Classroom Observation Strategies: Instructional Rounds
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Classroom Observation Strategies: Instructional Rounds

We looked at several different observational
programs, I guess, and we wanted to see one in action. So we sent some teachers across
to the Shore School in Sydney, and they did some instructional rounds there and came back,
and their reports were what convinced us that we would do instructional rounds. There are
a variety of reasons why we chose that. One of the prime reasons is because it is non-evaluative, in that it doesn’t pass judgments on either the teachers or the rounds, the people who
are in the teams themselves doing the rounds. Having identified the people who are going
to take part in the instructional round, we meet for a briefing, where we go through,
okay, what can we expect from an instructional round, why we’re doing instructional rounds, what the duties of each person within the team is going to be. Then we will have usually
three or four classrooms that we’re going to visit. Those classrooms are not in common.
We’ll have a number of teams. At the end of our instructional round, the teams come back to a central point, and we go through our debrief, which looks at some of the observations
we might have had about what we felt was important, and then we make some recommendations to our
management. The problem of practice or line of investigation that we’re going to be looking at you’ll be familiar with, and it’s: are the students engaged with the lesson objective? The team leaders will allocate the roles, and there are five to each team. The team leader, in this case, won’t be taking any other role except as the team leader. It’s little snapshots of several different classrooms on to just a note-taking sheet of what the
student is doing and saying, what the teacher is doing and saying, the task, and the structure
within the classroom. That information then gets turned into questions and recommendations for the school. The importance of having two or more groups going around is that you get to see more classrooms, and so you get a greater sample size of what’s going on. But you also then get two very
distinct conversations based on those different classrooms, which you can
then layer over one another to see if there are some similarities, and then to really
build on those similarities as part of your findings. So we’ll start with what the students
were saying and doing. Okay. So it was at the start of the lesson, so some were scattered around the room at their bags. They were collecting notes. Some were taking a seat on the floor
space. They sat down facing the teacher. One student, a male student, was sitting on a
chair. They waited further instruction from the teacher. There was a boy waving his book. The teacher started the lesson, they copied the word down from the board. Once we have our evidence-gathering sheet, which we use for the debrief, we have individual reflection
time where we read through our sheets and try to identify two or three or four things
that stand out in our mind about what was important with each of the classrooms that
we visited. If you could take some post-it notes and then perhaps write one observation per post-it note before we move into groups. So, five observations. And if you can, simplify so you’ve got one or two words rather than long sentences. We’ll take our post-it notes, and then we move them into groups so we can see patterns. And then we look at those patterns and say, “What does that tell us? Are there some recommendations for other investigations
we might do? Are there some recommendations for the way that we do instructional rounds?”
Whatever it is, those are the things that we take forward to the executive of the school. In terms of what the teacher was doing and the rapport with students, the teachers provided
an environment that was safe, supportive, and clearly had a strong connection with the
students in all three of the classrooms, which allowed the students in turn to be at ease
to be able to ask questions if they weren’t sure about the outcome or to respond to questions
that the teacher was asking in the course of the lesson. The blue is kind of the wonderings,
and then the reds are our recommendations. So we wanted to look at what are the tasks
that we’re giving them and how we’re framing questions. I’m actually going to slip over to here – we’ll come back to the middle – which led us over here to what was happening in the classroom a bit, which was more teacher-centred and directed instruction. So, we wanted to know, would increased use of cooperative and instructional strategies challenge students more in the learning process? Because we’re looking at the level of engagement, so the depth of that. I’ve been an observer, so a participant, and I’ve also been observed. So I’ve seen both sides, which I think is really valuable. I was unsure about having
people come into my class at first, because I didn’t know much about the rounds. Until
you’ve actually been a part of the process and been into different people’s classrooms,
then you see that it is objective and we are just gathering data, and it’s not so much
about individual teachers, what you’re seeing. But it really is about collating everything. One of the main challenges we had to face in implementing instructional rounds is the
logistics, I guess, of getting a number of staff out of classrooms at the same time.
It means that we have to have relief staffing. And because one of the most important sections
is the debrief, you really can’t cut short the debrief time. Instructional rounds have
been really helpful in informing, I guess, both my leadership and my practice as a teacher.
The professional practice – for me personally, I get to see how different people operate.
You get to see how different students are learning and how that happens differently
in different classrooms. But it also … when you’re sitting there in the debrief and you’re
saying certain recommendations, then you’re also asking yourself, “Well, I’m making this
recommendation because I know I’m not doing as good a job at that as perhaps I could,”
and you’re starting to think about how I could improve that as well.

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