Friday, 14 September 2012

Instructional Rounds - Part One

Part One - The build up...

Our principal often flicks the leadership team some professional reading, with the aim of stimulating some 'transformational' [rather than 'transactional'] discussion at our leadership meetings...
Early / mid last term, one such article [excuse my markups... ] was on Instructional Rounds - a school improvement process focusing on the 'instructional core':
“In its simplest terms, the instructional core is composed of the teacher and the student in the presence of content…a focus on the instructional core grounds school improvement in the actual interactions between teachers, students, and content in the classroom…” [From Instructional Rounds in Education: A Network Approach to Improving Teaching and Learning by City, Elmore, Fiarmon and Teitel, 2009]

Although I don't usually need much encouragement to engage in education-related readings [words such as 'geek' and 'nerd' are regularly directed towards me!]... I was particularly interested in this topic, as I'd recently read a bit about the IR process and have long valued the professional learning benefits of observing other teachers in action.
I had several follow-up discussions with my principal, as well as with Cameron Patterson - a Sydney-based educator with a lot of experience in using Instructional Rounds in schools. [Cameron's blog is and he can be found on twitter at @cpaterso ]
Following these discussions, we decided to give the Instructional Rounds process a go at our school.

A crucial aspect to IR is that a team of people carry out the Rounds. We decided that one of our professional learning teams could pilot the Rounds process. We opted for a team that both myself and my principal were on, so we could 'drive' it in this pilot stage [there were also three other classroom teachers on this team].

The next step was 'schooling' the team on the IR process, before deciding upon a Problem of Practice - this is another critical aspect of IR. The team is focusing on a particular element of teaching / learning and should not be distracted by other issues during their classroom observations.

In my mind, one of the most important parts in determining how successful we'd be with this project was how effectively we could educate our staff on the process itself, as well as the value and benefits of such an approach. To this end, I was keen to discuss IR at a whole staff meeting, prior to the team beginning the Rounds. In this meeting, I tried to stress the learning benefits for the team that does the observing, as well as to clearly distinguish the purpose of IR from the purpose of 'traditional', performance-oriented observations...
Staff were generally very accepting and positive about the IR process following this session, allowing us to minimise the 'intrusive' feelings sometimes experienced by teachers, when people come into observe their practice.

So we were ready to begin...

This is the first in a three round post. See Part Two and Part Three

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