Teacher Rounds: A Guide to Collaborative Learning in and from Practice


Thomas Del Prete

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  • Dedication

    for Mark J. Hopkins, great friend and teacher


    for the dedicated partner school principals and teachers of Main South


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    The professional world of teachers is beset by a storm of seemingly conflicting forces. On the one hand, teachers are urged to reflect, to collaborate, and to build strong professional learning communities. There is, in fact, ample testimony of the power of teacher collaboration for enhancing the professional well-being and practice of teachers (see, for example, Carroll, Fulton, and Doerr, June 2010; Darling-Hammond and Bransford, 2005; Fullan, 2007; McLaughlin and Talbert, 2001; Troen and Boles, 2012). There is strong evidence as well that students benefit when their teachers work together reflectively in a culture of mutual support and trust (Bryk and Schneider, 2002). But this theme in teachers’ work exists in disheartening tension with the rising system of prescribed and controlled curricula and its pressing demand for testable and measurable results, with teachers, just as their students are, increasingly subjected to narrowly conceived evaluation schemes in the name of accountability.

    This is not to suggest that curricular rigor and student performance are questionable academic priorities or that there is no need for accountability—far from it. But when they become monolithic concerns, as they are in the lives of so many public school teachers, they diminish if not exclude other enriching and, arguably, essential factors in learning. They funnel the lives of teachers and their students into narrowing channels of work and possibility. They encourage institution centeredness rather than person centeredness: they feed bureaucracy rather than personal commitment, integrity, and community. At their worst, they impose a simplistic corporate ideal of efficiency, production, and evaluation on what is a complex human and cultural endeavor influenced by an array of factors, not least whether students have healthy and stable personal lives. Even when more nuanced, the solutions of the day tend to reduce the idea of education to what is quantifiable rather than to align it with what is desirable in terms of capabilities of mind, character (or “heart”), and participation in our democratic civic culture.

    It is important for a book that aspires to make a contribution to the practice of teaching to start by stating where it stands with respect to the current climate. As much as we might do better in developing schools and communities that live up to ideals of equity and opportunity for all students, I question, along with many of my colleagues, whether education in any meaningful sense will be improved with greater measurement of teachers and students as the driving theory of change. There is another path, one that strives to honor our democratic values and the teaching profession, that strives to tap our deepest human capacities, and that treats all students as if they were our own children. On this path, we keep in view our core purpose to develop the mind, character, and civic responsibility of each student and a core belief that each is capable and worthy beyond our ken. We strive to create a space—a culture—in which we can live and work honestly, respectfully, reflectively, and inquiringly, individually and together, according to our fullest vocational aspiration. We learn to guide and sustain each other. We show accountability by taking coresponsibility. Instead of focusing first of all on effectiveness and results, we concentrate our practice on knowing and serving each student here and now as a growing thinker, reader, writer, speaker, and responsible actor. Faced with the inherent complexity of this task, particularly in distressed locations, we strive for shared insight and understanding, the mutual development of capable practice and expertise, and collaborative action. Out of our commitment, mutual respect, mutual support, and integrity we strive to make an educational community, one as strong in its warm regard for and ability to draw out all that is best and possible in students as in its sense of educational purpose.

    Teachers need learning practices which uphold the integrity of teaching—which respect and honor its challenge and responsibility. They need practices that can be applied in their own classroom, school, and partnership contexts, practices they can call their own. In the midst of a culture saturated with quantitative information, they need practices that focus on the personal and qualitative: practices through which they act and think as professionals who care about, regularly examine, and think through their complex work deeply, practices which also help them to form a true learning community. This book introduces one practice—Teacher Rounds—meant to support collaborative learning centered on student learning and the practice that fosters it. It suggests the value, for students as well as for teachers, of a culture in which teachers learn together, in their own classrooms, to develop insight, capable practice, and expertise, as compared to a culture driven by reductive notions of effectiveness and results.

    A Teacher Round

    A group of five secondary teachers, including one preservice teacher, commandeer a table in a cramped basement space that doubles as a meeting place and cafeteria. One teacher provides a handout and soon after begins to explain goals and challenges that he or she is addressing in an upcoming class. It is a customary scene at the school—the prelude to a Teacher Round. Teacher Rounds have long been a core professional learning practice for the teachers, a way to bring theory, practice, context, and expertise dynamically together.

    The teacher who begins is the host teacher for the Round. He or she passes out copies of a Round Sheet to members of the group, who read it silently. The host teacher then reviews key aspects of what is on the sheet:

    • a background section that sets the curricular, academic, and social context of the learning and teaching that the group will observe;
    • a learning focus section that describes the focus of student and teacher learning; and, critically,
    • a “round inquiry” that asks for evidence relevant to understanding the learning and teaching.

    Members of the Round group intermittently ask for clarification or elaboration or try to bring assumptions and details more fully to light. The host Round teacher indicates whether group members will observe or interact in some specified way with students once the class (the actual Round) is underway. After about 15 to 20 minutes, the preround discussion is complete, and the Round group moves upstairs and enters a classroom. Each member takes up a different observational post in a chair alongside a group of three students. The Round begins and the next hour or so is spent in close observation or interaction with students and in note taking.

    When the class ends, the Teacher Round group reconvenes in an empty classroom (the teacher meeting room or hallway are alternatives). The postround discussion starts. The host teacher shares his or her initial thoughts about what happened relative to the focus of learning and his or her expectations and goals. Attention then turns to the questions the host teacher formulated to frame the Round inquiry. Different members of the Round group offer observations corresponding to the first of the Round questions; they take each question in turn, with particular observations sometimes leading to a more general reflection on practice based on the learning or teacher action in question. Group members compare notes on the engagement and learning of individual learners. They discuss various aspects of the designed learning process in relation to the actual dynamic of learning. The host Round teacher concludes with his or her takeaways and ponderings and implications for the next day's teaching. Then, Round participants give the host teacher their written notes corresponding to the Round questions. After 20 minutes or so the group breaks up.

