invited
to the meeting.
Agenda is distributed to people invited to the
meeting before a period of time sufficient to permit
them to prepare themselves well for this meeting.
People invited to the meeting are involved in
determining the agenda items.
We are informed in advance about the timing of the
start of the meeting.
We are not informed in advance about the timing of
the end of the meeting.
Our meetings begin on time.
Our meetings end on time.
A specific time is allocated for each item listed on
the agenda.
People invited to the meeting arrive on time.
Some participants may not be involved in the
theme of the meeting.
The meeting organizer may lose sight of inviting
people who may play a positive role in it.
The meeting organizer chooses the right time for
our school meetings.
The meeting organizer chooses a room that has a
suitable size for holding the meeting.
The meeting organizer chooses an appropriate
room in terms of sound and lighting for holding the
meeting.
The meeting room is equipped with comfortable
chairs.
The meeting room is equipped with heating and
cooling.
The meeting room is equipped with materials that
facilitate the presentation of information and the
discussion.
Meeting requirements are locked (papers, pens,
etc.) to the participants attending the meeting.
Before the invitation to the meeting, the meeting
organizer communicates with invitees to determine
the appropriate time for most of them.
Documents and reports are distributed in advance
to the people invited to the meeting to carry out the
preparation for the meeting in sufficient time limit.
Always
Total: 587
0
0
0
Sometimes
Total: 587
0
0
0
Rarely
Total: 587
222
222
408
Never
Total: 587
365
365
179
0
0
0
587
0
0
0
0
0
0
587
587
0
0
0
587
0
0
0
587
179
408
0
0
0
186
222
179
0
0
0
0
0
0
408
0
0
179
587
587
0
0
186
408
222
0
179
179
0
587
0
0
0
0
0
587
0
186
401
0
0
0
0
587
0
186
222
179
0
186
0
401
0
0
0
587
0
0
0
587
0
0
408
179
0
0
0
587
668 Educ. Res.
Table 4. Continue
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
Participants at the meeting are given the
opportunity to express their opinions.
At our school, the manager may convene the
meeting to defamation mistakes of others.
At our school, some of the participants in the
meeting may resort to slander mistakes of their
colleagues.
In our meeting, aids are used for display and
dialogue (video, whiteboard, data projector ...).
Various materials can be used for data
presentation and discussion. The choice of these
materials depends on the purpose of the meeting.
The meeting manager shows respect for all the
views of participants.
Our meetings atmosphere is friendly.
Some participants disrupt meetings (polemicist,
recalcitrant, clown, etc.).
I think that all the school meetings are necessary;
they cannot be replaced by other alternatives to
save time and effort: telephone conversations, emails, communication by social media, circulars,
periodic newsletters, reports, etc.
One of the participants is charged with the
registration of the main points in the meeting in
preparation for writing the minutes of the meeting.
At the end of the meeting, the meeting manager
summarizes verbally the most important points that
have been agreed upon.
At the end of the meeting, the manager
determines, with the agreement of the participants,
the following steps.
Minutes of the meeting are distributed to
participants at a later time.
Minutes of the meeting are distributed to the
participants in the shortest time.
Minutes of the meeting are distributed to those who
were unable to attend.
Minutes of the meeting has in truth as accurately
reflect what was agreed upon.
Follow-up is made to implement what was agreed
upon at the meeting.
From time to time, the Direction listens to the
opinion of the staff and takes it into account, in
order to activate the meetings holding at the
school.
opinion of the staff and takes it into account, in order to
activate the meetings holding at the school (43).
Also, table 4 indicates that the majority of teachers
(401 of 587 respondents) answered “never” to item 21:
the meeting room is “never” equipped with heating and
cooling.
0
186
401
0
0
408
179
0
0
408
179
0
0
0
222
365
0
0
0
587
179
408
0
0
0
0
587
587
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
587
0
0
222
365
0
0
0
587
0
0
0
587
0
0
0
587
0
0
0
587
0
0
0
587
0
0
408
179
0
0
0
587
0
0
0
587
On the other hand, table 4 shows that all respondents
answered “never” or “rarely” to 8 items (1, 2, 3, 11, 24,
29, 35 and 41). Thus, if “never” responses are grouped
with “rarely” ones, it can be concluded that the 587
teachers answered:
1. Our school meetings “never/rarely” have specific
Al- Jammal and Ghamrawi 669
goals (1).
