Fort Dodge Community School District

Administrators Focus on School Improvement through Classroom Visits

October 3, 2012

Administrators Focus on School Improvement through Classroom Visits

The Fort Dodge Community School District’s administrative team is taking an up-close and in-depth look at classroom instruction this year. The administrators are implementing “Instructional Rounds.”  This school improvement process looks at what is happening in classrooms that is causing students to be highly engaged in challenging work. “Instructional Rounds” are defined by City, Elmore, Fiarman and Teitel (2009) as a process in which “…education leaders and practitioners (teachers/staff) develop a shared understanding of what high-quality instruction looks like and what schools need to do to support it.” 

Anyone who watches a medical drama on television is familiar with the medical rounds that doctors perform. Instructional Rounds is an adaptation of these medical rounds. The administrators visit a number of classrooms in small groups for 20 minutes each to observe the instruction occurring using an earlier identified area of focus as a lens for their observations.  The observations are not evaluative or judgmental, rather they are objective and simply document witnessed activities.  No individual teachers are sited in the observations. Following the classroom visits, the team gathers to debrief and provide feedback on what they saw or didn’t see happening in the classrooms in regards to instruction.  Finally, the administrative team debriefs, sharing predictions and posing questions that the building administrator can use to enhance the instructional practices that were observed. 

“It is vitally important to observe daily classroom activities in our school improvement process. Visits will be made at elementary, middle school and high school levels and the administrative team greatly appreciates the teachers' support and welcoming classrooms,” Robert Hughes, Assistant Superintendent, said. “The administrative team gains professional development and builds common understandings from the instructional visits. Understanding classroom practices and school improvement initiatives strengthens the effectiveness of our leadership.” 

Through the classroom visits, the administrative team is looking at what types of tasks students are instructed to do. The administrators are observing for example, whether the students are being asked to memorize and recall information or if they are being given opportunities to have high level, in-depth conversations around their learning objectives. The administrative team members are looking at whether time is given for students to collaborate and apply the concepts they are learning. The question being examined in regards to the level of instruction could be “If you were a student in this classroom and you did exactly what the teacher asked you to do, what would you know how to do?”

The Instructional Rounds training and process for the administrative team is being facilitated by Prairie Lakes AEA 8. The Instructional Rounds process started in Iowa about eight years ago with the creation of a Superintendents’ Network, which is fully supported by the School Administrators of Iowa and the statewide Area Education Agency system. 

“The Rounds process is an excellent commitment on the part of the Fort Dodge Community School District administrative team to improve their understanding of instructional practice that makes a difference for students,” commented Jeff Herzberg, Chief Administrator at Prairie Lakes AEA.

Through the rounds process, the administrative team will develop a common understanding of what high quality instruction looks like and what the District needs to do to support it.    This focused and consistent approach to effective instruction across the Fort Dodge Community School District will result in learning and teaching excellence for all of the students and staff. 

“The focus of instructional rounds is the link between instruction and learning,” said Dr. Doug Van Zyl, Fort Dodge Community Schools Superintendent.  “The administrative team is working to identify and define high level instruction so it can be replicated systematically to try to provide high quality teaching and learning for all of our kids.”

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