    In broad outline this is a Teacher Round as practiced in partner schools with Clark University and in other schools adopting the practice; Teacher Rounds are also woven into the Master of Arts in Teaching program at the University (Del Prete, 1997 & 2010). A Teacher Round is a classroom-based collaborative learning practice shaped primarily by and for teachers to learn in, about, and from practice. It follows a simple protocol but calls into play a range of professional dispositions and skills, in particular observation, reflection, inquiry, and collaborative discussion. Also, as much as it may have value in and of itself, a Teacher Round usually does not stand alone; it typically integrates into a more involved learning process. The Teacher Round described above, for example, is an actual on-the-ground, in-practice segment of an ongoing conversation about teaching and learning in teacher teams. If the Round had been conducted by a teacher preparation student, then he or she might follow up by reviewing video footage of the Round, possibly with peers in a practice workshop, and writing a postround reflection. Even in this more extended process, however, the Round—classroom-based and teacher-framed—is the primer or touchstone, the place where idea, action, context, reflection, and reflective friends intertwine, where, to use the vernacular, the rubber hits the road.

    Teacher Rounds, the Medical Model, and Practice-Based Education

    Rounds are a staple practice in medical education. Yet, although educators such as Shulman (2004) have looked at the medical model to inform teacher education and practice, Rounds have not been translated widely into a comparable practice in teacher learning. A version of Rounds was introduced in two different professional development school start-ups in Massachusetts in the late 1980s. The Clark version derives from one of them (Del Prete, 1990). Others, some drawing on the Clark model, have introduced Teacher Rounds in their teacher preservice programs (see Appendix B).

    Recently, Harvard educators have developed a model of instructional rounds designed to understand a school's or school system's instructional practice through the eyes of a team of observers (City, Elmore, Fiarman, and Teitel, 2009). But instructional rounds are fundamentally different from the more collaborative and highly contextualized—indeed, more personal and intimate—Teacher Round model presented in this book. Instructional rounds are conducted by a team of educators, drawn from networks with a common interest in improving instruction at a systemic scale, who visit classrooms within a particular school at a point in time in order to gather and share classroom-based observations relevant to a problem of practice that the school or a district is trying to address. A Teacher Round, in contrast, is led by a teacher in her or his classroom; it is conducted mainly by, for, and with teachers as a reflective, inquiring, and collaborative learning process. Whereas instructional rounds glean broad characteristics of practice in a school, a Teacher Round strives to understand teaching and learning in detail and depth, in context, so that participants might better understand and develop their own practice. At the same time, the two models of rounds have an important similarity and complementarity. They overlap in particular to the extent that they are practices dedicated to understanding teaching and learning by making the practice inside classrooms more open, visible, and understandable.

    The Teacher Round model, as in the case of instructional rounds, draws from the medical model. It aims similarly to uncover practice—to make it more transparent and accessible. It is also a means for sharing knowledge about practice and considering jointly problems of practice. Like a medical round, in which different levels of expertise may be present, a Teacher Round incorporates multiple perspectives to bring more know-how to bear on the questions regarding practice which inevitably arise. And, also similar, a Teacher Round occurs in context, in real time. Both types of round link knowledge of a particular case to the development of practitioner knowledge more broadly. Both, finally, support the development of knowledge and practice as a collective action.

    But the differences are significant. As Shulman (2004) pointed out, “The practice of teaching involves a far more complex task environment than does that of medicine” (p. 258). Knowing the individual is important to both teacher and physician, but teaching is complex precisely because a teacher is confronted with many learners and their various differences, whereas a physician normally can focus on one patient at a time. Cohen (2011) explains the complexity in terms of the “predicaments” of teaching, among them the “uncertainties and surprises” that arise due to its nature as a human endeavor. Teacher Rounds can unpack the complexity in a moment in time by bringing many eyes and ears to the process and can lead to greater insight on how to work within it. Moreover, Teacher Rounds can meet the need, in the face of teaching's complexity, for versatility, responsiveness, and adaptability in teaching practice by informing and building the practice repertoire of teachers—that is, by helping them to see and develop multiple ways of adjusting practice in view of the developmental, academic, cultural, and personal traits and needs of particular learners or groups of learners.

    Potential Benefits of Teacher Rounds

    A Teacher Round is designed to support collaborative teacher learning in, from, and about practice, in an actual classroom. It entails observation, reflection, and inquiry. While the primary actor is the teacher who hosts the Round in his or her classroom, a Teacher Round engages all participants in learning. Round participants stand to gain in developing acuity in close observation; in learning the value of descriptive rather than normative accounts of classroom activity; in grounding interpretation and assessment in observed evidence and contextual knowledge; in developing habits of reflection, personalization, and thoughtful inquiry over and against cursory judgment; in deepening understanding of the complexities and possibilities of practice as well as the work of particular learners; in the development of their own insight, practice, and expertise, including their repertoire of ways to understand and respond to different situations and different needs; and in their experience of a professional learning community.

    Teacher Rounds bring teaching and learning into detailed focus. They help bind teachers together in a common effort to share and develop practice that works best for students. They help develop shared understandings of what learning that engages students fully looks like and what leads to it. In a given school, they can become a staple force in building and maintaining a student-centered professional learning community, as they are at University Park Campus School (see Chapter 5). Teacher Rounds can also play an integral role in teacher preparation, planned so as to support and guide students in their development as beginning teachers and collegial learners (see Appendix B).

