Saturday, January 9, 2016

Why Instructional Rounds Are Worth The Effort

By Martha Turner

Teachers have a tough time. Teaching conditions are difficult because of very large classes, many disciplinary problems, a huge administrative burden and extremely limited resources. On top of this, the very heavy work load carried by tea hers makes it very difficult to attend courses and to interact with other professionals in their field. This can easily lead to stagnation. However, with a system of instructional rounds teachers can be motivated anew.

It is really a very simple concept. A small group of teachers attend the class of another teacher. Their intention is to observe that teacher in action in the classroom. The group is normally led by a senior teacher. The observers do not participate in the class activities and may not interrupt the teacher being observed. No teacher is ever pressurised to agree to being observed.

Each observation session has very clear goals. The observers meet prior to the session and agree to those goals. The goal may be, for example, to see how the teacher being observed uses visual aids during the lesson. The purpose of these sessions is for the observers to learn new techniques and approaches, so they would normally focus on the known strengths of the teacher under observation.

These observation sessions have nothing to do with evaluation. The teacher being observed is not is not in the firing line. The whole idea is to learn from the teacher in action. In fact, observers normally choose very experienced and successful teachers to observe. After the observation session no feedback is give to the teacher concerned but it may be given if it is requested specifically.

Observation sessions are always followed by a meeting of the observers. During this meeting they are not allowed to criticize the teacher that they observed. Rather, the purpose of the meeting is to discuss lessons learned and ways in which those lessons could be used, adapted and implemented in their own classrooms. No report is ever submitted and observer teachers are expected to treat the experience as confidential.

There are numerous benefits to these sessions. The teacher being observed is honoured because he or she gets the message that they are seen as someone that is worth learning from. The teachers attending the sessions benefit because the get a chance to improve their own teaching skills. In the process, the whole system benefits because the quality of teaching improves and the principal players are more motivated.

Detractors of this system say that it does not achieve anything because the observation sessions are too short, because the teachers being observed make a special effort to impress their colleagues and because the entire system does not make provision for official feedback. However, teachers seem to love the idea and they normally partake gladly. Students too, seems to like observation sessions.

Learning from experienced peers is as old as civilization itself. That is where the apprentice system comes from. Teachers enjoy observation sessions. It not only gives them a chance to learn but it also allows them to interact with their colleagues on a professional level. Educational experts all agree that teachers must be given the opportunity to grow, both personally and professionally.

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