Thursday, January 24, 2019

Leading Instructional Rounds Helps Improve Educational Standards

By Kevin Cooper

The vast majority of teachers are professionals dedicated to help their student do well. Unfortunately, so many teachers have to work under very difficult circumstances and under high pressure. They do not only teach. They also have to perform many admin duties, attend numerous meetings, write reports and become involved in other school activities. They have very little time to attend courses or seminars. Thankfully, by leading instructional rounds experienced educators can help their colleagues to improve professionally.

Learning from other teachers by observing them in action cost nothing and it is easy to implement an observation system. A more experienced teacher acts as leader and attends the classes of a well regarded colleague in the company of a small group of less experienced teachers. The purpose of the observation session is to learn from the other teacher. Those observing do not take part in any classroom activities.

The leader of the observing group will chair a meeting before each session. During this meeting they set certain goals for the observation session. Teachers being observed are normally chosen because they are known for their excellence in specific areas. The goals for the observation session will then concentrate upon those areas of excellence. No teacher is forced to participate as either observer or to be the one being observed.

There is no question of evaluation during observation sessions. That would defy the entire idea of the system altogether. Observers do no score, they do not criticize and they do not evaluate. They learn, that is all. They observe and try to improve themselves in the process. That is the only purpose. To this end, observers never provide feedback to the teacher that they observed.

Right after every observation session the leader of the observers will convene another short meeting. This is when the observers share their experienced, the ideas that they have garnered and their plans for improving their own teaching techniques. In this way the observers learn not only from the teacher that they observed, but also from each other. The meeting is confidential and no report is ever compiled.

Observations sessions have become immensely popular and observers now even visit colleagues at other schools. Universities and colleges have also started to implement similar systems. Participants say that they learn a lot from their colleagues, they get a chance to interact with other teachers and they are more motivated in their own classrooms. The teachers being observed also benefit because they are motivated by the fact that they are acknowledged as accomplished professionals.

There are always cynics and critics. They say that these observation sessions are useless because they are too short, far too informal and the fact that no feedback is given means that there is no measurable outcome. They also say that those teachers under observation never teach the way they always do because they want to impress their colleagues. This, they say, nullifies the entire purpose of the system.

The fact remains that the educational system is under pressure. Morale is low and teachers are under pressure. Everything that could possibly help to improve things should be welcomed. Observation sessions seem to benefit everyone concerned, including the students. It should therefore be supported.

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