What are Instructional Rounds? Elizabeth A. City says, in her 2011 article “Learning from Instructional Rounds,” that this model, which “was developed to improve instructional practice, is based on medical rounds, the primary way that doctors learn and improve their practice.” She goes on to note that, “Instructional Rounds are a disciplined way for educators to work together to improve instruction. The practice combines three common elements of improvement: classroom observation, an improvement strategy, and a network of educators.”
Instructional Rounds are all about the learning of the observer. They are meant to improve the school by focusing on a problem of practice or instructional core and coming to a shared understanding on identifying the next level of work to be done. By defining a problem of practice, we developed a common focus for our observations and discussion.
As a teacher, Instructional Rounds opened my eyes to the other things teachers were doing in their classrooms. Instructional Rounds helped me to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of my peers as professionals, and improve my own practices to better meet my students’ needs. Having the opportunity within the instructional day to learn with my peers was some of the most powerful Professional development I had been involved in. People in my building who rarely pass each other in the hall were able to have rich discussions reflecting on their own practices and share ideas on how to most successfully implement practices within their classrooms. They had the time and space to share new learning or a deeper understanding based on observations from a round that they were excited to try in their own classrooms. Teachers were able to act on the excitement that came when they observed something new or gained a deeper understanding of based on the round.
So, why do Instructional Rounds?
The first time I went on an instructional round as a teacher it was mostly because my principal said it was something all staff needed to do. I was looking forward to seeing what other teachers were doing in their classrooms but also had some trepidation about losing instructional time with my students and disrupting our regular routine by being away from the classroom. Of course, I also had mixed emotions on the reciprocal side of Instructional Rounds, my fellow teachers coming to observe me.
When I got to the meeting space to learn about rounds before heading off to the first classroom, my instructional coaches shared this quote: “The most valuable resource that all teachers have is each other. Without collaboration, our growth is limited to our own perspectives” (Robert John Meehan). It resonated with me because—while I met as a PLC on a regular basis—it was very seldom that my colleagues and I had the opportunity to see each other in action practicing our crafts. My instructional coaches also explained that another big purpose of Instructional Rounds was to come to a shared understanding of what high-quality instruction looks like and what we need to do to support it.
The observers on my round included two other teachers, an instructional coach, and me. We went to three different classrooms and took notes around the practice using non-evaluative language.
We met back together to debrief and describe what we saw in each classroom. It was hard not to inject evaluative words such as “amazing” as I reflected on the instructional practices I had seen in other classrooms, but we had agreed that if we did that, it would change the focus of the round to being evaluative instead of keeping the focus on our own learning. My group members and I analyzed the patterns that we had seen and predicted what students were doing as a result of the teachers’ instructional practices. This conversation guided us to develop our own personal calls to action, which we wrote on a brightly-colored piece of paper that we hung up in our classrooms to spur us into taking action on our goals.
Lastly, we brainstormed the possible next level of work school-wide around the problem of practice that had framed our observation and our discussion.
Later that same year, an optional instructional round at my building was offered around a different problem of practice. That time I signed up even though it wasn’t something my principal said I needed to do. Since then, I have had the honor of collaborating with other teachers, instructional coaches, and administrators to develop and facilitate Instructional Rounds, and the feedback we collected from teachers about participating in Instructional Rounds has been overwhelmingly positive.
Although the idea of Instructional Rounds was originally a bit foreign and scary to me, they have become an incredibly powerful way for me to learn. Having the honor of seeing the incredible work that my colleagues do and learning from them has made lasting change in my decision-making as an educator.
This post brought to you by Katie Schieve, Instructional Coach & Spanish Immersion Support Teacher at Gage Elementary
Feel free to connect with Schieve via email or Twitter
To explore further, consider the book Instructional Rounds in education: A network approach to improving learning and teaching (2009), which is often mentioned in City’s article.
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