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Instructional Rounds: Professional Development Through Observation

Thursday, August 29, 2013, 4 to 5 p.m. ET
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 Instructional Rounds: Professional Development Through Observation(08/29/2013) 
10:24
Bryan Toporek: 
Good morning and welcome to today's free live chat, "Instructional Rounds: Professional Development Through Observation." I've just opened the chat for questions, so please start submitting yours below.

We'll be back at 4 p.m. ET with guest author Tom Fowler-Finn. Hope you can join us!
Thursday August 29, 2013 10:24 Bryan Toporek
3:53
Bryan Toporek: 
Folks, we'll be underway with today's free live chat, "Instructional Rounds: Professional Development Through Observation," in just a few minutes. In the meantime, keep submitting your questions below! Thanks in advance.
Thursday August 29, 2013 3:53 Bryan Toporek
4:00
Bryan Toporek: 
Alright folks, I'm turning the chat over to today's moderator, Anthony Rebora, the managing editor of Education Week Teacher.

Take it away, Anthony!
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:00 Bryan Toporek
4:01
Anthony Rebora: 
Welcome to our chat on school instructional rounds. We have Thomas Fowler-Finn with us online from Cambridge. Tom is the author of "Leading Instructional Rounds in Education: A Facilitator's Guide" and the founder of Instructional Rounds Plus. He is the former superintendent of Cambridge, Mass., and Fort Wayne, Ind., public schools. He was also, I believe, a teacher earlier in his career.
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:01 Anthony Rebora
4:02
Anthony Rebora: 
Tom, why don't you start by talking a little bit about why you wrote this book? Why are instructional rounds important right now?
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:02 Anthony Rebora
4:02
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
Thanks Anthony. Rounds changed my career and the way I think about education. When we began to implement rounds on our own, we found ourselves at a loss to know how to go about it. After mentoring 20/30 people, it was clear that the initial experience was shared and so I wrote the book....
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:02 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:03
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
I am hoping that the book will shorten the learning curve on learning how to implement instructional rounds. Today especially job embedded professional development like rounds and collegial work is the only way that student learning can be improved at scale.
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:03 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:04
Anthony Rebora: 
That mention of PD is a good segway to our first audience question:
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:04 Anthony Rebora
4:04
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
What is the purpose of instructional rounds? Is it to evaluate teh teacher teaching or is it for the teacher to receive professional feedback from peers?
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:04 Guest
4:05
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
Instructional rounds is neither an evaluation method nor a supervisory tool. It is a process through which a network of educators learn together about what is taking place in their school system and who work together to improve learning at scale...
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:05 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:06
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
No individual teacher is identified to the process because the network identifies practice in a school not a focus on the person. Patterns of practice help schools to understand what is taking place in the teaching and learning and to use that information to solve problems of student learning called: problems of practice.
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:06 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:07
Anthony Rebora: 
Tom, an audience member wants to follow up on your initial post:
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:07 Anthony Rebora
4:07
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
How did rounds change your career and the way you think about education?
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:07 Guest
4:09
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
I find myself unable to know what is going on in classrooms without talking with students and observing their work. I also understand better that students require greater cognitive demand than I previously understood. Cognitive demand is critical for students to be truly engaged in their learning. My prior definition of engagement I now understand to have been based on student compliance and entertainment rather than engagement of the mind.
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:09 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:09
Anthony Rebora: 
Let's take this one from Wayne:
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:09 Anthony Rebora
4:10
[Comment From WayneWayne: ] 
What is your advice for districts that are just starting the Instructional Rounds process in their districts?
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:10 Wayne
4:11
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
Hi Wayne. It is important that all those involved in the network understand what they are getting into. Rounds requires being willing to be open to changes in behavior and action, culture of the school, and shared professional practice...
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:11 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:11
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
A network needs to be comprised of all those in the system who might be involved and fulfilling the goals you've decided upon for instructional rounds....
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:11 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:13
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
An example of a network would be from superintendent, to principals, to teacher leaders. And it's healthy to have the teacher's association president involved as well. Obviously, this means lots of discussion before you begin and probably with shared reading about instructional rounds and what you want to accomplish.
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:13 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:13
Anthony Rebora: 
A number of viewers are asking about your emphasis on "problems of practice." Here's an example:
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:13 Anthony Rebora
4:13
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
Do all instructional rounds require a "problem of pratice"?
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:13 Guest
4:15
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
Dear Guest--instructional rounds are based upon a problem of practice. If there is no problem of practice, it isn't faithful to rounds. IR is an inquiry process. The reason for a network is to help schools solve student learning problems. The objective is improve learning at scale...
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:15 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:16
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
The network members essentially enter into a tacit agreement with the school to observe for the purposes of helping the school solve the school's student learning problem. The observations are based upon gathering objective and specific information that will help the school improve learning.
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:16 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:16
Anthony Rebora: 
a good follow-up:
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:16 Anthony Rebora
4:16
[Comment From SeanSean: ] 
I lead a teacher-directed instructional rounds process. Our goal is to share effective strategies rather than define/fix a problem of practice. How would you suggest we focus our observations?
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:16 Sean
4:17
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
Hi Sean. It sounds like what you are doing is lesson study not IR. Nevertheless, lesson study can certainly be focused on whatever topic your group feels is strategic to helping students learn better.
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:17 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:17
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
It appears like Round is an entirely new way of thinking about education, and necessitates a paradigm shift. What is the best way to educate a new network on how Rounds works?
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:17 Guest
4:19
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
Hi Guest--right on! It takes lots of discussion, reading any one of a couple books on IR, and it would be great to visit a district where IR is being conducted. If you are looking for such a school district, I'd be happy to recommend some to you at another time.
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:19 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:19
