Monday, April 17, 2017

Why Instructional School Rounds Are Important In The Educational System

By Gregory Powell

Teachers have to face a wide variety of challenges on a daily basis. They have to teach, prepare their lessons, be active in extra curricular activities, mark homework and motivate their learners. They have to make do with constant shortages and they have to deal with large classes. Many teachers simply do not have the time or opportunity to grow professionally. However, instructional school rounds can play a vital role in exposing teachers to new ideas.

These rounds simply consist of a system whereby small groups of teachers attend the class of a respected and experienced colleague. The observer teachers do not participate in the class, do not ask questions and do not offer any opinions. They simply observe in silence and try to learn from the colleague giving the lesson. Nobody is ever forced to participate in this system, neither as observer or as the teacher under observation

Observers always meet before any observation session. The goal is to decide upon the focus of the session. On most cases the teacher under observation has achieved excellent results and may be know for successfully employing certain teaching methods or techniques. This will become the focus of the observers. They see how a colleague use those techniques and they devise ways to incorporate new methods in their own classes.

The teacher being observed is never evaluated in any way. This will defeat the purpose of these sessions. The students are also informed that the visitors to their class is there to learn, not to judge. Observers never participate in the classroom activities. Observers therefore never provide feedback to the teacher under observation, although he may ask for some form of feedback.

After each session, the observers meet once more. The purpose of this meeting is to share the lessons learned, the ideas generated and their thoughts on how to implement change in their own classrooms with each other. During this meeting no criticism is allowed and no report, verbal or written, is submitted. Observers are expected to keep the discussions during this meeting as confidential.

Observation systems are widespread and are now even in use at some universities and colleges. Teachers and other educators maintain that they learn a lot from these sessions. Even the individuals under observation benefit because they are publicly acknowledged as accomplished professionals. Of course, students also benefit from renewal in the classroom and in this way the entire system of education is improved.

Critics of colleague observation sessions say that it is a waste of time. The sessions are far too short and teachers under observation do not act or teach as they normally do. Instead, they go to ridiculous lengths to make an impression upon their observer colleagues and in the process they make it impossible for observers to copy his techniques in their own classrooms.

Nobody will deny the fact that the entire education system is facing many unique challenges. Efforts to improve the quality of teaching should therefore be lauded. Observation sessions have been proven to help and should therefore be supported. It does not require much funding and if it improves the quality of education, then it should be promoted on a wide front.

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