1. The objectives of our school meetings are
“never/rarely” clear (2).
2. The objectives of the meeting are “never/rarely”
announced in advance to the participants (3).
3. Our meetings “never/rarely” start on time (11).
4. Before the invitation to the meeting, the meeting
organizer “never/rarely” communicates with invitees to
determine the appropriate time for most of them (24).
5. In our meetings, aids are “never/rarely” used for
display and dialogue: video, whiteboard, data projector,
etc. (29).
6. One of the participants is “never/rarely” charged with
the registration of the main points in the meeting in
preparation for writing the minutes of the meeting (35).
7. Minutes of the meeting has “never/rarely” in truth as
accurately reflected what was agreed upon (41).
In addition, table 4 indicates that the majority of
teachers answered “never” or “rarely” to 3 items (10, 14
and 20). Thus, 401 of 587 respondents answered:
1. We are “never/rarely” informed in advance about the
timing of the end of meetings (10).
2. People invited to the meeting “never/rarely” arrive on
time (14).
3. The meeting room is “never/rarely” equipped with
comfortable chairs (20).
Moreover, this table shows that the majority of teachers
answered “rarely” to 2 items (18 and 26). In fact, 401 of
587 participants answered:
1. The meeting organizer “rarely” chooses a room that
has a suitable size for holding the meeting (18).
2.
Participants at the meeting are “rarely” given the
opportunity to express their opinions (26).
On the other hand, table 4 shows that all respondents
answered “sometimes” to 3 items (16, 32 and 33). Thus,
587 teachers answered:
1. “Sometimes”, the meeting organizer may lose sight of
inviting people who may play a positive role in it (16).
2. “Sometimes”, our meetings atmosphere is friendly
(32).
3. “Sometimes”, some participants disrupt meetings:
polemicist, recalcitrant, clown, etc. (33).
In addition, table 4 indicates that the majority of
respondents answered “sometimes” to 5 items (9, 15, 27,
28 and 31). In fact, 408 of 587 participants answered:
1. “Sometimes”, we are informed in advance about
the timing of the start of meetings (9).
2. “Sometimes”, some participants may not be involved
in the theme of the meeting (15).
3. “Sometimes”, at our school, the meeting manager
may convene the meeting to defamation mistakes of
others (27).
4. “Sometimes”, at our school, some of the participants
in the meeting may resort to slander mistakes of their
colleagues (28).
5. “Sometimes”, the meeting manager shows respect
for all the views of participants (31).
Table 4 shows that a minority of teachers (179)
answered “always” to 2 items (9 and 31):
1.
We are “always” informed in advance about the
timing of the start of meetings (9).
2.
The meeting manager “always” shows respect for
all the views of participants (31).
Finally, table 4 shows that none of the 587 teachers
responded "always" to the other 41 items.
Based on the foregoing, it can be concluded that all
the respondents or the majority of them answered
“never”, “rarely” or “never/rarely” to 35 of 43 items listed
in table 4, which is an indicative result because “never”
and “rarely” are the poorest responses for these items.
Concerning the other 8 items, all the participants or
the majority of them answered “sometimes”. However,
“sometimes responses” are the poor responses for 5 of
these 8 items (15, 16, 27, 28 and 33). For them, the
optimal responses are “never”, not “always”.
Research Question 2: How do teachers evaluate staff
meetings in Lebanese private schools?
Teachers’ evaluation of staff meetings in schools are
reported in table (5).
As shown, none of the 587 teachers considered staff
meetings held at their school as “excellent” (rank “A”).
None of them described these meetings as “good” (rank
“B”). Only, 173 participants described them as
“acceptable” (rank “C”). The majority of respondents (414
teachers) argued that meetings held at their schools were
“weak” and “unacceptable” (ranks “D” and “F”).
