Guide: How to implement Instructional Rounds in your school this year

by | Oct 29, 2019


Instructional Rounds can help promote a collaborative Professional Learning Community for your teachers and provide space for teachers to individually reflect on their own instructional practices. This week, we want to help you implement Instructional Rounds in your school to create a better learning environment.

Definition: What are instructional rounds?

Rather than instructional leaders being the ones responsible for observing and sharing feedback to improve teaching and learning, instructional rounds allow teachers to observe and share feedback to learn from one another through three main components:

  1. A network of educators
  2. Classroom observation
  3. An improvement strategy

Each of these components can be helpful on their own, but instructional rounds incorporate all three for more bite-size actionable planning and next steps.

Step by Step: How to conduct instructional rounds

Step 1: Organize a network of teachers who plan to work together over time.

It may make sense to split up teachers into networks based on the subjects they teach, their level in the organization (e.g., superintendents, principals, teachers), the grade level they teach or based on other criteria. Each network should be made up of teachers dedicated to working with one another to improve student achievement over the long term, with regular meetings. Elizabeth A. City from the Harvard Graduate School of Education  suggests  your networks be composed of between 8 – 30 members.

Step 2: Define some problems of practice.

Use data about your school and student performance to define these problems of practice. What are some problem areas your network would like to focus on solving? Based on student achievement data, where does your school or department tend to struggle? The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) lists some  example problems of practice  if you have trouble brainstorming.

Step 3: Then select a teacher whose instruction will be observed.

When you select the teacher to be observed, choose someone within the network with a proven track record of improving their students’ achievement. Provide teachers in the network with the following information:

  • The subject, teacher and classroom that will be observed during this instructional round
  • The date and time the instructional round will take place
  • List of teachers who are invited to observe (We recommend limiting the invitation list to 3-5 teachers per session, including a well-respected lead teacher or instructional coach who leads the round.)
  • Copy of the lesson plan and classroom seating chart, if available

Step 4: Create a Focus Sheet for teachers who will be observing this round.

A Focus Sheet helps the observing teachers take notes on important parts of the lesson. Your Focus Sheet can list:
  • Relevant problems of practice to keep in mind during this observation session
  • Specific things to look out for, such as student engagement, teaching and learning instructional strategies, classroom management and student on and off-task behaviors
  • Types of notes teachers should take while observing — Teachers should be encouraged to only note what they observed during the instructional period and not to make any inferences or annotate their personal opinions only document the teacher’s instructional strategies and the student’s response to instruction

Step 5: Debrief, Glow, Reflect, and Grow

Once the observation session is over, teachers should debrief with each other. As you debrief, remember: We want to focus on improving student achievement, and on addressing the problems of practice listed on your Focus Sheet. Try to avoid dwelling on the negative parts of the lesson, and instead emphasize “glows” — What were the strong points of the lesson, teaching strategies, and student engagement? What specific strategies had a direct impact on student achievement?

Observing teachers should begin questions with the phrase, “I am wondering…” instead of prescribing their opinions on what should have been done differently by the observed teacher. This phrase naturally leads into a positive reflection on how lesson planning can be improved by building on instructional strategies that are already working.

Elizabeth A. City  recommends  including the following elements in each debriefing session:

  • Describe — Have observing teachers look at their notes to describe specific instructional strategies the observed teacher used in the lesson, especially related to the problems of practice.
  • Analyze — Find patterns in the observed teacher’s instructional habits, response to the instruction, the way the classroom functioned, and students’ engagement in the lesson.
  • Predict — Based on what was observed, have the teachers predict what students would know and be able to do, and where they may continue to have questions and need help following the lesson.

Step 6: After several observation sessions, reflect on what positive changes can be made.

Once your network has been able to observe several teachers in their classrooms, the teachers should be able to identify recurring patterns that could be contributing to the problems of practice. Brainstorm how teachers can support one another, and what supports they may need from the school or district to make significant improvements in these areas.

Outcomes: Why are instructional rounds worth the time and effort?

Instructional rounds require lots of planning and teamwork, and you may struggle to see their value. When schools implement instructional rounds with fidelity, they support a culture of excellence and equity by:

  • Focusing collective attention on problems of practice which are rooted in data
  • Promoting consistency across all classrooms, so all students receive the same quality, level of instruction, differentiation, and intervention supports needed to be successful
  • Offering all teachers, the opportunity to improve their lesson planning and teaching strategies

Next Steps: How to move forward from here

A vital part of this strategy is the lead teacher or instructional coach who is experienced and skilled in leading instructional rounds. CSAS has coaches and consultants who can work with your school to implement instructional rounds and other transformational practices to improve student achievement dramatically. Learn how we can support your school or district with  a free consultation call.