Teachers at Linden High School and McManus Middle School held professional development sessions recently that were designed for greater collaboration in implementing innovative classroom strategies. Above, McManus teachers Anthony Ventura and Jennifer Pivano deliver a lesson in small groups, as Principal Peter Fingerlin, right, and Tom Dewing of The Thoughtful Classroom observe.
The sessions are called Internal Instructional Rounds, which are modeled on medical rounds where medical students learn through watching patient care in action. In the educational version, one teacher models a lesson and others watch and offer feedback.
“The rounds are a meeting of the minds to determine if the approaches and techniques utilized during instruction are having a positive result with our students,” said Reina Irizarry-Clark, a district instructional coach. “Utilizing internal rounds as a form of professional development allows for greater teacher collaboration, as teacher teams work together to design a lesson, implement the lesson, and receive feedback from one another as they work together to debrief the lesson and determine next steps.”
At Linden High School, teacher Jorge Alvarez modeled a lesson in his psychology class on March 6 using the Interactive Lecture technique, which engages students, helps build strong permanent memories, and deepens comprehension. He teamed up with teacher Anthony Fischetti to teach students about conformity in their everyday lives.
At McManus, social studies teacher Anthony Ventura modeled a lesson the same day using the Reading for Meaning technique in which students are given a statement that they have to prove or disprove by citing sources. Ventura’s statement was that boycotts are not a viable means for change. Students read and watched videos about several historic and recent boycotts, and had to cite evidence to prove or disprove the statement.
“I thought the teacher observation rounds were a unique opportunity to team-teach with colleagues who, although I plan with on a daily basis, never get the opportunity to teach alongside,” Ventura said. “We planned the lesson in team time and all team teachers assisted in the preparation of the lesson, from the grouping of students to assuming roles throughout the lesson.”
The lesson was delivered by Ventura and colleagues Aimee Bass, Jennifer Pivano and Angela Bersin, with students broken up into small groups. Principal Peter Fingerlin, Assistant Superintendent Denise Cleary, and several other teachers observed.
“I thought the lesson was well-received by both students and observers in the room. I enjoyed the opportunity of showing observers how curious my students can be when it comes to learning, particularly when relevance between the past and present has been established.”
After the lessons, teachers gathered to reflect and adjust their lesson design to ensure for better delivery of instruction the next time.
“The debrief allows for all participants including the observers of the instructional round to reflect on their own practice,” Irizarry-Clark said. “It affords the group an opportunity to discuss adjustments to be made during the instruction to enhance student learning.”
The sessions were facilitated by Harvey Silver at LHS and Tom Dewing at McManus. Both are representatives of The Thoughtful Classroom, an educational consultant group that offers research-based classroom strategies for educators.
The instructional rounds are part of ongoing professional development at all grade levels throughout the district. These sessions focus on collaboration among teachers to implement proven techniques that stimulate learning and use data to boost student engagement and achievement. Similar instructional rounds have been done at Soehl Middle School and at the elementary school level.