Must Do, Could Do Tool

This protocol helps teams to come to a shared view of the most important teaching strategies to help students make progress.


Use this protocol to:

  • Come to a shared understanding of the teaching strategies that your team believes can have an impact on student learning in a particular outcome area

  • Enable discussion and debate about similarities and differences in teaching approaches across a team

  • Develop a shared understanding of the research-informed teaching practices that could be used to improve student learning in a specific outcome area


  • Prep

    You need a space suitable for group wall work and a wall. Mark-up the wall poster with a horizontal line splitting the page in two. Write ‘Could-Do’s’ in the top half of the page and ‘Must-Do’s in the bottom half.

  • Step 1

    Generate lists (5 mins)
    Identify the ‘pebble’ or ‘sand’ outcome area of your sprint and write on the top of the page. Provide each person with 5 post-it notes and ask them to lay them out in a line in front of them.

    Ask every person to, “write down 5 specific teaching strategies that they would recommend teachers use to enable student learning progress in this outcome area.” Write one strategy/approach per post-it note in clear large writing.

  • Step 2

    Sort and debate (10 mins)
    Explain to the group the difference between ‘Must do’s’ and ‘Could Do’s’. Must Do’s are the teaching strategies that MUST be used if students are to make progress in this learning outcome area. Could Do’s are the teaching strategies that COULD be used in order for learners to make additional accelerated progress.

    Ask one member of the group to place one of their post-it notes on the poster and decide whether it belongs in the Must Do’s or Could Do’s category. Ask if anybody else has a strategy that is similar to this one (e.g. identical or similar concept even though different words have been used). Form a cluster of similar post-its. It is important that each person explains what each strategy is and why they have placed it in that category.

    Now ask for a second volunteer to share a different post-it and stick it up as a Must Do or a Could Do. Allow others to add any similar post-its to create a cluster. Keep moving through these cycles until there are no more post-it notes remaining.

  • Step 3

    Build team consensus (10 mins)
    The group will now try to reach consensus on which category a practice belongs in. Each person in the group has an opportunity to move one of the post-it notes or entire cluster of post-it notes and provide a rationale about why it should be a Must Do or a Could Do. The team can then discuss whether they agree or not. If consensus is not reached, then you can vote. If the majority agrees you can move it. Keep the comments and discussion focused and refer to appropriate research or specific experiences wherever possible.

    The goal should be to reduce the number of strategies that are determined to be a ‘Must-Do’s down to an essential few. You may also find that some of the strategies are voted off the sheet entirely as they are not perceived to be high-impact and therefore not worth pursuing as a Must Do or a Could Do.

    When you are finished this process the sprint leader can ask, “Do we agree as a team that this represents our combined thinking about the most effective teaching strategies?” The goal is to build team consensus. If the answer is YES, than have a round of applause to close out the process. But if there are areas that require further debate, feel free to enter back into rounds of discussion or to note the few points of ongoing disagreement.

    At this stage anyone with a tablet or phone should take a photo of the completed wall poster. At a later stage this answer can also be typed up as a document that can be referred back to during future designs.

  • Step 4

    Discuss (10 mins)
    As a team discuss the following questions to challenge your thinking and sprint design:

    - Which of these strategies are supported by research? How do we know?
    - As a team consider the ‘knowing-doing gap’. How consistently do we think as a team we demonstrate the Must Do’s in classroom practice?
    - How could we best utilise the strategies on this sheet in the design of our next sprint?
    - What support might we need in learning how to effectively implement the ‘Must Do’s’ during this sprint? (You might like to use the We Need Next tool to map your answers to this question).

  • Extension

    Cross team challenge
    If multiple sprint teams complete the Must Do/Could Do activity in the same space, you can engage in another round of challenge and feedback. Each team should leave one person behind with their posters as a ‘spokesperson’. All other team members should spread out across the other groups. The spokesperson describes the group’s current answer to the ‘visitors’ from other teams. The visitors then have a chance to make comments and leave feedback on post-it notes:

    - Agree - what do they agree with
    - Add - what strategies have the group overlooked
    - Challenge - what do they not agree with

    All educators then return to their original work and do a second version of their answer which incorporates the feedback provided by other group members.

    Research upgrade
    Try and review available research evidence, potentially through the Research Jigsaw protocol before doing your Must Do and Could Do. The group should focus on strategies that have emerged from their review of the research literature rather than from their own practice experience.

    - What teachers must do in order for learners to make progress. This should be the few high impact practices that research suggests have the biggest impact on student learning outcomes.

    - What teachers could do for learners to make accelerated progress. These should be practices you might use in addition to the ‘Must-Do’s’.