Instructional Rounds to Foster Growth: A Process, not an Event

Instructional Rounds to Foster Growth: A Process, not an Event

Todd Tripple Ed. D.


A process, not an event. This is what I keep going back to when thinking about designing effective professional learning experiences. Events absolutely have a place in a systematic approach to professional learning. However, how do we ensure the learning continues throughout the year? Instructional Rounds are a way to provide this job-embedded, relevant, ongoing professional learning.


What are Instructional Rounds?

Instructional Rounds occur when groups of teachers visit classrooms to observe an identified problem of practice or essential question. Instructional Rounds are not synonymous with evaluations/walkthroughs. In an evaluation or walkthrough, the teacher is the learner and receives feedback on his/her practice from their evaluator. This feedback is designed to help the teacher grow in his/her craft. In the Instructional Round format, the observers are the learners. These non-evaluative learning observations provide an opportunity for participants to learn and apply knowledge with a community of learners in an effort to systematically enhance the learning experience for students.


Who participates in Instructional Rounds?

The beauty of Instructional Rounds is anyone can participate. Remember, rounds are about systematic learning. The more people participating, the more systematic learning taking place. In our district, we have had teachers, teacher leaders, building administrators and district administrators all participate in Instructional Rounds. Having various stakeholders involved has created a common understanding and vocabulary. When we talk about the practices we observed, each person involved in the Instructional Rounds are all on the same page.


How do Instructional Rounds work?

To improve the probability of success with Instructional Rounds, it is important to spend some time planning for the experience. First, it is important to define a Problem of Practice. Richard Elmore (2016), author of Instructional Rounds in Education refers to a problem of practice as “Something that would make a difference for student learning if we improved it” (p. 102). Establishing the problem of practice helps define the time spent in the observation. There is simply too much happening in a classroom to observe everything in a 10-15 minute visit. Defining the problem of practice helps observers focus on a key teaching practice, which serves as the focus of post-observation discussion.

After a problem of practice has been determined, it is important to identify who will serve as group facilitators. The role of the facilitator is to help the Instructional Rounds process move smoothly. The facilitator leads the pre-observation conference, guides participants through the observations, keeps track of time, and leads the group debrief upon completion of the observations. Below is a sample Instructional Rounds structure.


Why Instructional Rounds?

Instructional Rounds require pre-planning and resources, however, the benefits received are well worth the effort. Whether observing a classroom management technique, instructional practice, or a component of a new curricular adoption, Instructional Rounds provide a structure for job-embedded, ongoing and relevant professional learning. In a time of budget constraints, rounds provide answers and support without leaving the building.


Sample Structure:
Total Time: approximately 90 minutes

  • Time can be adjusted to meet your specific needs and time constraints.

Pre-Observation Conference (10 minutes)

  • The pre-observation meeting sets the stage for the observations. The facilitator can provide information on the classes to be observed and provide a reminder of the problem of practice. Transition to Classes (2 minutes)

Observations (45 minutes)

  • It is important to see multiple classes during Instructional Rounds. A 10-15 minute observation is sufficient when a problem of practice has been identified.  Transition to Debrief Area (2 minutes)

Post-Observation Debrief (30 minutes)

  • During the post-observation, the facilitator leads the group through a discussion about the observations. The discussion should focus on the established problem of practice. It may be helpful to have some discussion questions scripted for the debrief conversation.




Todd Tripple is the Director of Staff Development & Instructional Improvement for Millard Public Schools. He can be reached at:




City, E. A., Elmore, R. F., Fiarman, S. E., & Teitel, L. (2016). Instructional Rounds in

Education: A network approach to improving teaching and learning. Cambridge

(Massachusetts): Harvard Education Press.

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