    This Book

    This book is a conceptual and practical guide to Teacher Rounds. Its purpose is to explain and illustrate Teacher Rounds and their value in professional learning so that others may use them. It presents guidelines for practicing Teacher Rounds and illustrates them with examples involving both practicing and preservice teachers and what can be learned from them. Teacher Rounds can be implemented at any level and in virtually any setting. The detailed examples in the book are drawn from teachers, with varying degrees of experience, including teacher interns, working at the elementary, middle, and secondary levels in public urban schools that partner with me and my colleagues. As I mention in introducing the teachers and their school settings, the schools share a similar demographic profile, with large percentages of students who qualify for the federal free or reduced lunch program and who are nonnative English speakers.

    Teacher Rounds are about teaching and learning; it is important, therefore, to articulate the relationship between the two. The first chapter offers a perspective on teaching and learning and how Teacher Rounds fit into it. After this conceptual beginning, Chapter 2 introduces the Teacher Round protocol—the step-by-step guide to a Teacher Round—and illustrates the steps in action. Chapters 3 and 4 offer detailed examples of Teacher Round learning at the high school and elementary levels, respectively. Although they are differentiated by school level, both chapters are relevant to understanding the Teacher Round process at any level. Chapter 5 portrays the Teacher Round learning process at University Park Campus School, an exemplary, high-performing urban secondary school which has long integrated Teacher Rounds into its professional learning culture. Drawing on the school's example, the chapter illustrates how Teacher Rounds can be used as a schoolwide practice by teachers and for teachers in order to build transparency, cohesion, coherence, and expertise in individual and collective practice. Chapter 6 explores more in-depth the processes of teacher inquiry, observation, and reflection that are so central to Teacher Round learning. The final chapter highlights what it takes to build a culture in which sharing and collaborating on the development of practice for the sake of student learning is a powerful norm. Appendices provide examples of start-up and preservice Teacher Round programs, as well as a convenient short version of the protocol. By the end, if you have come to value them, you should be fully ready to incorporate Teacher Rounds meaningfully into your own world of reflective practice.


    I am fortunate to be able to work on a daily basis with dedicated principals, teachers, and teacher interns in schools serving students with a rich multiplicity of backgrounds in an urban neighborhood. They are committed equally to teaching, understanding their students’ learning, and developing their practice. It is because of them and teachers like them that I am able to illustrate the power and potential of Teacher Rounds as a collaborative learning practice.

    I would single out, first of all, my colleagues at University Park Campus School (UPCS), a school nationally recognized for its outstanding record in preparing its first-generation college students for postsecondary education, where Teacher Rounds are a normal part of school life. I appreciate greatly all of my colleagues there, in particular those teachers, both former and current, whose practice is represented in the book: Ricci Hall, Bob Knittle, Sarah Marcotte, Jim McDermott, Kevin Moylan, Kyle Pahigian, Meghan Rosa, Dan St. Louis, and Kate Shepard. I am grateful for many other teacher colleagues who so openly share their practice and experience of Teacher Rounds, especially those who appear in these pages: Jen Conlon and Sue Allen from Jacob Hiatt Elementary School, a school with a strong tradition of doing Teacher Rounds; Leann Ledoux and Tara Vaidya from South High School; and Margaret Welch from Woodland Academy.

    My thanks go also to several principals who welcomed my participation in their first steps as they launched schoolwide Teacher Round programs: principal June Eressy, her assistant, Carenza Jackson, and their colleagues at Chandler Elementary School; principal Brad Morgan and colleagues at North Shore Technical High School; and Ricci Hall, principal, and his new colleagues at Claremont Academy, valued partners all. Thankfully, in addition, I was present when Kate Moylan talked about teaching until her “quads hurt.”

    Hundreds of teacher interns have been inducted into the Teacher Round process as they formed their own practice and learned to share, reflect on, and inquire into it with others. In their openness and commitment, they helped my colleagues and me to learn more about how to support them and to meet the challenges of teaching. I am grateful in particular for the several whose Teacher Round experience is represented in the book—Phoebe Cape, Jeremy Sanders, and Jeremy Murphy. My colleagues in the Adam Institute for Urban Teaching and School Practice, with whom I have participated in many a Teacher Round, have also helped me to understand the learning that can occur through the process. Thanks go in particular to Eric DeMeulenaere, Holly Dolan, Letina Jeranyama, Jim McDermott, Maureen Reddy, Heather Roberts, Raphael Rogers, Marlene Shepard, and Pete Weyler, as well as their predecessors, including Tom Berninghausen and Fiona McDonnell.

    The seed for Teacher Rounds was planted many years ago in my own work, when the idea of doing something along the lines of medical rounds was suggested to me by then principal Arthur Bergeron and Superintendent John Collins of the Shrewsbury Public Schools. The idea took shape in collaboration with Arthur and his colleagues at the Coolidge Elementary School in the late 1980s. It gained maturity thanks to the colleagues whom I have already mentioned and others working alongside them. I am indebted to them all.

    I express my gratitude for the service rendered by John Ameer and Jim McDermott in their honest appraisal of several draft chapters and for Dan Alpert, Senior Editor at Corwin Press, who believed in this book from the very beginning. Finally, I have had the great benefit of patient and loving support from my wife, Lena, particularly when I was thoroughly distracted by the work.

