Friday, September 14, 2018

School Based Instructional Rounds Make A Difference To Teachers And Learners Alike

By Ryan Sanders

Teachers work under tremendous pressure. Not only do they have to teach their classes, but they have to teach to very large classes. This makes individual attention to struggling students very difficult. In addition, teachers are required to do an enormous amount of administrative work. They have to be involved with other school activities and they need time to prepare their lessons. There is no time for personal development, but with school based instructional rounds they do get an opportunity to grow professionally.

Implementing such a system does not cost money and it requires very little effort. It basically consist of small numbers of teachers attending the class of a colleague with the express purpose of observing him at his job. The system is voluntary and the teacher asked to agree to be observed by others is normally a well respected professional. The observers are there to learn, nothing else.

Before every observation session, the observers meet. During this meeting they set some goals for the forthcoming session. In most cases, these goals will relate to some aspect for which the teacher that will be observed is particularly known. He may, for example, be known for using multimedia very effectively. The goals of the observers will then focus on this particular aspect, the use of multimedia to enhance the classroom experience.

It is important to note that these observation sessions contain no element of evaluation whatsoever. The observers are not there to evaluate a colleague. They are there to learn from him. For this reason, observers never provide feedback after the session, unless the teacher that was observed request it. Great care is also taken to make sure that the learners understand the purpose of the observation session.

After the session, the observers meet once again. This time the purpose is to share lessons learnt with each other. No observer is allowed to voice any criticism. The only thing being discussed is the lessons that were learnt and the insight that was gained. They also discuss way s in which they can integrate these lessons in their own classrooms. These meetings are confidential and no report is submitted.

This way of learning from accomplished colleagues have become extremely popular. Many colleges and universities have also implemented similar systems. Participants generally agree that they find the observation session very useful and that they have been able to improve their own teaching techniques in the process. Even the teachers that are observed benefit because the very fact that they asked to agree means that they are viewed as accomplished professionals.

The system has its critics too. They say that these observation sessions are far too short to be of any value and they are too informal. They also say that teachers being observed tend to make special efforts to impress their colleagues, thereby completely negating the very purpose of the session. Critics are of the opinion that observation systems are merely watered down efforts to improve the quality of education.

The fact remains that observation sessions cost almost nothing and they are easy to manage. If they make even the tiniest difference then they are certainly worth it. From all reports, however, it seems that they are making much more than just a tiny difference.

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