Best practices for school leaders creating teams and channels in Microsoft Teams for Education

Best practices for school leaders creating teams and channels in Microsoft Teams for Education

If you’re a school leader or IT Admin deploying Microsoft Teams for the first time, your goal is to set your administrators, schools, and teachers up for success from Day One. Brush up on some best practices for architecting your teams and channels to ensure streamlined communication and time-saving organization . We’ve broken it down for you in this handy guide.

We recommend adding educators to fewer, better organized teams vs. a team for every school initiative to model best practices from the beginning. As teachers begin participating in teams to communicate with their colleagues and administrators, they’ll simultaneously begin learning how to organize and optimize their teams for students. This approach can be a fantastic strategy for game-changing Teams adoption in your school or district. We think you’ll appreciate the inter-departmental efficiency and improved communication as well!

First, let's review the team types available for educators

Choose a team type
 

Teams are available for Classes, Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), Staff Members, and Anyone, which could be used for clubs or other interest groups.

Learn more: Choose a team type to collaborate in Microsoft Teams

Recommendation: Start with staff teams

We’ll be primarily focusing on staff teams, which will help you organize your district by school leadership, school, and/or department. Think of this like your pilot. From there, teachers gain knowledge and comfort with Teams as a tool and feel more confident deploying it in their classrooms. Note that all team types contain channels that can be customized by scenario. We cover more examples below.

What are staff teams and channels?

You can create staff teams for different projects, activities, committees, and processes as needed. Team leaders can invite others in the school or district to join as team members.

Note: It may be tempting to map a bunch of your email distribution lists to individual staff teams, but Teams is about working in a highly collaborative environment toward a common goal. You can overcome the limitations of distribution lists by creating your staff teams at the right levels for working groups in your school or district.

Individual staff teams can be further organized into channels that contain tabs for conversations, files, notes, and more. Channels should be created based on the team’s different needs, for example, by topic, discipline, or subject. Tabs enable staff to upload, review, and edit files, notes, and customized content (such as documents, spreadsheets, presentations, videos, external links, other applications, and more). This content is then easily accessible to everyone on the team.

What is the General channel?

Every type of team includes a General channel. The Class Notebook, Staff Notebook, and PLC Notebook tabs are found in this channel for those team types. Class teams also manage Assignments for that class from the General channel.

We recommend using the General channel in any team as a space to post announcements, introduce staff, and add important documents that need to be referred to often. You can make the General channel read-only (i.e. stop anyone from posting there) by changing its settings.

Note: To edit channel settings for the General channel or others, select the More options … ellipsis next to your team name. Then, select Settings > Member permissions.

Member permissions for channels.

Teams for Education sample scenarios

Take a look at the goals for your department, school, or district and make a decision on:

  • The current reporting responsibilities you have.

  • The goals of email lists or meetings that could be converted to online conversations and file-sharing.

  • How you would like communication to flow and who is reported to.

  • The key members you need on each team, and the role they should play.

  • The best way to organize the files and conversations you’ll be having on each team.

Below, we’ve pulled together some samples of how a district, school, or other department could approach setting up their teams and channels to create streamlined collaboration and put everything in one place. Keep in mind—these are just ideas to get you started. We know you have unique knowledge on the needs of your schools, students, and educators.

Team

Members/Roles

Channels

Files and apps

Benefits

School Board

Department of Education

Large-scale educational initiatives

(Staff or PLC team)

School Board president, members, and trustees

Committee chairs

Superintendents

Organization leaders

Announcements

Meetings

Calendars and timelines

Channels for each district, county, or organization.

Channels for committees or sub-teams

Goal tracking

Power BI to track student data and achievement.

Website portals

Updates to country/state/province standards and laws.

Board meeting minutes, attendance, comments, and notes.

Policies and procedures

Save time

Reduce unproductive email chains

Streamline two-way communication between stakeholders, administrators, and school leaders.

Increase venues to receive and track feedback.

Create one place to access meeting minutes and important documents.

Help contribute to transparency and efficiency of large-scale operations

School Leadership

(Staff team)

Superintendent

Support staff

School leaders responsible for updating the superintendent on key initiatives.

School board meetings

Channels for each school.

Channel to chart progress on district-level objectives.

Power BI to track student data and achievement.

Charter information

Updates to country/state/province standards and laws.

Board meeting minutes, attendance, comments, and notes.

Policies and procedures

Staffing and hiring initiatives

Meetings

Save time

Reduce unproductive email chains

Create one place to access meeting minutes and important documents

Create a “paper trail” to reference for important district-wide discussions.

School departments

Examples: Special Education, Language Arts, High School Mathematics

(PLC or Staff team)

School leaders and/or department chairs

Teachers

Professional development

Standards and learning outcome goals

Budgets, Scheduling

Curriculum collaboration

Classroom observations

IEP planning

Staff meetings

Classroom observation notes

Staffing and hiring initiatives

Semester/Quarter Calendars and dates

Employee handbook

Professional development resources

Planning and curriculum resources

IEPs

Staff meeting notes

Meetings

Tide charts

Student work samples

Save time

Reduce unproductive email chains

Create one place to access meeting minutes and important documents

Encourage every educator to contribute in a more equitable way and provide community

Create a “paper trail” to reference for important district-wide discussions.

