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Without Regular Instructional School Rounds Teachers Can Become Stagnant

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By Gregory Powell

People from all levels of society have complained that the quality of education is deteriorating. Many people forget, however, that teachers are under great pressure. They do not have enough resources, they are poorly paid, they have to cope with large classes and they are expected to teach and manage extra curricular activities. They certainly do not have time to attend courses. However, with instructional school rounds teachers do get the opportunity to develop professionally.

The system has been designed to afford teachers the opportunity to learn from colleagues that are more experienced and who have proven themselves. It is a simple system that can be implemented at any school. A few teachers gather and then attend a class presented by a well respected colleague. The purpose of the exercise is to learn from that teacher under observation. At present participation is voluntary.

Observers meet before they attend a lesson. The aim of this meeting is to decide on the objectives that they hope to achieve during the observation session. These objectives often focus on issues with which the teacher under observation is regarded as very good. A teacher may be well known for his ability to use practical examples to explain difficult theoretical or abstract concepts. The observers will then focus on that element of his teaching during the session.

It is important to note that these sessions never include any form of evaluation whatsoever. This is even made clear to the students attending the class. The sole purpose of any observation session is to learn from the teacher giving the lesson. It is for this reason that no feedback is given after the session, unless the teacher under observation specifically requests such feedback.

The observer teachers have a second meeting after the session. This time they discuss the lessons that they have learnt. They also discuss ideas on how to implement those new ideas in their own classrooms. During this meeting no observer is allowed to utter any form of criticism. They do not submit a report and the entire proceedings is deemed to be confidential.

Observation sessions have quickly gain popularity in many schools, colleges and universities. It is a practical and economical way in which to give educators the chance to develop on a professional level. Teachers are overwhelmingly positive about the system and say that they learn a lot from their colleagues. Being chosen to volunteer to be observed is considered an honour. All parties therefore benefit from such sessions.

There will, f course, always be critics and sceptics. In this case they say that these sessions are much too short to be of any value. They also think that the very fact that no feedback or official reports are submitted negates any positive outcome a session may have had. They say that the system can only work if it is formalized and compulsory. Supporters obviously strongly disagree with these views.

Nobody will deny the fact that the entire education system is facing many unique challenges. Efforts to improve the quality of teaching should therefore be lauded. Observation sessions have been proven to help and should therefore be supported. It does not require much funding and if it improves the quality of education, then it should be promoted on a wide front.

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