The Rounds Model of Professional Development
The concept of "rounds" comes from the training model used in teaching hospitals, in which interns and a teaching doctor together visit patients, and review, discuss, and do research relevant to each case. We have adapted this concept as part of our overall effort to engage teachers and prospective teachers in reflective and productive dialogue on children's learning and corresponding teaching practice. It helps fulfill our general goal of building a professional learning community which acknowledges and respects a teacher's experience, and which views adult learning, no less than children's, as a continuous process. It likewise meets our idea of a professional learning culture focused on understanding and enhancing the teaching-learning process in its actual context.
Our version of rounds engages small groups of teachers and/or student teachers and/or teacher educators and liberal arts faculty in understanding the teaching-learning process at work within a particular learning group at a particular point in time. A professional development round is pre-arranged. The rounds group receives an orientation regarding the classroom activity from the host teacher(s), observes and/or participates in it in some well-defined way, and reflects and discusses it afterwards. A round might focus on a particular area of teaching practice, on a particular approach in implementing a particular curriculum, on understanding children's learning process and knowledge-building in a particular context, or on all three of these domains of classroom activity at once. A round might also serve simply as a way to share and reflect on one's teaching practice with colleagues, an opportunity to develop meaningful conversation about teaching and learning and educational purposes through shared experience.
What distinguishes a "round" from other professional development activity is that it occurs in the actual context of teaching and learning, it draws on and encourages investigation and reflection on teachers' and learners' experience, it provides a shared experience as a basis for conversation, and it brings to bear interactively the different perspectives of different participants in the reflection process. Its meaningfulness lies in the collaborative way in which it involves teachers as professional and adult learners, and particularly in its direct relation to teachers' experience and practice, and, in turn, to the children to whom teachers are dedicated. It builds professional community through processes of inquiry and reflection.
In our professional development school collaborative, "rounds" have become more and more a customary and expected part of professional learning. They reflect a shift in the professional learning culture of these schools - a shift towards more collaborative relationships, towards reflective dialogue, research, and study, and towards a process of open, active, and continuous expansion of professional knowledge. In such developing "learning-centered" schools, adults, no less than children, strive to learn how to learn together and how to make their learning continuous and fruitful for themselves and their learning community. More information