How can teachers learn from each other without judgement?
Teachers Leading Their Own Learning:
For over twenty years, teachers have been told how to teach – by Ofsted, by their heads of department and senior leaders, or by education experts and more recently by government. Furthermore, teachers have been constantly observed, monitored, judged and graded. They are given feedback on what they need to do to improve their practice in the classroom.
Unfortunately, this guidance often comes from senior leaders who spend little time in the classroom themselves, or for whom they have little respect for as teachers. They are constantly told how to teach. And yes, I have to admit, I was as guilty as others, of doing exactly this during my seventeen years of headship! I now know better!
It is rare for teachers to have an opportunity to observe and learn from each other. When they do get this opportunity, they often don’t have the structure and the language to discuss teaching and learning in any great depth.
Furthermore, teacher’s professional learning is largely in the hands of senior leaders who assume they know what is needed to improve the quality of teaching.
Teacher Rounds is something different.
As part of my doctoral studies at Brunel University, I am conducting a research study to examine what happens when Teacher Rounds are introduced as part of a professional learning programme. Teacher Rounds, is about a collaborative form of peer observation and continuous professional learning. The process is based on a medical ward rounds model that have been common practice in teaching hospitals for many years as a way of training doctors around a patient’s bed. The Teacher Rounds process has been developed by Professor Tom Del Prete in Clark University, in Worcester (near Boston, USA).
Teacher Rounds and Instructional Rounds (Richard Elmore) have been used widely in the USA & Australia and there has been a pilot project in Scotland. However, they have not yet been introduced into schools in England on any large-scale.
How Does It Work?
- Teacher Rounds occurs in the classroom, in real-time.
- it is about learning in and from practice. It is not a process of evaluation. No judgments are made – ever!
- involves everybody in the Rounds group taking a turn to be the host teacher.
- involves the Round teacher identifying the ‘problem of practice’ for the Round observation.
- involves a short pre-Round meeting prior to the Round observation, where the host teacher describes the context of the lesson, talks through the ‘problem of practice’ and shares the lesson plan. Following the observation there is a post-Round meeting to reflect on what happened during the lesson.
- is a collaborative process. It’s a way to bring extra eyes and ears to the task of learning what students are thinking and doing and what is engaging them and to what the resulting impact is.
- involves a minimum of three and up to seven teachers. This ensures that a range of experiences and multiple perspectives are brought to the process.
- entails intentional reflection, observation, inquiry and collaboration. Every member of the Round group are reflective partners and take-away something from the lesson.
Teachers who make up the Round Group are volunteers and need to agree strict protocols for working together. When the research period ends, they will feed back their reflections and what they have learned so that the whole school community may benefit. Colleagues who have been part of the Teacher Rounds research will be in a good position to set up another Rounds group in their school and make it a sustainable form of professional learning.
The aim of Teacher Rounds is to develop a language and a forum for talking about teaching and learning. They help teachers to reflect on their own practice and to work collaboratively with others in a structured way, to improve teaching and take it to the next level.
When teachers observe each other’s lessons, they describe what they see and hear but they don’t interpret it. They don’t offer solutions and they don’t tell each other how to teach. Instead, joint reflection leads to small changes over time.
I’m currently working with groups of teachers in three London schools – including Quintin Kynaston – and hope to include one more in the next few months. The hardest part of the Teacher Round process is learning to observe lessons without using the Ofsted jargon that is so ingrained in our minds; to stop offering solutions. Developing a new structure and new language to really collaborate with other teachers is the most exciting part.
We will report back throughout the research.
Written by Kenny Frederick for Teacher Toolkit.
Kenny is a former secondary headteacher and now works as an education consultant. She is currently completing her PhD at Brunel University. You can follow Kenny on Twitter at @.