    Publisher's Acknowledgments

    Corwin gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following reviewers:

    • Sherry Annee, Science Teacher
    • Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School
    • Indianapolis, IN
    • Amy Colton, Executive Director
    • Learning Forward Michigan
    • Ann Arbor, MI
    • Lois Easton, Educational Consultant and Author
    • LBE Learning
    • Tucson, AZ
    • Sue Elliott, Education Consultant
    • Suechelt Consulting
    • Sechelt, BC
    • Nina Morel, Associate Professor and Author
    • Lipscomb University, College of Education
    • Nashville, TN
    • Terry Morganti-Fisher, Educational Consultant
    • Learning Forward and QLD Learning
    • Austin, TX
    • Pamela R. Rosa, Core Service Director for Effective Professional Practice
    • Consortium for Educational Change
    • Lombard, IL
    • Christina M. Smith, Social Studies Dept. Chair
    • Algonquin Regional High School
    • Northborough, MA
    • Andrew Szczepaniak, Director, Professional Development
    • Gilbert Public Schools
    • Gilbert, AZ
    • Marion E. Woods, Director of Elementary Professional Development
    • Little Rock School District
    • Little Rock, AR

    About the Author

    Thomas Del Prete is the inaugural director of the Adam Institute for Urban Teaching and School Practice at Clark University in Worcester, MA. He is past director of the Hiatt Center for Urban Education at Clark and a former teacher of history and English at the middle and high school levels. He has worked for 25 years in teacher education, school-university partnership, and school reform. His previous books include Improving the Odds: Developing Powerful Teaching Practice and a Culture of Learning in Urban High Schools and Thomas Merton and the Education of the Whole Person. He has participated in hundreds of Teacher Rounds, most with his colleagues in the urban schools of Main South in Worcester, MA, in an effort to learn in and from practice.

  • Appendix A: Introducing Teacher Rounds: Several Examples

    Chandler Elementary Community School

    At the time that staff members introduced Teacher Rounds, in August 2012, Chandler Elementary Community School was in the midst of a “turnaround” process mandated by the state of Massachusetts because of low student performance. The school serves a richly diverse community in Worcester, Massachusetts. For most students, English is not a native language. Most qualify for the federal free lunch program.

    The school adopted Teacher Rounds as a means of sharing and developing practice in support of student learning in critical areas, in particular mathematics. Teachers met for several August days to familiarize themselves with Teacher Rounds and to prepare to implement them. Carenza, the assistant principal who organized the professional development, was aware that some teachers were unsure and anxious about the process. She intended to demystify Teacher Rounds and hoped to foster a common commitment to the practice based on shared experience and learning. There were basically four parts to her planned introduction:

    • Conceptual overview: The teachers discussed their perception of Teacher Rounds, identifying benefits and concerns. They voiced their nervousness and raised questions about trust, the extent of teacher control, and feedback. At the same time, they identified the benefit of learning from each other, asking questions (about practice), and developing shared expectations. Using a jigsaw process, in which individual members from one group met with a different group to discuss a specific aspect of the process and then returned to report to their home group, the teachers digested written material on the Teacher Round protocol. They filled chart paper answering the question, “What is a Teacher Round?” and summarizing different parts of the protocol. Individually, they added sticky notes with comments and questions that would be addressed later.
    • A shared Teacher Round experience: Carenza then conducted a mock Teacher Round with a mathematics focus. Together, Carenza and the teachers went through the preround, Round, and postround process. Several teachers were designated observers; the rest acted as students. Following the postround, teachers talked about the process, and then they posted their comments and questions on individual sticky notes on a piece of chart paper designated for each part: preround, Round, postround.
    • Mock Teacher Rounds: Six teachers volunteered to prepare their own mock Teacher Rounds. In each case, they prepared a Round sheet based on a math lesson they anticipated teaching in the fall. Teachers rotated as Round partners for each mock Teacher Round. They participated in the preround and postround conversations while their colleagues acted as students during the Round itself. As each of the dry runs ended, teachers posted comments on pieces of chart paper designated for each part of the process: preround, Round, postround.
    • Whole group debrief: Teachers continued the collaborative process during the debrief session by examining their colleagues’ comments posted on the pieces of chart paper set up for each mock Teacher Round. One group of teachers focused on preround comments, another on the Round charts, the third on the postround charts. Their goal was to summarize the experience of their colleagues in following the Teacher Round protocol.

    The group focused on the preround, for example, highlighted that the Round teachers “gave clear expectations, gave observers specific things to look for, and gave background info on the class (demographics and what they had learned).” They noted that some Round teachers drew particular attention to areas of practice they “wanted help with.” The teachers focused on the Round process felt that “the observers clearly knew their role,” used double column observation entries, and “weren't distracting” (several teachers noted that their children accept visitors to their classrooms easily and that most welcome the attention of adults on their learning). Most valued the double column format for its intended purpose to separate evidence from commentary. Finally, the postround group noticed comments framed as “what if” or “I wonder if” by Round observers and, as well, “constructive self-reflection” by Round teachers. They noted that colleagues used evidence and “stuck to” the Round inquiry, commented on the apparent growing trust in the process, and remarked on “lots of takeaways” on the part of both Round teachers and Round partners. Commenting on the teachers’ reflections, June, the principal, reminded the group that “the purpose of Rounds is to help us to refine our own practice and to think critically about what we are doing. We're starting to get past the fear factor and getting to the heart of what is important about Rounds.” Carenza added that the work on Teacher Rounds continued “the construction of our collaborative community.”

    Intermediate level teachers (grades 3 through 6) began a series of Teacher Rounds in the fall. They chose a common focus: how to ensure rigor in the daily five—a daily set of activities incorporating reading, word work, and writing. The Teacher Rounds became benchmarks for their developing practice, grounding an ongoing conversation. As a sign of how much teachers have come to value the process, one teacher requested the chance to host a Teacher Round in another area of interest—learning math concepts in an integrated fashion, rather than in isolation, by emphasizing application of more than one concept to solve a problem or perform some other task.

    Claremont Academy

    Claremont Academy is a short distance away from Chandler Elementary Community School. Encompassing grades 7 through 12, the school has a population of about 450 students, many of whom speak English as a second language and most of whom qualify for the federal free or reduced lunch program.

