|Brendon Tateishi works with students in his Residency classroom during an Education Round
Exploring Teaching Practice through Education Rounds
by Fatma Bikmaz, Ph.D.
Fatma Bikmaz is a Teacher's College visiting scholar from the University of Ankara in Turkey and has spent time observing the TR@TC program. Fatma participated as a guest at one of our Education Round sessions. Here are some of her thoughts regarding Education Rounds.
|What are Education Rounds?
The idea of Education Rounds is an adaptation and extension of medical rounds that are used as a part of the training of medical interns in teaching hospitals.
Education Rounds have been used as a professional development model for teachers in the U.S. for more than a decade. Richard Elmore and Thomas Del Prete were the first practitioners of Education Rounds, but their models of this practice have different purposes.
Richard Elmore’s model has primarily been used for school improvement at the district level. In this model, superintendents, principals and teachers come together to identify a problem of practice that is explored at a particular school site, then visit the school, making observations across classrooms. After the observation phase of the Education Round, participants gather together and discuss their observations. The purpose of this discussion is to explore the problem of practice in more depth and from multiple perspectives, in order to develop strategies for improving practice that are presented in the form of recommendations and requests for further exploration and study.
Thomas Del Prete’s model of Education Rounds has been used on a much smaller scale and focuses primarily on pre-service teachers. In this model, rounds begin with a pre-round orientation where pre-service teachers, who act as a hosts for rounds, identify the problems of practice, that are observable in real teaching and learning contexts (ie. student engagement in group work, pacing, etc.).
The hosts prepare short written documents that explain concerns, provide background of the problem, and ask one or more related questions for observing participant to think about. During the actual round, a round group observes a teaching period where instruction is delivered by the host pre-service teacher. The host pre-service teacher then initiates a post round conversation where observers and the host discuss the observation, focusing on giving specific and concrete examples of what was observed in order to develop an accurate picture of problem. Alternatives and suggestions are offered as seem appropriate.
Education Rounds at TR@TC
For TR@TC Residents, Education Rounds are an opportunity to work collectively as deliberate and thoughtful learners to examine mutually identified instruction problems that they face in their classrooms for the purpose of better understanding and improving their practice. TR@TC’s Education Rounds model is similar to Del Prete’s in its focus on pre-service teachers, however, the terminology used for the phases of the process are somewhat different and mirror Elmore’s model more closely. The elements outlined in TR@TC’s process are defining a question of practice, observation, observation debrief and next steps.
The first two phases of TR@TC’s Eductaion Rounds, are very similar to Del Prete’s model, with some modifications that genuinely strengthened the Education Rounds experience. For example, while Del Prete’s model is designed for pre-service teachers to observe one classroom of another pre-service teacher, visiting Teaching Residents, who work in different school contexts, come to observe two different classrooms at the school of hosting Teaching Residents. Visiting Teaching Residents take notes regarding observations that are specifically related to the host Teaching Resident’s question of practice. In the end, each Teaching Resident hosts two rounds of visiting residents and act as visiting residents in at least six classrooms.
It is the second two phases of TR@TC’s Education Rounds process that are particularly distinct. On a day following the observation phase of the round, an observation debrief is held.Those who played the role of visiting Teaching Resident describe their specific observations regarding the two rounds that they have already observed, and then analyze them. Suggestions and alternatives for questions of practice are shared in the small groups. After the small group discussions, the full group participates in a discussion of lessons learned from these experiences.
The methods of debriefing in this phase are specifically designed to create a culture of sharing, where residents work to develop a sense of responsive pedagogy, make learning visible, reflect thoughtfully, and work and learn collectively.
As an observer of the TR@TC program, the TR@TC Education Rounds seemed to be a very appropriate model in general, and specifically for Teachers College, considering its conceptual framework, which emphasizes inquiry, social justice and curriculum. One can easily recognize the impact of these themes in each phase of TR@TC’s Education Rounds. After each of my encounters with TR@TC, I left feeling very impressed with the program and eager to learn more. Personally, after limited observations here and elsewhere I strongly support TR@TC’s approach to Education Rounds. In my opinion this approach is closer philosophically to the reality that good teachers are made, not born!
Classroom management. Classroom management. Classroom management. Besides, “differentiated instruction,” I have not heard any two words echoed as much as the infamous “classroom management.” It was not before I actually began teaching full-time that I understood why. In September 2011, I began my first full-time teaching position as a 6th and 8th grade science and special education teacher. I remember the many, many struggles I had and still have. As my first year as a NYC public school teacher comes to a shocking end, here are some classroom management techniques that made this year tolerable and one might even say successful:
Transition techniques: As a way to help both students and yourself as a teacher transition from small group to whole group instruction, it is important to set a transition routine students can follow. For example, I do “clap once if you can hear me.” When students hear even a few students clap, it re-directs their attention. I also use this technique for monitoring noise levels. Now, like establishing any routine, this takes transparency, repetition, consistency and explicit explanation.
