There are a couple of ways of looking at continuing education for classroom instructors. There’s the Henry Ford method, which suggests, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”
And then there’s the Marine Corps way: “If you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind.”
Here at the Eagle Rock School, we subscribe to the above-mentioned automaker’s optimistic view and apply it to our own instructors’ commitment to become lifelong learners who are continually improving their craft. In fact, we believe continuing education to be a critical part of becoming — or remaining — a successful educator.
Our School’s instructional specialists and Public Allies Fellows constantly experience being part of a professional community where they are giving and receiving feedback, as well provided with opportunities to reflect on their practice. You can see this professional learning community in action through our instructional meetings, staff workdays at the start and end of each trimester, and conversations between co-teachers.
One specific structure that we use — primarily with our Public Allies Fellows — is a cycle that we refer to as “lesson study.” Other schools might call it by a different name such as “educational rounds.” Our lesson study cycle has three distinct sections:
- Pre-meeting session
- Classroom observation
- de-briefing session
The pre-meeting brings together all of the teachers who will participate in the three-part cycle, and employs a couple of different formats. For instance, we could be learning about a particular instructional concept, such as accessing prior knowledge. Or we could hear an instructor sharing about a lesson that he or she is preparing to teach.
The pre-meeting sets the context for the lesson that everyone will observe. Participants leave this session prepared with key concepts and questions for which they will observe.
The second step of the cycle is the classroom observation. For 45 minutes to an hour, a small group of three to six instructors will observe one of their colleagues teaching. The observers will practice making low-inference observations, focusing on whatever area was discussed in the pre-meeting.
The last step of the cycle is the de-briefing. Just as we know how vital it is for students to reflect upon their learning, educators need time to reflect upon a learning experience in order to impact their practice. The teacher who was observed is part of the debriefing, receiving feedback and participating in the group reflection.
We see lesson study as a key structure for supporting good instructional practice and growth at Eagle Rock. And because we’re a licensure site for teachers, Fellows and instructional specialists who don’t yet possess a public school teaching license can earn that license through the work they perform at Eagle Rock.
As we consider the key skills we want future educators to be learning, we believe the most important skill is being able to continually learn and improve one’s teaching practice. Lesson study provides a model and experience on how to be a lifelong learner as an educator.