[Comment From Eric SaibelEric Saibel: ] 
What was the process you undertook to build teacher confidence in this model and implement it? What were the roadblocks you encountered and how did you navigate them? Was it specific to one site or something carried out at a district-wide level? Thank you - very exciting topic!
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:19 Eric Saibel
4:21
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
Hi Eric. First of all, the teachers association president was part of our network from the very beginning. The next thing we did was to share information about IR throughout the school district, we asked for school volunteers to participate in the first several rounds conducted in the district...
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:21 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:22
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
And before a rounds visit was made in the school, the union president, the principal, and possibly one other member of the network met with the faculty of the school that volunteered to answer questions that they may have....
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:22 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:22
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
There are both norms developed by the network to guide their behavior in a confidential, non-evaluative behavior and there are protocols for visiting classrooms. These were also shared with the schools.
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:22 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:23
Anthony Rebora: 
Tom, quick question: How many districts would you say are doing IR at present? Are IRs always district-based, in your conception.
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:23 Anthony Rebora
4:24
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
Anthony: my website receives approximately 800 hits a month from around the world (Instructionalrounds.com). Virtually every state in the US has districts that are participating in rounds and I also worked 3 years in Australia, where rounds are common, particularly in the states of Victoria and Tasmania.
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:24 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:25
[Comment From MyraMyra: ] 
When conducting Instructional Rounds - What is the duration of time spent in the classroom? Does your book provide a detailed implementation plan to reference. I love the concept and want to learn more.
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:25 Myra
4:26
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
Hi Myra: Yes, we spend approximately 20 minutes per classroom visit. Each member of the network in 4 classrooms, as part of small groups of 3/4 people. The network membership is usually about 30, so by the end of the classroom observation time (4 x 20 min) we will have visited anywhere from 16-64 classes (depending on the size of the network). Each class will have been visited twice. This is all detailed in my book.
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:26 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:27
[Comment From MarshaMarsha: ] 
Would you please elaborate on the "calibration" part of rounds? What are the steps to ensure all participating stakeholders are identifying the same practices/or labeling them consistently ? Thank you
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:27 Marsha
4:28
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
Hi Marsha. That's a good question. What we do in rounds is describe in objective and specific language what is taking place. There are steps built into the process to make sure that all of the evidence (i.e. observation notes) are objective and specific. We do not have a list of practices that we look for...
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:28 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:29
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
We try to paint a picture of what is taking place. Rounds is descriptive. We then analyze the patterns among the observations we've made. Finally, we do an analysis of those patterns, some of which may be what the school desires and others of which may be working against what the school is trying to accomplish.
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:29 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:30
[Comment From GamecockGamecock: ] 
HI. You say that the goal is to help schools solve student learning issues. Is IR also a tool that is used to help and support teachers in their practice as we know we lose 60% of teachers in their first 5 years? I believe there is a direct correlation. The revolving door seems to be an issue in building relationships with the students which of course can lead to student learning difficulties.
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:30 Gamecock
4:31
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
Hi Gamecock: My favorite networks involve teachers right from the very beginning. Teachers get this very quickly. They understand the value of objective and specific observations and they usually can't wait to get back to their classroom to go about their work with the benefit of what they have seen...
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:31 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:32
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
Teachers grow tremendously in this work and when the network meets, teachers have the same status as the superintendent or principal. We are all colleagues and we all bring our perspectives but we do so about specific and objective observations. I love the work.
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:32 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:32
Anthony Rebora: 
Here's a good follow-up on the issue of supporting teachers:
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:32 Anthony Rebora
4:32
[Comment From AdrianAdrian: ] 
How often should one have a professional dialogue with teaching colleagues when conducting a regular series of Walk Thru Observations as an Administrator? Downey suggest only after 10 lessons as optimum but this seems a lot of observations without feeding back to colleague.
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:32 Adrian
4:34
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
Adrian: walk-throughs are not the same as IR. In fact, walk-throughs are often conducted by having a list of model teaching practices, checking for the observation of those practices, and coaching teachers individually. ..
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:34 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:35
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
When teachers are coached through walk-throughs the implications are clear: teachers are expected to comply and do better because of what someone else saw. In rounds work you learn how to do this work by doing it. It is not until teachers actually particpate in IR that this all makes sense.
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:35 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:35
[Comment From MyraMyra: ] 
What would be your primary response as to the difference between IR and Peer Observation?
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:35 Myra
4:36
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
Hi Myra: Peer observation is again based upon feedback to individuals. IR is about identifying practices of teaching and learning across the school. There is a place for Peer Observations and perhaps for walk-throughs, but they are very different than IR....
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:36 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:37
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
Peer observations can be very useful after a rounds visit to a school. The school may decide, for example that they want to ask more higher order questions. They may decide as a faculty that they want to observe each other (as a result of rounds) and engage in peer observation to help each other do so.
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:37 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:37
[Comment From Gemma H.Gemma H.: ] 
Can you describe what goes on during the debiefing session after a classroom visit? How do you keep participants focused on the positive things they saw and ensure it does not turn into a teacher-bashing session?
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:37 Gemma H.
4:38
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
Hi Gemma: IR is neither positve nor negative. It is objective, describing what was seen. It will be up to the school to decide whether what they have seen is what they think is helpful to student learning.
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:38 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:39
[Comment From Jasper JonesJasper Jones: ] 
What are some example "problems of practice"? How broad or narrow should these be?
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:39 Jasper Jones
4:40
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
Hi Jasper: Problems of practice run a full range--from broader to very narrowly focused. For ex: in what ways and to what extent are students engaged in their learning? would be a healthy starting problem of practice at some school. Another example might be more narrowly focused...
