Instructional rounds have begun in the Fort Dodge Community School District.
Robert Hughes, FDCSD assistant superintendent, compares the administrative effort to the rounds done routinely by doctors at a hospital.
"You bring your specialists together and rotate around to visit classrooms to see what type of classroom instruction is going on, how the kids are engaged and the core instruction is being delivered," he said.
After a series of observations, looking specifically at the practices or strategies being used in the classrooms, administrators brainstorm on which techniques are most effective and engaging to the students, Hughes said, in order to increase the effectiveness of the instruction.
"We pose reflective questions, at that point, that hopefully engages the teaching staff in trying to further those strategies or practices so that student achievement is improved by improved instructional practices," he said.
This districtwide conversation is being facilitated with help from Jeff Herzberg, Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency director.
"That, for the administrative team, really allows us to mix a group up in different manners so the interactions are more meaningful across levels, from elementary to middle school to high school, and also the central office staff, the curriculum director, myself, the superintendent, have a better understanding of what's going on in daily practice," Hughes said.
The rounds have already begun at Fort Dodge Senior High. For half a day, 16 classrooms in session were observed for 20 minutes, Hughes said, for a sense of what is going on in instruction and to see how students are engaged.
"It's very important that when we go into classrooms that we're not being judgmental, but rather that we're being as descriptive as we can be of the practices we're seeing," he said.
Afterward, the administrators return to ruminate on what they observed, Hughes said.
"We come back together and we process," he said. "Here's what we saw, here are the questions it raises for us, and here are the questions we would pose back to the staff so they can be self-reflective to find ways in which to improve their instruction or request further support."
These rounds will take place in every building in the district throughout the school year, Hughes said.
"We will have four different visits where we go to classrooms as a large group," he said. "It's quite a commitment to bring those 14 administrators together to review that process."
District administrators hope this effort will further enhance the quality of education in the Fort Dodge school district and "better meet the needs of individual students," Hughes said.
"It really brings us together as an administrative team to have common understandings and expectations," he said. "It also allows us to do a better alignment of the professional development from our preschool programs all the way through our 12th grade programs, and make sure we build on those processes."
Sue Wood, FDCSD director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, said the rounds will help the district move forward.
"It's a good way for our instructors to work together to come up with criteria for what good instruction looks like in the 21st century," she said.