Thus, table 5 provided a dark image of meetings held at
private schools in Beirut. This is consistent with the data
provided by the table 4.
Within the same vein of evaluation of school meetings,
teachers were provided with a table consisting of 27
obstacles that often confront the conduction of successful
meetings and were requested to select 6 items that they
considered the most important ones. Responses are
enlisted in table 6.
Table 6 shows that the top 6 items representing
obstacles to meaningful staff meetings within private
schools are: 1, 2, 4, 8, 13 and 17. The table indicates that
these items were chosen by a large number of
participants. This number varied between 576 and 586
teachers. Therefore, most respondents argued that
school meetings in private schools in Beirut are
unproductive because: (1) meetings’ objectives were
unclear; (2) meeting agendas were not made available;
(3) meeting times were not appropriate to participants; (4)
670 Educ. Res.
Table 5. Evaluation of School
Meetings by Teachers
Rank
F
D
C
B
A
Total
meetings were not time-bounded; (5) meetings were rich
with side-conversations; and (6) meeting organizers often
respond to telephone calls.
In addition, table 6 shows that 2 other items were chosen
by a large number of respondents: 14 and 27. The first
item was chosen by 572 teachers, while the second one
was chosen by 545 teachers. According to 572 teachers,
the lack of commitment to the agenda items is one of the
reasons for the failure of meetings. That is to say,
when the meeting agenda is not respected, meetings
are wasteful and unproductive. Meeting organizers must
not only set an agenda for meetings, but must also
respect its content. When the agendas are respected,
meetings can be made more effective as per teachers’
views.
According to 545 teachers, staff meetings at
school were unproductive because some participants
tend to be recalcitrant. Their presence has a
negative impact on the effectiveness of the meeting.
Therefore, meeting organizers must improve their
management skills and hence control undesired
behaviors.
Concerning the other 19 items, they were chosen by a
relatively small number of participants. This number
varied between 2 and 22 teachers.
Based on the foregoing, it can be concluded that 8 of 27
obstacles are predominant. It seems that the obstacles
confronting successful meetings in private schools of
Beirut are similar.
CONCLUSION
This study has shown that in many cases, meetings are
unnecessary. The vast majority of teachers reflected a
negative attitudes vis-à-vis meetings held in their schools
(Table 4 and 5). It can be argued that that some of these
meetings are unnecessary. This is parallel to the
reviewed literature (Bradt, 2010; Sky, 2012; Quinn,
2005). In many cases, meetings can be replaced by other
means of communication technology, such as: phone
call, e-mail, What’s Up, Facebook, Skype. This is what
Frequency
169
245
173
0
0
587
teachers suggested in this study (Table 4, item 34). Again
this goes parallel to the international literature (Bhatia,
2010; Bradt, 2010; Davies, 2012; Sky, 2012; Quinn,
2005).
The study indicates that there is very little match between
what the international literature of meetings management
informs and the actual practices of meeting organizers in
schools. Pre-meeting preparations and post-meeting
follow-ups are very scares. Meetings seem to lack
agendas and time is rarely respected whether
horizontally or vertically. For this reason, the majority of
teachers considered staff meetings to be a failure and to
be unproductive.
Limitations and Suggestions for Future Research
The sample of this study is one of the limitations
confronting the validity of the study. In fact, the sample
was localized in the Governorate of Beirut. Other
Governorates were not represented in the sample. Future
research should attempt to involve a larger and more
representative sample of private school teachers across
Lebanon.
In addition, the sample included only private school
teachers. No teachers from the public school sector were
involved. Future research should involve such teachers
so that a more comprehensive understanding of meetings
management as practiced by meeting organizers is
derived.
On the other hand, only teachers took part in the
sample. In fact, meetings organizers (such as school
principals,
supervisors,
coordinators,
heads
of
Department…) did not take part in it. Future research
should attempt to involve them for more comprehensive
understanding of effectiveness of staff meetings in
Lebanese schools.
Moreover, the methodology can be improved. It
would be more valid to conduct semi-structured
interviews with some school teachers and some meetings
managers. Future research should take this point into
consideration.