In the beginning, I used to have to consistently do this technique several times when students did not comply. For example, if I said “clap once if you can hear me” and some students were still talking, I then stated a clear explanation of the behaviors that were presently inappropriate; “since some of my scholars (I refer to my students as scholars) are still talking we are going to do this again” and then repeated my instruction, “clap once if you can hear me.” Transition techniques should be transparent, repetitious, and consistent with explicit explanations.
Reward just as much as you “punish:” As a way to incorporate more positive behavioral interventions, I do what is called “shout outs.” At the end of the period, I try and allocate a few minutes where I verbally praise students on specific and operationally defined behaviors and give students time to do the same to others. When beginning this strategy, I inform students that they will all eventually receive shout-outs and if they do not get a shout-out it does not mean they were not productive. Additionally, I give private praises to students as I see fit while they are working.
Initially students will need assistance in giving effective shout-outs, so I only give shout-outs in the beginning and then allow students to give shout-outs after a few weeks. In case students give a shout-out that is not specific, such as “Bob did a good job today,” I prompt them to give specific behavioral praises (what did Bob do that made him have a good day today?) I have observed shout-outs/verbal praises not only builds some students’ self-esteem, but it also helps build a sense of classroom community and rapport. Additionally, students who have frequent attention-seeking misbehaviors really enjoy positive reinforcement, because they still receive the attention they seek; however, now it is for positive behaviors as opposed to disruptive misbehaviors. Finding ways to praise students helps to model appropriate behaviors, set a standard of expectations for acceptable behaviors and/or work productivity and ensures student’s hard work and effort does not go unnoticed.
Task sheets: During activities that may seem heavily procedural, a task sheet will be your best friend! Task sheets are like a checklist that outlines major steps or tasks students need to take in order to complete an activity. Task sheets place more responsibility in the hands of students. I hear less of “I don’t understand what I have to do!” or “What am I supposed to be doing right now?"
I have students check off tasks as they complete them and will not answer any questions students have if they do no illustrate their progress on a task sheet (sometimes students have questions that are outlined on the task sheet). Eventually you can gradually fade-out task sheets as students become more independent and no longer require these prompts. Similarly, you may have some students who do not require a task sheet at all. Task sheets are also nice tools for differentiation and assessments.
I am nowhere near a classroom management guru, I simply wanted to share a few strategies that really helped me as a first year teacher that I wish someone told me before I began teaching.
Ambar Hernandez & Stacey Schultz
One of the best things about this program is being able to begin our Teaching Resident/Mentor Teacher collaboration from day one and continue together for the entire year. This really allows for growth, development, and strong relationship building. We have learned so much from each other throughout the year.
Stacey: Working with Ambar has helped me think about all the different nuances of being a teacher. She has also helped me look at the scaffolding and interventions that I have created and think about them in a new way.
Ambar: For me, my mentor Stacey has provided many opportunities for me to learn, grow, and practice as a teacher. Getting and implementing all the great feedback and lesson building strategies have helped me feel prepared for this upcoming school year. It is easy to forget what it is like to be a new teacher and to build your practice.
Ambar and I have collaborated with other teachers throughout the year and this collaboration has been an important aspect that has helped us create and develop powerful curriculum. Everyone has good ideas to contribute with different perspectives that help create well thought out, relevant and inclusive lessons. Teamwork and weekly meetings have really allowed us to develop our partnership and create a strong impact for our students.
Michelle Doucet & Mary Lou Butler
Walking into room 119 at BHSVA, you will immediately see something called a “Mood Meter” to your right. Ms. Mary Lou and I work with students with autism. Some students with autism have difficulties understanding their feelings and coping with stress. Learning to manage these feelings is something that we practice on a daily basis. This meter represents the students’ first self-reflection of the day: their feelings.
This meter has also served as a reminder for my mentor teacher and me to reflect, not only on our feelings, but also on our teaching through the framework of Charlotte Danielson. During the first part of the year, Ms. Mary Lou and I focused on Domain 3: Instruction, specifically with Component 3c: Engaging Students in Learning. This focus has helped us to reflect on lessons to ensure that we are engaging students on a daily basis. We continue to co-plan lessons using various co-teaching models, such as parallel teaching, where we split the class and teach the same lesson.
For the second part of the year, we have focused on Domain 2: The Classroom Environment, with a particular interest in Component 2D: Managing Student Behavior. Ms. Mary Lou has been an important resource for me in terms of learning how to build trust with the students and how to create a classroom community of trust. By observing her handle various behaviors in the beginning of the year, I have learned how to take the appropriate steps during this part of the year to build my skills in this area, and reflect on them throughout the process with her guidance and support.
Just like the mood meter is a routine that we practice as a class every day, Ms. Mary Lou and I reflect daily on our teaching and discuss how the process is a necessary element in our growth as educators.