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Instructional Rounds in Education: A Network Approach to Improving Teaching and Learning

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Instructional Rounds in Education is intended to help education leaders and practitioners develop a shared understanding of what high-quality instruction looks like and what schools and districts need to do to support it. Walk into any school in America and you will see adults who care deeply about their students and are doing the best they can every day to help students l Instructional Rounds in Education is intended to help education leaders and practitioners develop a shared understanding of what high-quality instruction looks like and what schools and districts need to do to support it. Walk into any school in America and you will see adults who care deeply about their students and are doing the best they can every day to help students learn. But you will also see a high degree of variability among classrooms—much higher than in most other industrialized countries. Today we are asking schools to do something they have never done before—educate all students to high levels—yet we don’t know how to do that in every classroom for every child. Inspired by the medical-rounds model used by physicians, the authors have pioneered a new form of professional learning known as instructional rounds networks. Through this process, educators develop a shared practice of observing, discussing, and analyzing learning and teaching.


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Instructional Rounds in Education is intended to help education leaders and practitioners develop a shared understanding of what high-quality instruction looks like and what schools and districts need to do to support it. Walk into any school in America and you will see adults who care deeply about their students and are doing the best they can every day to help students l Instructional Rounds in Education is intended to help education leaders and practitioners develop a shared understanding of what high-quality instruction looks like and what schools and districts need to do to support it. Walk into any school in America and you will see adults who care deeply about their students and are doing the best they can every day to help students learn. But you will also see a high degree of variability among classrooms—much higher than in most other industrialized countries. Today we are asking schools to do something they have never done before—educate all students to high levels—yet we don’t know how to do that in every classroom for every child. Inspired by the medical-rounds model used by physicians, the authors have pioneered a new form of professional learning known as instructional rounds networks. Through this process, educators develop a shared practice of observing, discussing, and analyzing learning and teaching.

30 review for Instructional Rounds in Education: A Network Approach to Improving Teaching and Learning

  1. 5 out of 5

    Delia Turner

    The textbook for implementing instructional rounds in a district or system. The underlying assumptions about education are based in Walter Doyle's concept of the instructional task at the center of the instructional core (teacher & student in the presence of content), and in the idea that a profession must have a set of shared practices and norms. The point of view is that of administrators at a very high level attempting to form a theory of action, a collaborative learning culture, and a system The textbook for implementing instructional rounds in a district or system. The underlying assumptions about education are based in Walter Doyle's concept of the instructional task at the center of the instructional core (teacher & student in the presence of content), and in the idea that a profession must have a set of shared practices and norms. The point of view is that of administrators at a very high level attempting to form a theory of action, a collaborative learning culture, and a system-wide strategy for improving practice. In a group made of key people and stakeholders, the group forms a theory of action, observes in classrooms, reflects on what they learn, and develop system-wide strategies for improving student learning. Our small K-12 independent school is planning to implement a version of rounds, and it was envisioned as a task for the faculty leaders (a professional and salary category which was created some time ago without a strict vision or set of responsibility as its charge). We were only required to read Chapter 4, "Learning to See, Unlearning to Judge," in preparation for the idea of observing in classrooms while separating the practice from the person. Because I don't have a huge amount of time to do intensive reading during the school year, I read the whole thing carefully and took notes, which in hindsight was probably not a great idea for me as it raised a lot of questions for me that I am not sure will be answered. For instance, as a teacher and former department chair in this small community, I am not sure we have enough anonymity and scale to keep this kind of practice from being evaluative. I know how I would feel about being observed by a group of faculty leaders, many of whom I have known for nearly twenty years. No matter how hard they worked not to judge, I would feel judged. Often, as I read, i thought about what I needed to do in my teaching if I knew I was being observed. Another concern was that as envisioned by its creators, this process takes years to develop from simply following directions to using the work to change to culture to letting the culture drive the work (p. 183). I do not have confidence that we have the kind of institutional commitment to this process to spend the years it would take. It would have to be central to the school, and we have plenty of other small collaborative groups scattered all over, some of which persist and others of which fade into the background. Time will tell if the institution remains committed to this kind of work. All that said, this is the kind of work I support, if it is well facilitated and keeps to the task.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mr.Ellenbogen

    It contains some useful, if vague, elements. I would have liked to hear more from the teachers and administrators involved in the process. It was pretty straightfoward to read. There's nothing really earth-shattering here. Like most professional development approaches, if it's developed in the proper way, it could probably help.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jonna Higgins-Freese

