Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dartmouth Instructional Rounds

I've been fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in both the creation and implementation of a new Upper Valley Instructional Rounds group that is being coordinated by the Education Department at Dartmouth College. Instructional Rounds are organized visits by a variety of education stakeholders and experts with the goal of providing useful and actionable feedback to a school or organization. Typically, a problem of practice is identified by the building staff and leadership prior to an instructional rounds visit. This problem of practice is usually an instructional problem or opportunity that the host wants to explore with the ultimate goal of improving student learning.

The problem of practice is shared with the visiting group and sets the focus for the visit and planned observations of practice. Observers take careful descriptive notes and pay special attention to what students are doing and experiencing.

Following the observations, the visiting group will debrief their observations using a variety of protocols with the school or organizational leadership. The leadership will then develop a plan for distributing the key take-aways to members of their own organization so that actionable steps to improve student learning can be developed. For more on instructional rounds check out this article.

In the last year, our Dartmouth Upper Valley group visited Lebanon High School, Dothan Brook Elementary School, Richmond Middle School, Marion Cross Elementary School and Rivendell High School. At each school we examined a "problem of practice" identified by the staff of that building. Following observations of classrooms and teaching the group debriefed our visits and offered the building administration our feedback, questions and comments regarding their area of interest. Our group has varied in composition somewhat but has typically included school administrators, Dartmouth Education Department faculty and students, teachers, Department of Education officials and school district level administrators.

In addition to participating in our rounds visits I also am part of the steering committee that continues to develop our process and organizational structure of visits. This week we are meeting to try and discuss the following questions:

-Developing a problem of practice proved to be difficult for everyone involved last year—what can we do to scaffold?
-Ideas for 14–15 potential Rounds sites. Should we revisit some of our previous sites?
-Should we draft a mission statement? What would it include?
-Could we adopt/adapt some protocols and codify them in some way so that the Rounds process is clear and consistent?
-What are other Rounds Networks doing that could inform our work?

-What should the follow-up from a visit look like? Who would be involved? What do people need?

I'll post a follow-up after our meeting and also share some of the observations from the visit to Richmond Middle School from last year.