Al- Jammal and Ghamrawi 671
Table 6. Obstacles to Effective Meetings from the View Point of Teachers
No
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
Items
The objective of the meeting is unclear.
There is no agenda for the meeting.
The number of invitees to the meeting is large.
The timing of the meeting is not appropriate.
The meeting place is not suitable.
Persons who may have an important role in the success of the
meeting are not invited to participate in this meeting.
The meeting does not start on time.
The meeting does not end on time.
Meeting is not attended by all the invitees.
Some of the people invited to the meeting do not come on time.
Some participants leave before the end of the meeting.
Participants in the meeting are not serious.
There are side conversations among participants.
The lack of commitment to the agenda items is one of the reasons
for the failure of meetings.
Tensions (quarrels) between participants are one of the reasons
for the failure of meetings.
Tensions (quarrels) between the meeting manager and some of
participants are one of the reasons for the failure of meetings.
The meeting manager is busy to respond to the phone.
Participants are busy to respond to phone calls.
The interruption of the meeting by people who are not involved in it
(interruptions by outsiders).
Some of participants have a negative impact on the meeting
because they are interrupt the others and speak without asking
permission from the meeting manager.
Some of participants have a negative impact on meetings because
of their bad emotions and their negative reactions.
Some of participants have a negative impact on meetings because
of provoking the meeting manager.
Some of participants have a negative impact on meetings because
they over talking during the meeting.
Some of participants have a negative impact on meetings because
they play the role of disruptive.
Some of participants have a negative impact on meetings because
they tend to play the role of polemicist.
Some of participants have a negative impact on meetings because
they play the role of clown.
Some of participants have a negative impact on meetings because
they tend to be recalcitrant (stubborn).
RECOMMENDATIONS
This study suggests, through a selected sample of school
private teachers in Lebanon, that management of staff
Obstacle
(Important)
584
584
3
581
22
2
Obstacle
(Not important)
3
3
584
6
565
585
6
584
6
6
6
6
586
572
581
3
581
581
581
581
1
15
2
585
5
582
576
8
8
11
579
579
6
581
6
581
7
580
6
581
2
585
3
584
3
584
545
42
meetings is not efficient. Many tips can be given for
productive meetings.
Meeting organizers are called to avoid the conduction
of meetings unless it is really crucial. Meetings can be a
672 Educ. Res.
waste of time, effort and money, but also they can be
meaningful, effective and productive. Before holding a
meeting, meeting organizers should ask themselves: Is
this meeting really necessary?
Moreover, meeting organizers are encouraged to:
1. Participate in professional development Workshops
(ATA, 2010; Jensen, 2012; Wong, 2011). Many skills can
be acquired in these workshops which can be simple and
unsophisticated.
2. Participate in informal dialogue with peers (Garoia,
2012; Johnson, 2009; Wong, 2011). Meetings manager
can participate in this dialogue which can take place in
the school or outside. He can also participate in informal
dialogue with peers from other schools.
3. Join an online discussion list (ATA, 2010; Hendrick,
2013; Wong, 2011). Meetings managers discuss with
peers from their country and from other countries about
their experience which enhance their knowledge and
skills in meetings management.
4. Read professional books and journals (ATA, 2010;
Schreefel, 2012; Wong, 2011). Meetings manager can
borrow them from the school library or from universities
libraries. He can also read professional documents
provided by professional websites.
5. Participate in online professional development
programs (ATA, 2010; Liu, 2009; Wong, 2011).
Sometimes people do not participate in training sessions
because the Lebanese National Center for Training is
distant from their homes and schools. This way facilitates
the participation of meetings organizers in professional
development.
6. Find ways to learn from colleagues such as:
attending effective meetings in the school and in other
schools as well (ATA, 2010; Wong, 2011; Zvi, 2013).
Training providers and universities are encouraged to
make use of the findings of this study in designing their
meetings management preparatory courses. This
empirical study could be a useful tool to enhance such
courses.
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How to cite this article: Al- Jammal K and Ghamrawi N (2013). School
meetings: Bliss or curse! Meetings management skills in Lebanese
private schools. Educ. Res. 4(9):659-673
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