    Because of my work, I think a lot about learning and education; and because I have a weird obsession with communities of practice for improvement, I think a lot about how systems can improve. This was a fascinating look at one means of improving education that works with teachers themselves to help them observe, describe, evaluate, and plan in order to improve their own practice. (It sounds like the model for what has made schools in Ontario so great). While offering great detailed, practical str Because of my work, I think a lot about learning and education; and because I have a weird obsession with communities of practice for improvement, I think a lot about how systems can improve. This was a fascinating look at one means of improving education that works with teachers themselves to help them observe, describe, evaluate, and plan in order to improve their own practice. (It sounds like the model for what has made schools in Ontario so great). While offering great detailed, practical strategies, they were also attuned to the larger political implications of their work: "Like any idea that attempts to alter the distribution of knowledge and authority in society, the rounds process is not a politically neutral idea. It carries with it a certain set of assumptions about the value of the knowledge that educators bring to their work, and it consolidates that knowledge in ways that increase the professional authority of educators" (12). Since the problem is that teaching is precariously balanced between being an occupation and a profession, this is hard. The core belief behind rounds, as beautifully articulated in a sample document distributed to schools before the launch of in-district networks, is: "a shared understanding of highly effective, rigorous instruction is essential if our students are to make dramatic gains in achievement. Decades of educational research have clearly identified the quality of classroom instruction as the single most important factor in student achievement. We need a deep, shared understanding of what constitutes high-quality instruction that is consistent across the district. Rounds continually refines this understanding and places experts in each building. The rounds group comes to understand rigor, higher-order thinking, student engagement, and relevancy and distinguishes genuine high-quality instruction from 'busy work' and, consequently, will be instrumental in making high-quality instruction the district standard." (192) Some great quotes: "The problem is not that schools don't have access to knowledge. The problem is that they don't have a process for translating that knowledge systematically into practice. The knowledge and support that most schools receive fall on an organization that . . . doesn't have the internal structures, processes, and norms that are necessary to pick up that knowledge and deploy it in the classroom" (9). "The rounds process, then, is about creating and modeling a specific set of ideas about how schools and systems can learn from their own practices, develop a more acute understanding of the next problem they need to solve, and take control of their own learning in ways that are more likely to lead to sustained improvement over time." (10) Rounds as a culture-building process that requires "sustained interaction around the details of instructional practice in ways that are seldom part of the daily routines of schooling." (11) They give a great example of a group with an improvement goal of improving "student engagement." "When we push them for evidence of what they would call student engagement -- that is, what did they actually see that led them to the judgment that students were engaged or disengaged? it turns out that participants focus on five or six types of evidence, often with contradictory definitions of engagement. Some people focus on whether students are paying attention the teacher, some on whether the students are actively doing what the teacher has asked them to do, some on whether the students seem to understand what they are expected to do, some on whether students seem to like what they are doing." (11) The practice is grounded in the instructional core, which is composed of "the teacher and the student in the presence of content." Or, according to David Hawkins, the "I" (the teacher) the "thou" (the student) and the "it" (the content) (22-23). May I just say that I now want to read David Hawkins, and I love the reference to Buber. They lay out a number of principles, one of which is that the task predicts performance, and that tasks are what students are actually doing. "Memorization tasks produce fluency in memorization and recall, not necessarily understanding." The group has to teach observers to look on the students' desks to understand what is happening in classrooms, not at the teacher (30) There was a great extended example of how a team communicated past each other when the lead teacher assumed that what she was doing in her classroom was also what her colleagues were doing -- observation revealed that wasn't so. (29-30). "America has had a weak instructional culture, which has led to high variability in student performance across classrooms" (32). The rounds practice requires participants to observe and describe what they see, being very specific about what evidence they saw or what they heard that made them think that, versus what they thought. They also emphasize the importance of observing at a fine grain size: "student orked individually even though they were seated in groups. Each worked on own paper and didn't talk with others" vs. "teacher questions students about the passage they just read" (93).

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tina M

    The instructional core is the only way to improve education. In all the thousands of books on education, few come close to the absolute clarity in Elmore’s work. I learned so much.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rachael M.

    A must read for education leaders.