    Teacher Rounds were formally introduced to the school during a pivotal moment of rebuilding and refocusing, during a whole school professional development session in August 2012. They were identified as a practice to help build a strong professional culture dedicated to providing all students with powerful learning in support of their preparation for college. The teachers had already characterized powerful learning for themselves, with many of their ideas resonant with teaching for the sweet spot as it is described in Chapter 1. They had also begun to develop lessons exemplifying their powerful learning philosophy.

    Claremont's introduction to Teacher Rounds included a number of components: a reflection by teachers on lessons they were preparing in order to meet the goal of powerful learning; an introduction to the Teacher Round protocol, including a review of a sample Round sheet; participation in Teacher Rounds conducted by veteran Round teachers; and a debrief. These steps are briefly outlined below. They formed the foundation for the first set of Teacher Rounds at the school in the fall, hosted by a group of teachers who volunteered to begin.

    • Reflect on lesson planning

      Teachers were asked to reflect individually on the lessons they were developing to promote powerful learning with the following questions in mind:

      What are 1 or 2 things that you really want to understand about your powerful lesson? What are 2 or 3 things that you would look for, listen for, or ask your students in order to know whether and how they were engaged in the powerful learning you've planned for? Try to frame these as questions to answer or as directions on what to look for, listen for, or ask students.

      The teachers were then asked to share their questions or directions with a partner, explaining why they were important for understanding their lesson.

      The whole group then discussed the close relationship between their individual reflections and partner conversations and the process of developing a Round sheet and conducting a preround orientation.

    • Review the Teacher Round protocol and a sample Round sheet

      The teachers read, reviewed, and discussed the Teacher Round protocol using an abbreviated version similar to the one provided in Appendix C. They also reviewed a sample Round sheet.

    • Participate in Teacher Rounds

      Every teacher was able to participate in a Teacher Round hosted by an experienced Round teacher at the nearby University Park Campus School.

    • Debrief

      The teachers debriefed as a whole school. Conversation touched on a range of topics, similar to those that bubbled up in the debriefing session that followed the introduction of Teacher Rounds at Chandler Elementary Community School. New principal Ricci Hall sounded the final note, emphasizing the importance of keeping the “focus on kids” and promising support to allow everyone to “grow into” the Teacher Round process as a core ingredient of the learning culture of the school.

    By midfall, a handful of teachers had hosted Teacher Rounds for colleagues teaching at the same grade level, working with the same students, or teaching in the same discipline. As a whole, the teachers were focused on how to engage their students in powerful learning, using tools such as writing and drawing, collaborative group work, and reading strategies. Some of the teachers have begun three-part cycles of reflection and inquiry which include colesson planning, Teacher Rounds, and close examination of students’ work.

    North Shore Technical High School Teacher Induction Program

    At North Shore Technical High School in Middleton, Massachusetts, a group of four beginning teachers, their induction coach, the principal, and an assistant superintendent for curriculum and special education formed a small start-up group in spring 2012. They decided to integrate Teacher Rounds into the support process for beginning teachers, using the concept of powerful learning—specifically, the idea that all students can learn challenging subject matter consistent with curriculum standards, especially when they are treated as thinkers—as an organizing principle. Each teacher, two in English and two in mathematics, conducted a Teacher Round over a period of several weeks. The preround orientation occurred in the morning before school began. Coverage of classes was arranged for the participating teachers for about a period and a half so that they could participate in the Round (the actual classroom observation) and the postround reflection that followed immediately.

    Appendix B: Starting at the Beginning: Preservice Teacher Rounds

    From midfall to late spring, Teacher Round alerts bubble up in a steady stream of e-mail messages, often in the anxious late night hours of lesson planning. “We live in uncertain times,” begins one alert announcing a lesson on Macbeth and the difference between fate and free will: “How better to kick off the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) home stretch than waking up bright and early Monday to see what Fate has in store for your future as an educator?” In another Teacher Round invitation, we are enticed to join an MAT student's 9th grade algebra class where “we have just started compound inequalities (good times, I know). If all goes to plan, we will be doing some mystery clue sets on Friday, so it should be a really fun class full of thinking, teamwork, discovery, and, of course, LEARNING!”

    Teacher interns in the Clark MAT program broadcast Teacher Round messages to fellow MATs, faculty members and mentor teachers, all of whom are likely to be represented when the Teacher Round occurs. Their lighthearted tone cannot hide an understandable nervous anticipation. Most of the teacher interns feel some degree of vulnerability, especially as they approach the first of three Teacher Rounds that they will conduct over the course of a full-year internship; after all, Teacher Rounds make their practice public and transparent and much is at stake for them. At the same time, their vulnerability is shared; so are their aspirations for themselves and their students and so is their interest in knowing where they stand in their developing practice. Their Teacher Round announcements are as much a call for support as they are an invitation to be reflective partners. Many of the teacher interns will cite Teacher Rounds as the most powerful learning experience—apart from their actual day-today classroom experience—of their intensive one year program.

    Rethinking Teacher Preparation and Practice

    In 2010 the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) issued a bold report on transforming teacher education that asserted the radical importance of grounding the development of practice, in a disciplined and concerted way, more firmly in practice itself (Blue Ribbon Panel, 2010). In broad scope, the report's recommendations reflected a small but conspicuous movement in favor of more extensive, practice-based, and clinically oriented teacher preparation programs, such as residencies, already underway in the United States. Among its examples of how to closely link preparation, practice, and classroom learning, the NCATE report cites Teacher Rounds as practiced in the Clark teacher preparation program (p. 11). Teacher Rounds indeed fit hand-in-glove into a practice-based learning model in teacher preparation, as well as in teacher induction programs.

