According to the work of Elizabeth City, Richard Elmore, Sarah Fiarman, and Lee Teitel in their book Instructional Rounds in Education, A Network Approach to Improving Teaching and Learning, the debrief is a time to reflect on practice, discuss observations, analyze work, and grow from it. Three simple steps are described to accomplish this.
Taking the time to describe what the observed realized from his or her observation is an important but easily skipped first step. It is necessary to describe the recorded data by starting with questions. Each teacher needs time to reflect upon and gain more understanding about the observations that were made.
Through this intentional study and discussion, observers will also learn more about the practice of making observations, while the observed will realize what others see in his or her classroom.
Next, careful analysis should occur. The group may look for patterns. Patterns may exist in teacher language, student language, questioning techniques, space configuration, the role of the student, instructional modes, or student engagement levels.
The observers may also notice patterns in the way they recorded their own notes compared to another’s style.
After careful analysis, the group should predict how the task and teacher’s instruction relate to the learning. What are students learning? How do we know if they are learning it? This will bring awareness to areas for improvement. The group is challenged to predict the specific behaviors of students and teachers which promote or inhibit learning.
Finally, identify the work that needs to be done. Considering current initiatives and available resources, a detailed plan of improvement should be agreed upon. The book suggests exploring the following questions, which I am pleased to say that Mount Vernon can answer “yes!” to each:
- Do the hosts have common planning time? (Our teachers meet at least weekly, some daily, as a grade-level team along with our Director of Teacher and Learning)
- Are faculty meetings used for professional learning? (Faculty meetings are always used for professional learning. This year we have explored assessment through the essential question, “How might we accurately communicate student achievement and promote more learning?”)
- Do teachers have a formal means for communicating across grades? (Every teacher is involved with at least one Research and Design Team with representatives PS-12 who focus on innovative practice in each discipline.)
- Have all of the faculty members received training? (All teachers in Lower School, to varying degrees, have received UbD, Project Zero, Design Thinking, Orton-Gillingham, Number Talks and Algebraic Thinking Investigatory Math trainings.)
We are reminded that improvement occurs (in students and teachers) when ideas and feedback are specific. We must push each other for detailed suggestions. The debrief is not about “fixing” the problem. It is about developing clarity around what a rigorous and relevant learning environment looks like. Then making a plan to become one.