Thursday, April 9, 2015

Instructional Rounds

Something new to our building this year - Instructional Rounds!  

This week’s #compelledtribe blog topic is to share something new that we have tried.  We were asked to highlight our experiences, which could include any fears, learning, and/or outcomes.  My intention was to write a detailed blog post of our Instructional Round’s journey this summer, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to share an early preview of what our staff is accomplishing!  

@TComilla (in collaboration with her Galileo Project and School Improvement Team) graciously created a building wide professional development experience focused on Instructional Rounds.  We are still in the early stages; however, we are finding that Instructional Rounds are enhancing collaboration that is focused around pedagogical skills and student learning.  We are finding that the experience isn’t about the observed teacher. Instead, the pre brief, coupled with conducting rounds and the debrief are providing opportunities for teachers to have enriched dialogue about instructional strategies, while reflecting on their own practice.  It has been a great opportunity for intentional, professional collaboration and self-reflection. Overall, I am not sure if there has been a more impactful opportunity to learn from each other.    

Before Instructional Rounds:  

We set aside a couple staff meetings to prepare for Instructional Rounds.  Highlights from those meeting consisted of a few humorous ice breakers, watching videos of teaching, conducting intentional dialogue about those videos, and collaborating on four basic questions:  

What are characteristics of professional teachers?  
What is most important to your professional growth?
What are the biggest factors that impact student learning?
What are you fears and expectations surrounding Instructional Rounds?  

Besides the Instructional Rounds question, the reality is that we have been sustaining these conversations for years, through professional development, creating a common vision and shared beliefs about teaching and learning.  It is imperative to maintain conversations about what professional teaching looks and feels like, while having professional dialogue about our beliefs.  This is where real ideas and sharing happens. The excitement is when the ideas and sharing turns into action.  Conducting Instructional Rounds is just that… seeing the ideas in action and in real time.  

The initial staff meetings also gave time for staff members to collaborate and provide expectations surrounding focus themes, goals, norms, what to avoid, schedule, and pragmatics for an enriched experiences.  These meetings were vital to the process (more details in future blog posts), but the real professional growth started when we carried out Instructional Rounds for the first time.

Instructional Rounds:

The ½ day Instructional Rounds experience was broken into three parts:  Pre brief, Instructional Rounds, and a Debrief to culminate our learning.  

Pre brief consisted of reviewing norms and pragmatics for Instructional Rounds.  Teachers were able to post fears and hopes related to the day.  We also did a trust-building activity to recognize the vulnerability that can come from a change in practice and observing our peers.


Instructional Rounds consisted of 3-4 teachers visiting four host teachers.  Each visiting group focused on observing Learning Targets, Checking for Understanding, and Celebrating Success. Teachers were also allowed to consider other classroom strategies, routines, or anything that was of particular interest during their visit.  Visiting teachers spent approximately 10 minutes in each classroom before connecting with the whole group for a meaningful collaboration session about the experience.  

Debrief paid particular attention to the observations, while sharing accolades and take aways from the experience.  Each group discussed what they noticed and wondered regarding the focus themes.  We shared and connected all conversations to how this experience would impact our own practices.  The group concluded the session by seeing if the fears identified during the pre brief  were addressed, making statements about Instructional Rounds, and created a culminating sentence to conclude our learning endeavor.


Staff comments about Instructional Rounds after experiencing them for the first time:

  • Not so scary
  • It is every day teaching in an everyday classroom… recognizing the great things we do.
  • You can see a lot in 7-8 minutes to generate great conversation
  • Fun and informative… fun!!!  
  • Seeing different grade levels gives you great knowledge about our building.
  • Building respect between each other.
  • Experiencing the great things others are doing
  • Helpful ways to support each other
  • Spend time together
  • Help us collaborate and learn from each other in a relaxed environment.  

One sentence - Why should we do instructional rounds?

IR is a fun way to support, learn, and share ideas that will enhance our instructional strategies and IR will ultimately benefit our students.  

The most amazing part of Instructional Rounds are the conversations that took place days after the experience.  Teachers were sharing and utilizing strategies in their own classrooms due to their visits.  Our staff has always been great about sharing and collaborating; however, the conversational buzz in our building, after Instructional Rounds, revolved around new strategies teachers could incorporate into their own classrooms as a result of visiting their colleagues.  Teachers were talking about a simple behavior intervention that gave ownership back to the student, a visual learning assignment for students to utilize during presentations, student led management techniques, and ideas for displaying student work.  All of these strategies were observed during Instructional Rounds! Seeing the strategies in action is much more powerful than discussing those same strategies during staff meetings. Instructional Rounds created an authentic learning experience for teachers that helped generate collaboration and ongoing professional conversations. Thanks to @TComilla and our teaching faculty for supporting this transformational opportunity.

We are just scratching the surface regarding the potential that Instructional Rounds will have on our professional growth, and it has been an amazing journey so far.  I truly enjoyed our experience, and we all look forward to next week when two additional groups of teachers will get to experience Instructional Rounds for the first time.  

Enjoy trying something new!