What are instructional rounds?
Instructional rounds is a collaborative process through which a team
of teachers and school leaders can learn more about their practice in
order to develop a collective understanding of teaching and learning.
During rounds, the team briefly visits classrooms to observe and collect
data around an essential question of practice. Classroom observations
are a small part of rounds; the team’s work—and richest learning for the
team—occurs in the discussion that follow observations, when the team
tries to make sense of the data in order to refine its understanding of
highly effective teaching.
How is the essential question of practice determined?
The district leadership team decides on the essential question of
practice. In general, the question is an issue that the team has
identified as resulting in high-leverage, high-yield results for
students once a collective understanding about the issue has been
developed. This understanding emerges from a professional collaboration
among educators that includes observation, data collection, and
Why are we doing this?
The school system is committed to improving the achievement of all
students. Research clearly identifies classroom instruction as the
single most important factor in student achievement; therefore, a shared
understanding of what high quality, rigorous instruction looks like is
essential if we are to make progress toward our goal. By working in
collaborative teams such as rounds, we can learn more about effective
teaching in order to support high-quality instruction as the standard in
Is there a formal agreement between the union and the administration about this process?
The union president has been aware of this process from the
beginning. The process has the support of union leadership as a
methodology for increasing both the professionalism of teaching and the
role and responsibility teachers hold in school improvement. Rounds are
non-evaluative and will help inform administration in planning
meaningful professional development for all staff.
When will instructional rounds begin? Will rounds happen at every school?
Instructional rounds will happen at all schools. We piloted
instructional rounds for the first time at Crocker Farm Elementary
School on June 8. Beginning next year, instructional rounds will be
phased in over time, so that every school in our districts will have the
opportunity to host rounds. Principals may schedule rounds at the
building level in addition to “district rounds.”
How many people are involved in the rounds visit?
Typically, an instructional rounds team consists of about
twenty-five participants, including teachers, principals, assistant
principals, and central office personnel. No more than six people will
visit any single classroom at one time (usually, it’s about four to five
people). Dr. Rebecca Woodland, an Associate Professor of Educational
Leadership, who has been coaching the district leadership team this
year, facilitated and participated in the visit at Crocker Farm.
Superintendent Maria Geryk has invited her mentor, Kevin Courtney, and
Liz Elder, president of the APEA (Wildwood), to join the team, as well.
Also, teachers from Crocker Farm, Fort River, ARMS, and ARHS have been
invited to observe the process.
Will every classroom be visited?
Rounds will involve multiple 15-minute visits to a random sample of
classrooms in the building. Classrooms are visited two to four times
each by such teams. It won’t be possible to visit every classroom in
What will a teacher need to do in preparation for the team visit?
No special preparation is necessary.
What will the team do in a classroom? Won’t such a large group be disruptive to the class?
In our experience with rounds, classrooms continue to function
normally. The team will be respectful of teachers and students while in
the classroom, and will be unobtrusive. Team members will be taking
notes in order to ensure that conclusions and recommendations are based
on specific evidence and not just feelings or opinions. If students are
working in groups, members of the team may visit with students and ask
what they are doing. We have found that students generally work harder
and process their work more deeply when caring observers are present.
Should a teacher be expected to interact with the team?
The team is coming to the classroom to learn more about teaching and
learning. Team members will not interrupt the lesson, or ask questions
of the teacher. We won’t be looking to the teacher to explain what’s
going on, or what students have learned or are learning, so teachers
should feel free to conduct the business of learning as usual. It will
be an honor and a privilege for the team to learn from teachers in their
Can a teacher opt out?
No. Transparency in teaching and collaboration are crucial elements
of improvement in student achievement, and instructional rounds is one
strategy for building capacity among all players in the district toward
realizing that goal.
How will the team create an environment that respects psychological safety?
The primary purpose of rounds is the professional development of the
team. Its business is not to judge the effectiveness of teachers, but
to identify practices that engage, challenge, and result in student
learning. Visiting team members are learners, not evaluators. The
group’s focus is on developing a deep understanding of what is working
for our students. The discussions that follow observations omit
judgmental information about individual teachers. Who is doing what is
not part of the discussion. Finally, no hard copy of material will
exist that could identify teachers or associate teachers to
What are the norms used by the rounds group in the discussions that follow observations?
While many of the norms pertain to the internal functioning of the
group (e.g., “limit cell phone use to emergencies;” “value all voices
and thinking about students and their achievement”), the group also has a
strict confidentiality norm that participants will not discuss specific
observations with anyone outside the group meeting. In addition,
classrooms are never referenced by teacher name or room number during
the internal discussions of the team. General results, feedback, and
recommendations for the building are shared with school leaders, but no
individual classrooms are ever discussed in these consultations.
Will any member of the group share individual feedback to the principal?
No. This is a violation of the norms of the group. The group
understands that this would be a violation of the trust of the schools
being visited and would seriously damage the group’s credibility.
Can the principal use the feedback for a formal evaluation?
Nothing observed in rounds will be included in any teacher evaluation.
What happens, then, to the data from observations? Will teachers receive feedback from this process?
School leaders will be sharing general themes from the visit with
teachers, and will be working in partnership with teachers to
continually refine and improve the district standard around teaching and
learning that supports the achievement of all students. It is
essential for all players in our district to learn together about high
quality instruction. We need the collective wisdom that grows from
collaboration between and among teachers and school leaders in order to
make our schools better places for all children. All raw data from
observations are shredded immediately following the debrief.
How will rounds benefit teachers?
Instructional rounds will help all of us develop professional
learning communities, intentionally focused on teaching and learning,
throughout our districts. Through instructional rounds, each of us will
be able to tap into the collective wisdom of our colleagues—including
teachers and school leaders working together—to support the achievement
of our students. Research shows that teachers who collaborate in
intentional teams focused on student learning feel more efficacious and
supported in their quest to help all students make progress. Instead of
being left on our own to grapple with the complex issues in our
practice, we can turn to one another to identify high-leverage,
high-yield strategies that will make a difference for all students.
For more information about instructional rounds, teacher collaboration, and student achievement, please see:
City, E., Richard F. Elmore, et. al., Instructional Rounds in Education: A Network Approach to Improving Teaching and Learning, 2009.