Copyright 2016 Instructional Rounds: Lesson Observation & Analysis. All Rights Reserved.
Instructional rounds, first proposed by Dr. Richard Elmore of Harvard University, is a process of job-embedded school and district professional development. When implemented at its best, instructional rounds yields improving instruction, content, and learning at scale. Instructional rounds requires the commitment of instructional leadership from all levels of the school or school system to focus on rigor and visible student learning. The roles and actions of everyone connected to what happens in classrooms become redefined by that which is necessary to result in the highest levels of professional development, improving instruction, rigorous content, and student learning. Dr. Thomas Fowler-Finn, author of Leading Instructional Rounds In Education: A Facilitator's Guide, Harvard Press 2013, describes the process below.
The process begins with the formation of a network whose members commit to improving school outcomes by addressing problems of student learning. A school identified problem of student learning, called a “problem of practice” (POP) serves as the focus for classroom observation. The network members are scheduled to enter multiple classrooms in small groups, use expert and precise observation techniques, and take objective notes based upon the school's POP.
After observing in a majority of classrooms, the network reconvenes to agree upon and analyze what was observed in the instructional core (the interactions between teachers, students, and content). This stage of the process, called debriefing, keeps the analysis on specific and factual descriptions, screening out personal judgments. Participants create a collection of precisely written "patterns" that provide a comprehensive picture of instruction and learning in the school-as-a-whole. The patterns are not evaluations, and citation of individual teachers/classrooms is forbidden.
These school-wide patterns are then used by the network/observers to predict what students would know and be able to do as a result of being educated in this school. The members conclude their work by taking on the central questions of what needs to happen in this school and system-wide to result in improving instruction and learning thereby improving student performance at scale. This later stage of the work, called “the next level of work,” results in recommendations for instruction and learning cast as options for the school to consider.
The network's generation of options includes ideas for what the school could do immediately and over the course of a year. These options take into account time factors, resources, and necessary support at the school and network/district level. This work is explicit and concrete, offered with the expectation that the school will decide upon its own course of action to spur improving instruction and learning, and that progress on the chosen course of action will be reported back to the network. The initial patterns also provide a baseline to help schools and the network assess future efforts of improving instruction and learning. In doing so, both the school staff and network members reflect over time on their own professional practice as a part of the job-embedded professional development of all participants in instructional rounds.
Improving Instruction, Content, and Student Learning