    In advocating a clinical model for teacher preparation, the NCATE report implicitly acknowledges the dynamic interplay of theory, practice, and context in teaching. In their more comprehensive treatment of the question of how teachers learn, Darling-Hammond and Bransford (2005) frame the interplay in terms of the development of adaptive expertise. In their characterization, a teacher's adaptive expertise involves the ability to “apply” and “innovate” at the same time; innovation is necessary because a teacher is often confronted by unique, unexpected, or unfamiliar situations in the course of teaching-learning, sometimes from moment to moment and from one student to another (pp. 358–389). The teacher has to assess and respond constructively in these instances, to improvise so as to keep students engaged in learning. Improvising in this sense does not mean trying different things indiscriminately; it is strategic and calculated, its strategic value enhanced to the extent that it is informed by learning in, from, and about practice.

    The success of a clinical model of teacher development in building the foundation of a beginning teacher's knowledge and practice repertoire and adaptive expertise may depend on how well it makes the interplay of theory, practice, and student learning (context) accessible, visible, and comprehensible. While we need to learn more about beginner teacher learning in this regard (National Research Council, 2010), Teacher Rounds, in their emphasis on focused learning in and from practice, and on attentiveness, inquiry, reflection, and collaboration as key tools in the process, have shown that they can play a significant role.

    Integrating Teacher Rounds into Preservice Programs

    In general, Teacher Rounds can support teacher preparation by

    • thoughtfully interconnecting practice, theory, context, and the development of practice;
    • illustrating and inquiring into research-based or promising practices and their implementation and adaptation in context;
    • exemplifying and developing the professional habits and capabilities that make continuous learning in, from, and about practice possible—in particular attentiveness, inquiry, reflection, and collaboration;
    • reinforcing any effort to understand, share, and develop practice aligned with the way of knowing of a discipline and content standards, to build pedagogical knowledge or a practice repertoire in line with disciplinary habits of mind and work as well as content understanding, to learn to personalize instruction, and to develop classrooms as communities of capable thinkers, readers, and writers; and
    • preparing beginning teachers for participation in professional learning communities focused on understanding and developing practice which keeps all students in a zone of optimal and meaningful learning, leading to significant student achievement.

    The following are examples of how purposes such as these are being fulfilled in several different programs, all of which derive directly from or have affinity with the Teacher Round model.

    Clark University Model

    Teacher Rounds have been practiced in partner schools since 1995. They punctuate the yearlong MAT program. Teacher interns learn from mentor teachers who conduct Teacher Rounds to share and demonstrate their practice and then begin a series of their own Teacher Rounds (see the program description on page 134 and the portraits of Teacher Rounds in Chapters 3 and 4). Teacher Rounds are a key practice in building the professional learning community in the school-university partnership.

    University of South Carolina Model

    Citing the Clark model, the University of South Carolina (USC) adopted Teacher Rounds as a collaborative learning practice in its professional development schools in 2002 (Zenger, Gilmore, & Payne, 2010; Watts and Levine, 2010). The model has been applied to connect the exemplary practice of master teachers to the learning of preservice and beginning teachers. Examining their impact, USC researchers report that preservice teachers find benefit “in observing a diversity of teaching methods, learning about a diverse group of students, and demonstrating concepts learned in their education coursework.”

    Teachers College at Columbia University Model

    Educators at Teachers College introduced a version of Teacher Rounds in their teacher residency preparation and induction program, and there are plans to expand their use. As described in the program's bulletin, “Education Rounds are an opportunity [for Teaching residents or teacher interns] to work collectively as deliberate and thoughtful learners to examine mutually identified instruction problems … in their classrooms for the purpose of better understanding and improving their practice” (Bikmaz, 2012). In line with the Teacher Rounds inquiry process, Teaching residents make observations based on a question of practice developed by two of their peers teaching in different classrooms at a single host school. During a follow-up debrief session a day later, the observers share and analyze their findings. More general discussion follows on lessons learned, with specific attention to prominent program themes, such as responsive pedagogy and making learning visible. The process repeats during the yearlong residency: each teaching resident hosts two Teacher Rounds and is an observer during six others.

    The “Rounds Project” at the University of Michigan

    Independently, “Clinical Rounds” or the “Rounds Project” has developed in the School of Education at the University of Michigan, specifically to exemplify and guide teacher preparation students in implementing “a small set of vital teaching practices” which integrate literacy development and history learning (University of Michigan School of Education, Spring 2011). The Rounds Project is distinct from the Teacher Rounds model, however, in its focus on the direct involvement of exemplary or attending teachers, analogous to attending physicians in the medical model of training, in guiding teaching interns during their actual teaching.

    Toward an Integrated Practice-Based Approach: The Example of Clark University

    While Teacher Rounds can be conducted for good purpose with teacher interns under a variety of circumstances, the extent of their impact and value on a beginning teacher's development depends on how well they integrate into an overall program. In the Clark program, Teacher Rounds do not stand apart. How they are integrated is best understood in the context of the teacher preparation model. Here, as an example of what is possible, are the broad features of the model:

    A Yearlong Teaching Internship in a Partner School

    Akin to a residency program, teacher interns are placed with a mentor teacher in a partner school from the beginning of the school year until the end of the university academic year. The long internship allows for a structured and scaffolded immersion in teaching and in the process of examining teaching and learning in light of program values of inclusion, equity, trust, authentic and powerful learning, and learning community as well as curricular and learning goals. Closely allied, it allows for immersion in the Teacher Round process.

    A Cohort Experience

    Teacher interns are assigned to cohort groups of at least 4 to 5 participants in partner schools. Teacher Rounds integrate readily into the cohort model. They provide opportunities for interns to share and support practice within their specific school contexts and cultures. The Teacher Rounds are grounded in disciplinary learning, but often interns from more than one discipline attend a Round together. Just as often, the interns from one partner school attend the Teacher Rounds of interns from another in order to learn from the different contexts and their shared questions or practices; the schools are in close proximity, serving students from the same large urban neighborhood.