  6. 4 out of 5

    George Scott

    Good tips, I'll use a couple

  7. 5 out of 5

    Marcy prager

    This book has helped me "see" in a non-judgemental way what I need to see in classrooms in order to take the steps to analyze the problem(s) and help a school improve on the practice(s) the staff of that school identifies. "Schools don't improve through political and managerial incantation; they improve through the complex and demanding work of teaching and learning." There is a lot of emphasis on the "instructional core," and watching the students to see how and what they learn. Observers of cl This book has helped me "see" in a non-judgemental way what I need to see in classrooms in order to take the steps to analyze the problem(s) and help a school improve on the practice(s) the staff of that school identifies. "Schools don't improve through political and managerial incantation; they improve through the complex and demanding work of teaching and learning." There is a lot of emphasis on the "instructional core," and watching the students to see how and what they learn. Observers of classrooms no longer look for the teacher-centric culture of American school; Observers go into classrooms to see the interactions between the teacher, the content, AND the students. "What predicts performance is what students are actually doing... Instructional Rounds is a way of focusing on the instructional core of teachers and students in the presence of content." This book trains the varied staff of a town or city to come together and help a school get on track towards higher learning and education for all students. I am currently enjoying being part of the Rounds committee in my town. Not only does the observing and analysis help the school, it helps me figure out what I need to change in my own teaching.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    This book is the basis of a systemic educational reform. It is vast in scope and very ambitious. This book is very repetitive and seems to be directed mostly at superintendents or other educational leaders. My personal experience with the book is that it was a great goal for every educational system to embrace. My fear is that, like with my board of education, that this will become another form of paperwork and it will not stay true to what the authors are calling professionals to live up to. Now This book is the basis of a systemic educational reform. It is vast in scope and very ambitious. This book is very repetitive and seems to be directed mostly at superintendents or other educational leaders. My personal experience with the book is that it was a great goal for every educational system to embrace. My fear is that, like with my board of education, that this will become another form of paperwork and it will not stay true to what the authors are calling professionals to live up to. Now that I've read it, I can at least say I understand where the idea came from and critique its use as another accountability system instead of a groups of colleagues focusing on actually improving student learning.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Wilson

    I'm not sure where I picked up this book. The district gives me a lot of professional development books to read, but I don't remember anyone giving me this one. I certainly didn't pick it out myself. I think educational rounds if used as they are intended to be used have the power to tranform education. If they are used as a "big brother is watching" they will never build the atmosphere of trust that needs to be present in order to work.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Gwen

    My school district recently began implementing Instructional Rounds. This book provided information and content in a why and how format. Instructional Rounds centers on the impact of teaching, content, and student as a relationship to each other. It reminds me of a strong Professional Learning Community that is focus on a Problem of Practice. Education as a profession and staff that is constantly engaged in learning and improving.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tony Roehrick

    The instructional rounds methodology has transformed how principals and teachers in our our district conduct our intructional tours. Elmore's process focuses us on what students are doing rather than the traditional view of what teachers do. Looking critically at the work, or passivity, of students truly indicates the quality of lrogram and potential for learning.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Pei Pei

    An intriguing idea that I would like to know more about/see some full-fledged examples of. The book is written at an appropriate level of specificity and technicality and doesn't feel dumbed-down like a lot of educational reading does.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    A great new concept in how to improve teaching and learning in schools. Rounds are a different way of collecting data about what is going on inside classrooms. It uses the same ideas found in the medical profession. The book is very practical and easy to read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    Great concept for improving an administrator's observation skill focusing on what students are doing. Setting up an effective system to do this would take a monumental commitment at the district level.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Betty

    This is an excellent description on how to work together to achieve instructional improvement across a district- not just within individual classrooms. Well explained and incisive.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Carla

    The book is packed with so much information! So much to think about when wanting to help staff to learn how to grow in the art of observation in order to improve their professional learning.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jean

    Need to list this one just in case the RNL or NIC look in. I did read it. I need to see it in practice.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Cathy

    For people interested in learning how to help schools and districts become high-performing, run...don't walk...to get a copy of this excellent resource.

  19. 4 out of 5

    MJ

    Some great ideas to use with my staff, but it took a while to get going as the writing was really dense for the first few chapters.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    Chapter 3 is particularly dense. Some good material in here, but some of it is tough reading.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Cheri

    This is a technique we are going to be using this upcoming school year....have barely started so no opinion as of yet.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Catriona

    This marks the start of my dissertation reading!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Meri Freeman

  24. 5 out of 5

    MVIFI

  25. 5 out of 5

    Fanny

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jacquie Leighton

  27. 5 out of 5

    Doris Herrmann

  28. 5 out of 5

    Pat Mills

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tanya

  30. 5 out of 5

    AISD CSI Department

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