The Education Partners

Protocols for Instructional Rounds

Observing other teachers in their classrooms is a valuable professional-development tool, but establishing ground rules is essential.

Why do we need protocols?

Protocols help us to establish transparency and support learning among our colleagues. They help us to clarify our own views and those of others, and play an important role in developing a culture that values collective decision-making. When used effectively, protocols increase equity, promote meaningful participation and can create workplaces where the power to assess outcomes and to take action to improve them is distributed throughout the organization.

Protocols for Instructional Rounds

  • The ‘rounds’ visit should cause as little disruption to student learning as possible.
  • The primary purpose of instructional rounds is for the teachers making the observations to compare their practices with those observed in the classrooms they visit. It is the discussion at the end of a round and the subsequent self- reflection by each teacher that provides the main benefit.

  • Prior to the round, the host teacher being observed informs the students that they will have other teachers visiting their classroom. The host teacher might explain to their students that teachers learn from one another just as students collaborate in the classroom.

  • The aim of instructional rounds isn’t to provide feedback or critique the host teacher being observed.

  • Evaluative language should not be used during the debrief; e.g., “What I really liked is…” or “I wouldn't have done it like that.”

  • The main purpose is for observing teachers to reflect on and then collaboratively develop their own teaching strategies through observing others’ practice.

  • When the observing teachers arrive, they take a seat in the classroom where they won’t interfere with the flow of the lesson.

  • The observing teachers take notes relating to the specific agreed focus area.

  • Notes should be descriptive and focus on what activities the teacher and students engaged in.

  • At the end of the visit, observer teachers exit the room, quietly acknowledging the teacher and students.

  • A time for the debrief should be agreed upon prior to the observation. Ideally this should be immediately after the lesson is observed.

  • Observers do not share their observations with anyone outside the group.

  • As a result of the debrief each member of the group will commit to a goal in their own classroom.

  • A follow up meeting is agreed to share the group’s ‘records of practice’ and progress towards realizing each individual’s goals.

Glenn McLachlan is the Director of Professional Enhancement at Knox Grammar School in Sydney, Australia. He is a pioneering force in coaching and mentoring teachers, implementing a raft of performance and development programs in Australia and the United Kingdom. His driving ambition is to create the right conditions for every teacher to flourish and realize their limitless potential. 

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