"Identifying the problem of practice is a critical component of rounds as it focuses the attention of the network. Of all the things we could pay attention to in classrooms, we’re going to focus on ....”. It also makes it more likely that the visit will be fruitful learning for both the host and thenetwork participants (p102)".
Each school develops the problem of practice for the round which they host.
The problem of practice should be be directly related to student learning and the teaching that will impact it. It should:
* Focus on the instructional core,
* Be directly observable,
* Be actionable, and
* Connect to a broader strategy of improvement ie link to one of the current strategic directions of the school.
In our network, the co-ordinator visits the host school about a month before the round to discuss the problem of practice with the school executive.
Our firm recommendation is NOT to tell the teachers who will be observed what the PoP is as this may skew the data .
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One of the principles of instructional rounds is that "everyone involved in working on their practice and that everyone is obliged to be knowledgeable about a common task of instructional improvement".
Instructional rounds is an inquiry process. Participants need to shift their mindsets from being "knowers" to being "inquirers".
Our PL sessions involve all network members in active learning: reading, viewing, summarising, analysing, discussing and creating. In our network participants' learning is purposeful and sustained.
We emphasis constructing knowledge together rather than listening to experts or having information shared.
A mantra is, "The person who is doing the most talking is doing the most learning."
Our participants almost universally report that instructional rounds is the best professional learning they have engaged in.
Descriptive observation is at the heart of rounds.
As educators our usual practice may be to make judgements each time we visit a classroom. "That was a great lesson!"; "The students were really engaged"; or "The expectations of the teacher weren't very high". These are all judgements.
In rounds we learn to observe without judgements. This requires a different mindset, and it requires practice. Network members develop the skill of descriptive observation over time.
Even after considerable rounds experience, participants can default back to making judgements during the observations. This is where other members of the group come in with gentle prompting such as, "What exactly did you see?" "What evidence do you have for that?"
An easy framework to think about is that observations should be about: What were the students doing and saying? What were the teachers doing and saying? and What were the qualities of the task?
Remember that the purpose of classroom observations is to strengthen our understandings of teaching and learning. It is not to judge students, teachers or schools.
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