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:40 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:41
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
Such as: to what extent are students engaged in collaborative problem solving OR are students able to use math talk in the classroom or with each other. Notice, the problem of practice is always a question because the question asks the network to observe everything that goes on in the classroom that can help the school understnad what is taking place in relation to the question.
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:41 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:42
[Comment From ToddTodd: ] 
How does one determine which classrooms to observe during IR? Do those teachers have to be part of the network?
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:42 Todd
4:43
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
Hi Todd, good question. An important message to schools engaged in rounds is that we are no longer engaged in private practice. That means that all teachers should expect that visitors might be in their classroom. The idea is that the network members will observe a healthy sample of what the student experience is like...
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:43 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:44
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
Consequently, teachers are asked not to prepare special lessons and the pricipal should make sure that the network sees a range of teachers across all grades and all abilities.
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:44 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:44
Anthony Rebora: 
This next one is something a number of viewers are touching on:
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:44 Anthony Rebora
4:44
[Comment From BriannaBrianna: ] 
Should the IR process be initiated at the district or school level? What are the benefits of doing this districtwide vs. at one school?
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:44 Brianna
4:45
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
Hi Brianna: another thoughtful question. Because IR is involved with systemic change, it is very difficult (although not impossible) for one school to conduct IR on its own. After doing IR for neearly 10 years, I have found that there are many discrtict forces that impact what takes place in the classroom...
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:45 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:46
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
For example: in one school we visited they were concerned that the level of cognitive demand was low and the questions were primarily recall and understanding. it wasn't that teachers didn't value higher order questions and it wasn't that they didn't know how to ask them...
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:46 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:47
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
However, the next benchmark test was coming up next week and the pacing guide required covering lots of material. Teachers knew that if they asked higher order questinos with high cognitive demand it would take students longer to answer and would require additional teaching. The teacher would never get to the material on the benchmark test and would not meet the pacing guides...
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:47 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:49
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
IR is not about one teacher at a time. There are too many forces playing out in our classrooms every day. In the example above, the schoool discrict needed to change the pacing guides and the disctrict assessments, and teachers needed to create greater cognitive demand as well. But it took everyone in the network to agree to move forward.
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:49 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:49
[Comment From ToddTodd: ] 
Who needs to be part of the IR network? What if there aren't teachers? Administrators?
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:49 Todd
4:50
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
Hi Todd. The choice of the membership of the network goes a long way to determining what a school district gets out of rounds. If a network includes only the central office and pricipals, it may very well be top down. In fact one network started with the superintendent in central office only: it was clearly top down...
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:50 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:51
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
However, all was not lost as these districts recognized that change was not going to happen without including everyone.
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:51 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:51
Anthony Rebora: 
Tom, a number of viewers are asking if there is research to support the use of IRs. For example:
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:51 Anthony Rebora
4:52
[Comment From MarcelaMarcela: ] 
Is there data to show that this practice works?
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:52 Marcela
4:53
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
Hi Marcela: Unfortunately, the formal research has not caught up with the practice. However, Cambridge Public Schools went from being on the state's watch list for low scoring students to recording, in the state's words, progress they had never seen before....
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:53 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:54
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
Elizabeth NJ has made steady progress and is considered to be the top (if not one of the top) urban districts in NJ as a result. The same is true for a district for which i worked in Australia...
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:54 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:55
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
The qualifier I put on these successes is what I have said about my own disctrict, The Cambridge Public Schools (retired 2009) that is, that the fantastic progress that we made cannot be contribulted direclty to IR. But I am 100% sure that if we had not implemented IR, we would never have had the knowledge of what was going on in our school district to make the changes throughout the organization and in the classrooms....
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:55 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:57
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
It is because of IR that we knew what we needed to do to improve student learning. Each network member had a theory of action, which is part of rounds work, and we consistenly monitored our next level of work (part of rounds work) to know whether what we were doing was making a difference.
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:57 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:57
[Comment From Joe McCrearyJoe McCreary: ] 
How often do these instructional rounds need to happen in order to change practice??
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:57 Joe McCreary
4:58
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
Hi Joe. It will take a minimum of 2 (at best) to 4 years before what is learned through rounds is played out in classrooms and results in learning improvement at scale. The Cambridge results were accomplished in 3 years. Our progress has been documented by the state.
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:58 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:59
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
Joe, 1 more thing...
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:59 Tom Fowler-Finn
4:59
Anthony Rebora: 
OK, I'm afraid that's about all the time we have, folks. That was a great discussion, though. Thanks for the thoughtful questions. And thanks to Thomas Fowler-Finn for taking the time to share his expertise. I hope you all got something you can take back to your schools or districts.--Anthony
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:59 Anthony Rebora
4:59
Anthony Rebora: 
oops go ahead Tom:
Thursday August 29, 2013 4:59 Anthony Rebora
5:00
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
Joe--try to have a minimum of 3/4 rounds (if not more) each year if you hope to get this progress. Thanks Anthony.
Thursday August 29, 2013 5:00 Tom Fowler-Finn
5:00
Anthony Rebora: 
one last comment from a viewer:
Thursday August 29, 2013 5:00 Anthony Rebora
5:00
[Comment From Howard PaleyHoward Paley: ] 
Thank you for your work on IR. I have seen this as a transformative experience at the school level. The districts I have seen implement IR appear to "give up" on it after a year of district level Rounds. We are working to implement more pilots of IR here in Arizona.
Thursday August 29, 2013 5:00 Howard Paley
5:00
Tom Fowler-Finn: 
Hi Howard--keep up the good work.
Thursday August 29, 2013 5:00 Tom Fowler-Finn
5:01
Bryan Toporek: 
Thanks, Tom & Anthony! That's a great place to wrap up.