    A Collaborative Learning Culture and Community of Practice

    Teacher interns conduct Teacher Rounds in a culture that supports them. Teacher Rounds have become a familiar and, in some cases, culturally ingrained practice in the partner schools; each teacher intern has a mentor teacher and university mentor who usually participate in them. Teacher interns alone conduct dozens of Teacher Rounds each year in each of the partner schools—three each, one in the fall and two in the spring. Each teacher intern attends at least five other Teacher Rounds; most usually attend more. This Teacher Rounds culture, of course, did not always exist. The teacher interns were among the first to practice Teacher Rounds in the partner schools; they were agents of change, modest ones, in their host schools’ professional cultures.

    Dedicated Core of University and Partner School Faculty

    Consistent with recent recommendations for teacher preparation made by NCATE (Blue Ribbon Panel, 2010), and historical calls for faculty with special expertise in teacher education (Conant, 1963; Levine, 2006), the program is staffed by “professors of practice” and mentor teachers with a dedicated commitment to the partner schools and the program. One or two “teacher fellows”—exemplary teachers with release time to work in the program as well as in their partner schools for an academic year—also play an integral role. The professors of practice work in partner schools regularly, usually know and work collegially with mentor teachers on questions of curriculum and practice, and have depth of knowledge about the school setting—and to some extent the urban community context—to bring to the process as well. Typically, two professors of practice attend each teacher intern's Teacher Round.

    A Common Framework for Teaching and Learning

    Finally, a set of overarching principles and concerns about teaching and learning frame Teacher Rounds in the program. All commit to practice that is inclusive, equitable, authentic, meaningful, personalized, and powerful—powerful in the sense that it helps all students realize individually and together their capability as learners to develop understanding and meet curricular expectations; practice, in other words, that aims for the sweet spot of teaching and learning. In developing their practice within this framework, teacher interns must confront the question of what it means to think, inquire, and learn in particular disciplines, of how to represent disciplinary learning in an engaging, developmentally appropriate, and personally connective and meaningful way, and of how to fulfill corresponding curriculum standards. They address companion questions of how literacy development and disciplinary learning weave together and how to assess and support students in their development as readers, writers, and speakers.

    A Progression of Teacher Round Learning

    The general progression of Teacher Round learning in the yearlong Clark program occurs in three basic stages. In reality, the stages are not so much separate as they are shifts in emphasis leading to a more comprehensive engagement with teaching and learning over time. To some extent, the shifts in emphasis may be viewed as following a more general trajectory of beginning teacher development toward greater fluency in and command of practice that engages, challenges, and supports all learners in meaningful learning. Teacher Rounds can help beginning teachers meet several of the challenges typically encountered along this path, such as

    • progressing from an undifferentiated and generalized view of practice towards a more multidimensional and analytic view,
    • broadening from a teacher-centered focus concerned with teacher presence and authority to a focus on practice and student learning,
    • shifting attention from classroom organizational issues to questions of instruction and learning,
    • learning to attend to and address individual students and their learning as an integral part of the process of planning daily curriculum and instruction and enacting equity in practice,
    • taking an increasingly inquiring and reflective stance vis-à-vis one's own practice, and
    • integrating the knowledge and practice repertoire and adaptive expertise.
    Stage 1: Teacher Rounds Open the Door to the Study of Practice (Summer and Early Fall)

    Most teacher interns learn first about Teacher Rounds by experiencing them. Partner school teachers conduct and model Teacher Rounds for many interns during a summer academy for partner school students. In early fall, teacher interns attend Teacher Rounds closely tied to courses in disciplinary learning; in some cases, the Teacher Rounds occur in a short daily or weekly series, with the host teacher's class serving as an abbreviated case study of practice and disciplinary learning.

    Stage 2: Teacher Rounds Support the Development of Personal Practice (Middle and Late Fall)

    By the end of the fall, each teacher intern will have hosted a Teacher Round and attended at least two peer Teacher Rounds. Interns are supported in their preparation in their cohort group's practice seminar and individually by their university and teacher mentors.

    Teacher interns write a reflection on their own Teacher Rounds and on selected ones that they attend. They also review videotape of their own Teacher Round and prepare edited segments for a discussion with peers in their practice seminar, following a protocol.

    Framing the Round inquiry is often the biggest challenge for interns at this stage. Interns interested in whether students are collaborating or engaged, for instance, may be masking other concerns. “Are they engaged?” may mean “Are they acting in a positive manner?” Interns have an understandably heightened concern for whether their students are interested or disengaged, responsive or resistant, respectful or otherwise; and, closely related, concern for their own presence, authority, respect, and efficacy. For many interns, at the time of their first Round, the most pressing question is whether they have the eyes, ears, and respect of their students.

    Stage 3: Teacher Rounds Build Habits of Reflection, Inquiry, and Collaboration

    Teacher interns host their second Teacher Rounds soon after the turn of the calendar year, when they are 10 to 14 weeks into their teaching; their third series of Teacher Rounds occurs in the vicinity of 15 to 20 weeks into their teaching. This spacing gives teacher interns an opportunity to grow into the Teacher Round process. In this respect, Teacher Rounds become a series of reference points for their development as reflective practitioners and collaborative learners. Their Teacher Round videotapes and reflections serve as several of many important artifacts they will use to illustrate and analyze the growth of their practice and of their students’ learning at the end of their program. Rounds conducted by teacher interns account for well over 100 of the many Teacher Rounds which occur in partner schools over the course of the year.

