Sunday, April 19, 2015

Instructional Rounds = Instructional and Leadership Opportunities

My colleagues and I recently experienced what is known as instructional rounds, which is a process adapted from the medical rounds model that doctors use in hospitals. Instructional Rounds help educators look closely at what is happening in classrooms in a systematic, purposeful, and focused way. The classroom observation is viewed through the lens of the school's problem of practice and is often framed as a question around which a site wants to gather some data. 

Almost all of the teachers, as well as the administrator, participate in the rounds. In small groups, teachers visit their colleague's classrooms for 30 minutes each, looking for evidence related to the problem of practice. One of the most challenging aspects with Rounds is that evidence being collected must be observational and non-judgmental. When visiting classes, we took notes on what the students and teacher were doing with respect to the information provided in the lesson plan posted in and out of the room for our reference. Below is an example of what my teaching partner and I provided to the team that observed our classes.

Can Observers speak to students (during the task)?     Yes     

Big Idea/Inquiry Questions
Making Connections
Learning Goal and Success Criteria
Learning Goal:  Students will provide evidence from the text to support their connection

Success Criteria:
  • Identify key words/phrases from the text that help make their connection.
  • Orally communicate their connection to peer/teacher
  • Integrate evidence from the text and their own experience.
Learning Task
Make deep connections to non-fiction text using evidence from the text and their schema.
(For, As, Of Learning)
“Of Learning” -  Examine how well the students were able to meet the success criteria by reviewing their graphic organizer and conferencing with them.

At the end of the day, the observation team gathered to talk about our observations with the ultimate goal of recommending what we believe should continue to occur at our school, what should stop occurring, and what we could start doing as a school in order to address our problem of practice.

The two and a half days that we spent working on this was time well spent. My favourite part has been the time spent after school debriefing teachers after the days observations and all the rich talk and action that has come from the two and a half days of instructional rounds. 

Throughout this process, I have been paying attention to the instructional and leadership perspectives that have presented themselves. From an instructional perspective, I have been paying attention to and focusing on the amazing things my colleagues are doing with their students and what I can take from my observations to improve my practice. From a leadership perspective, I am aware of the Catholic Leadership Framework and expectations that connect to what I am doing as a member of my school community. 

Upon reflection of my role in the instructional rounds process, and its aftermath, here are the some expectations that I find myself engaged in:

  • building understanding of the specific implications of the school’s vision for its programs and the nature of classroom instruction (Setting Directions)
  • regularly encouraging staff (and them encouraging me) to evaluate their progress toward achieving the school’s goals (Setting Directions)
  • encouraging staff to be innovative in helping students meet those expectations (Setting Directions)
  • encouraging staff to reflect on what they are trying to achieve with students and how they are doing it (Building Relationships and Developing People)
  •  suggesting new ideas for staff learning (Building Relationships and Developing People)
  •  encouraging staff to try new practices that are consistent with both their interests and school goals (Building Relationships and Developing People)
  • model collaboration in my own work (Developing the Organization to Support Desired Practices)
  • collecting and using data about the status of those classroom and school conditions that are the focus of the school improvement efforts (Improving the Instructional Program)
From my perspective, my colleagues are as engaged in the leadership expectations listed above as I am. Perhaps they don't see it the same way that I do but due to the nature of the instructional rounds the culture is changing at the school and people seem to have a heightened awareness around collaboration and innovation in order to positively impact teaching and learning. 

I enjoy engaging my colleagues in dialogue around the purpose of the work we are doing, suggesting new and exciting ways to do the work (e.g. technology integration), and to get things done in a safe and collaborative fashion. The instructional rounds experience has helped put me on a path where the discussions and work I find myself having and doing comes from a common goal that my colleagues and I are working toward. As we continue to work toward our school's vision/goals I will continue to look for and engage in instructional and leadership opportunities that will assist in my personal and professional development.