Folks, thanks again for joining us today for our chat with Tom Fowler-Finn on instructional rounds. Hope you enjoyed it. We'll have the transcript up on this same page within the hour.

Have a great rest of the week!
Thursday August 29, 2013 5:01 Bryan Toporek
5:02
 

 
 
 

Instructional Rounds: Professional Development Through Observation

Thursday, August 29, 2013, 4 to 5 p.m. ET

Adapted from the idea of medical rounds used in teaching hospitals, instructional rounds are a process during which teachers and administrators visit classrooms to observe teaching and learning. Through debriefing sessions, the educators reflect on what they saw—with a focus on evidence rather than subjective judgment—and identify next steps for improving instruction.

In this live chat, Tom Fowler-Finn, author of Leading Instructional Rounds in Education, answered questions about how the instructional-rounds system works and the way this monthly process can improve teaching and change schools. Based on his experience as a district leader and instructional-rounds facilitator, he described the challenges IR participants may encounter and offered advice for making the most of this professional-development tool.

Guest:
Tom Fowler-Finn, author, Leading Instructional Rounds in Education: A Facilitator's Guide and founder, Instructional Rounds Plus. He was superintendent of urban and suburban school districts for 24 years and also served as an assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, a principal, and a teacher.

Anthony Rebora, managing editor, Education Week Teacher, moderated this chat.

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