Provide an informal and less intimidating venue to share teaching ideas and feedback

Schools

(Staff team)

School leader

Support staff

Teachers

Assemblies and school-wide event planning

Announcements

Safety plan policies and communication

Attendance

School improvement planning

Classroom observations

Substitute requests

Research and/or working groups

IEP planning

Employee or school handbooks

Staff meeting agendas and notes

Class observation notes

Lesson plans

Test data results

Professional development planning

Calendars

IEPs

Tide charts

Save time

Reduce unproductive email chains

Allow for positive staff interactions

Provide a collaborative workspace

Save budget through copy and paper cost savings

Educational technology

(Staff or Anyone team)

School leader

Staff development professional

Instructional coaches

Educational technology specialist

Curriculum and software pilots

Device and site evaluations

Event and training planning

LMS/SIS coordination

Calendars

Credentials

Policy documents

Field feedback

Budgets

LMS/SIS troubleshooting and credentials

Save time

Reduce unproductive email

Provide a “train the trainer” environment for key technical support staff at the school

Consolidate technical and curriculum outreach goals in one place

IT department

(Staff or Anyone team)

IT administrator

IT support staff

Teacher technology leads

Instructional coach

Educational technology specialist

Device schedule and tracking

Support requests

Device purchases and rollouts

Network tracking

LMS/SIS coordination

Calendars

Order information

Credentials

Support tickets and troubleshooting

Budgets

Device request and checkout forms

Save time

Reduce unproductive email

Provide a “hub” for school or district-wide tech support and troubleshooting

Centralize device management

Encourages IT appreciation for app and allows them to provide superior tech support to tech timid staff.

Teacher PLC

(PLC team)

Teachers

Teaching assistants

Learning groups

Curriculum development

Professional development

Open thread forum

Hackathons

Course texts

National Boards support group

Training and support resources

Standards references

School and department goals

Research findings and articles

Calendars

Student work samples

Save time

Reduce unproductive email chains

Encourage every educator to contribute their expertise and bolster community

Provide a space for teachers—virtual “teacher’s lounge”

Classes 

(Class team)

Teachers

Teaching assistants

Students

Units

Subjects

Small group work

Announcements

Labs

Groups for differentiated learners

Syllabus

Class rules

Pinned reference sheets and websites

Course content

Assignments

Projects

Videos

Permission and absence forms

Microsoft Forms quizzes

Flipgrid

Quizlet

Encourages 21st century learning

Amplifies every student voice

ISTE 4 C’s

Digital transformation in the classroom

Encourages digital citizenship

Gives students access to course materials regardless of home access to devices or Office 365 suite

Encourages executive functioning

Saves time

Centralizes assignments and grading in one place

Makes it easier to share and distribute assignments and course content

Provides a rich space for collaboration

 
Here are just a few examples of teachers and staff working together that transfer well to staff teams:

Scenario

Description

School Improvement Advisory Committees (SIAC)

Effective school improvement programs and initiatives require staff access to rich data analytics (such as percentile rankings) and easy collaboration among diverse teams that include administrators, faculty, and others across the district.

Incident response plans

When an incident (such as a health risk) occurs, fast and accurate communication helps to ensure an effective response. Using Teams, incident response teams can easily draft and share timely and appropriate information with students, parents, the community, and coordinate additional resources (such as school nurses).

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) programs

SEL programs can promote academic success and positive behavior while reducing emotional distress and general misconduct¹. Channels in Teams can be organized, for example, around the five key SEL competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making.

Teacher evaluations

Evaluating teacher performance is a time-consuming, but important regular activity. Using Teams, administrators can share professional development resources with all teachers in the General channel, and manage private communications (in Conversations) and content (for example, using OneNote Staff Notebooks) with individual teachers in separate channels.

Creating a hierarchy

Within your district or school, it’s possible to create teams that follow an organizational structure. Use this approach if you have strict reporting requirements, are managing a large district with high staff numbers, or have goals to increase transparency across a diverse set of schools and employees. Here’s how that might look, with teams “reporting” up the chain to other teams. This ensures school leaders, staff, and teachers are members in the teams that are relevant to them.

Sample team hierarchy in Microsoft Teams

How to name your teams

We recommend using School Data Sync (SDS) to create your teams. School Data Sync is a free service that pulls rosters and names from your SIS. This ensures that naming is consistent across the district and will update membership automatically as students change classes or schools. That said, many schools and districts have shared their own “tips and tricks” for naming staff, PLC, or staff teams:

 

Department or PLC team

Course subject name + class year + school location (Ex: Physics 2018 Pineview)

Building code or name + department/grade level (Ex: PHS 7)

School code + department (Ex: PHS History Department)

All-school teams

Prefix with school initials (Ex: PHS)

Class teams

School code + subject time table code + year (Ex: PHS  11PH1  18-19)

Suffix by year for easy archiving (Ex: 2018-19)

School initials + teacher’s name + class name (Ex. PHS Asher Adv Eng 11A)

Start with teacher’s last name so it’s easy to search for class by name. (Ex: Asher Adv Eng 11A PHS)

See Teams in action. Sample team and channel views:

For schools, staff, and departments:
 

Example of leadership team in school.

Sample of a team for a school.

Sample department team.

For teachers:

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Get more support

Microsoft Teams for Education IT Admin Quick Start Guide

Staff teams for effective leadership and saving time

Introduction to Microsoft Teams – the digital hub for educators and students

Microsoft Teams Getting Started Guide for School Leaders

School Data Sync

Microsoft Teams for Education support

Microsoft Teams for Education training

Additional resources for educators

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