    Appendix C: The Teacher Round Protocol (Sample Short Version)

    Important Notes on Teacher Rounds
    • A Teacher Round is about learning in and from practice. It is framed by the Round teacher.
    • Specifically, a Teacher Round is about understanding student learning in classrooms and the practice that supports it. It is not evaluative.
    • A Teacher Round is a collaborative process—a way to bring a number of eyes and ears to the task of learning what students are thinking and doing and what is engaging them.
    • Round participants are reflective partners.
    Part 1 of the Round Protocol: Preparing the Round Sheet
    The Background (What, Who, and Why)

    Essential questions for the Round teacher are: What do my Teacher Round partners need to know in order to understand what I have planned and why it makes sense—why it will support powerful learning—for these students at this moment? What do they need to know in order to understand what students will be thinking about and doing?

    The Learning Focus

    A Teacher Round ultimately turns on the question of student learning and how it relates to teaching practice. In the learning focus section the Round teacher explains the student learning planned for the day. The Round teacher also identifies the focus of professional learning for the Round.

    Here are several questions to consider in developing the Round learning focus:

    • Learning centered: On what learning goals am I centrally focused in this lesson? What specifically is the process of learning that students will be engaged in? What can members of the Round group expect to see or hear to indicate that students are engaged in powerful learning in line with the learning goals? To what should they pay attention in students’ learning?
    • Practice centered: What in particular about the teaching-learning am I trying to learn about or understand better with my Teacher Round partners? Is there some aspect of practice effectiveness I want to understand—what would help me to understand it?
    The Round Inquiry

    Generally, developing the Round inquiry means turning the Round learning focus into a set of questions or directions on the evidence to look, listen, or ask for in order to understand the teaching and learning.

    What are 1 or 2 things that you really want to understand about your lesson? What are 2 or 3 things that you would look for, listen for, or ask your students in order to know whether and how they were engaged in the learning you've planned for?

    Part 2 of the Teacher Round Protocol: The Preround Orientation

    The preround orientation has three basic goals:

    • To inform Round participants about the teaching-learning
    • To ensure that Round participants understand the context of the Round, including any relevant perspective of the Round teacher on curriculum, student learning, and practice
    • To prepare Round participants for their role as co-observers and co-inquirers

    Round participants should leave the preround orientation with an understanding of the classroom context, in particular students’ understanding of subject matter and development as academic learners, the planned teaching and learning and its importance, and with a clear idea of what to look and listen for and try to understand as a co-observer and co-inquirer.

    The preround typically follows these steps:

    • Participants read the Round sheet.
    • The Round teacher highlights key points in each section and elaborates as needed. The Round group reviews the Round inquiry closely—what to look and listen for and try to understand—and clarifies it as needed. Round partners ask questions or make comments to ensure understanding.
    • The Round teacher explains the subject matter of the Round and engages participants briefly in learning it in order to give them a firsthand experience of what students will be doing, as appropriate.
    • The Round teacher indicates whether, how, and when Round participants may interact with students and where participants might position themselves physically in the room.
    Part 3 of the Teacher Round Protocol: The Round

    The Round is the actual classroom lesson. The following are sample notes from a middle school mathematics Teacher Round, using a two column format—one column with detail of what happened and the other with reflections and questions. Notes are not always this detailed or neat! This level of detail is invariably helpful when it can be achieved—these notes are a rich resource for the postround reflection.

    Part 4 of the Teacher Round Protocol: The Postround Reflection

    Stay focused on understanding teaching-learning and developing practicable knowledge, that is, knowledge that can be applied to practice.

    Key supportive principles include:

    • Describe rather than evaluate: use observation notes to bring a concrete record of what happened to the conversation.
    • Ask questions which clarify rather than assume or imply judgment: seek understanding of what the Round teacher or other Round participants are saying, more specifically, of the teaching-learning.
    • Reflect rather than react or prescribe: frame questions and statements, such as “what if” questions or “I wonder” statements, so as to open up deeper consideration of the teaching-learning observed during the Round and of practice more generally.

    Three general phases of the postround reflection:

    • First thoughts: the Round teacher's initial reflection and participants’ response
    • Inquiry: sharing and discussing observations based on the Round questions (describe, clarify, reflect)
    • Final reflection: what's new, what if, what next, what's left, and how did we do
    • Final thoughts: The group wraps up by reflecting on what they have learned and the implications for teaching and learning, asking some or all of the following questions:
      • What's new? What have we learned, what are our takeaways? The “What's new?” question opens the door for summarizing specific ideas about curriculum and practice or specific insights about teaching-learning that the Teacher Round has caused participants to newly consider or revisit.
      • What if? What might we have done differently and why? The “What if?” question spurs thinking about alternative possibilities for engaging and supporting students in line with learning goals and the Round inquiry. This is usually the most challenging terrain of the postround conversation. The key question is how to suggest an alternative that makes sense in light of shared evidence of what happened and the learning goals; that is, to build a plausible case for an alternative that might in some way support one or more students in learning for everyone to consider thoughtfully and respectfully. This approach helps keep the focus on teaching-learning and not the Round Teacher. It is a good idea to provide the Round teacher with the first opportunity to pose a “What if?” question.
      • What next? What might we try next in order to support these students’ learning and why? The Round teacher typically sketches plans for the following day(s) in light of more long-term goals and knowledge of how students are developing academically and discusses what modifications, if any, she or he might make based on the Round experience. Round participants clarify, comment, or suggest.
      • What's left? What old or new questions about curriculum, teaching, and learning are we pondering and how might we address them?
      • How did we do? Participants reflect on any or all of the following: how well they did in observing, sharing observations, meeting the goals of the Round inquiry, discussing and learning about practice together during the postround reflection, and fulfilling other group norms.


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