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Why All Schools Need A System Of Instructional Rounds

By Lisa Sullivan

Teachers are facing more challenges than ever before. They have to deal with large classes where it is impossible to pay attention to the individual needs of every child. They have to prepare lessons, be involved in sport and on top of this all teachers are saddled with mountains of paper work. Add to this the fact that they never have all the resources they need. Teachers do not have time to improve their own skills. However, with instructional rounds, this situation can most certainly be improved.

This is an easy to implement system that allows small groups of educators to observe and experienced or well known colleague in action in his classroom. The sole aim of the session is to learn from the educator that is under observation. The observers do not ask questions or interrupt the lesson in any way. They must just watch and learn. Nobody is ever forced to participate in observation sessions.

The observer group have a meeting prior to every observation session. During this meeting they set some objectives for the session. In most cases, the teacher that will be observed is renowned for one or more aspects of teaching. He can be known for using humour effectively, for example, or for an uncanny ability to maintain classroom discipline. The observation session normally focuses upon these strong points.

The system cannot work if any of the role players, students, observers, administrators or those being observed, perceive the sessions as some form of evaluation. This may never be the case. The only aim of these sessions is for the observers to learn and to take away some constructive ideas that can help them to become better teachers themselves and to contribute towards the quality of education at their particular schools.

After the observation session the observers meet once more. This time the aim is to share the lessons that each observer has learned and the ideas that they got for the improvement of their own lessons. This discussion is considered to be strictly confidential and no report is ever submitted to anyone, not even to the teacher that were under observation. Observers are also not allowed to voice any criticism.

The system of observing professional colleagues in action has become extremely popular. Observers learn from experienced professionals and those under observation are motivated because they have been identified as true professionals in their field. Eventually, however, it is the students that benefit most because their teachers are freshly inspired with new ideas. Teachers not only learn from each other but they also get to know each other better.

The system has some critics. They say that this is a complete waste of valuable teaching time. They argue that the observation sessions are too short to be of any value. They also say that teachers under observation hardly ever follow their normal routines when being observed. In fact, they make special efforts to impress their colleagues and this fact alone cancels any benefit that the session could have had.

Nobody will argue the fact that the entire educational system needs to be improved drastically. This has to be achieved with an ever decreasing budget. Observation sessions require no resources and if they help to make even a very small positive difference, then they must be worth the effort.

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Why All Schools Need A System Of Instructional Rounds


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