Book Review                                       Online Exclusive


Instructional Rounds in Action 

by John E. Roberts, Harvard Education Press, Cambridge, Mass., 2012, 200 pp., $49.95 hardcover, $26.95 softcover


Instructional Rounds in Action documents the instructional improvement efforts of Lakeside Public Schools (a pseudonym for an actual school system) as it implements the instructional rounds process in its high schools.

Author John Roberts, with background as a middle school teacher and charter school assistant director, has taught in Harvard’s Programs in Professional Education, including at the Instructional Rounds Institute at the Graduate School of Education. He distills a substantial amount of experience into a highly readable book — part action research, part guidebook — that delivers an accurate and critical portrayal of a game-changing cultural shift regarding continuous learning and school improvement.

The author follows Sofia, Lakeside Public Schools’ instructional rounds facilitator, as she and her colleagues practice instructional rounds to focus learning for their teachers. The author takes the reader through the central office’s introduction of instructional rounds, implementation, implementation problems and potential solutions to these challenges.

At its core, the book asks: What kinds of broad organizational problems get activated during instructional rounds, and how does a system reorganize to manage those problems under conditions that previously made triage, rather than learning, a rational choice?

Roberts provides great narrative on how the district initially organized rounds and what these rounds actually entailed. Highly interesting was the book’s frank examination of the differing perspectives educators had about the reason they were doing instructional rounds. The writing approach provided a sort of fish bowl for the reader to observe an initial implementation enabled a real sense of how tensions are generated when student learning issues emerge that may actually stem from teacher practice. The reader experiences teacher discussions and Sofia’s reflections.

An implementation like this is never without challenges, and Sofia delves deeper in to supporting a move from triage to adult learning and thinks about actionable solutions. Through Sofia, the author provides perspectives on future challenges and also summarizes lessons learned and ongoing dilemmas.

This book gives excellent practical knowledge about the instructional rounds process. If the reader has little or no background knowledge, this book will provide it. If the reader has background knowledge and is seeking an implementation guide, this book illustrates it. If the reader is in the midst of implementation and needs a framework by which to reflect upon the implementation, this book will help structure such reflection and would make an excellent book study for a team. Whatever stage your district or school is at regarding instructional rounds, this book will make you rethink your current practices for evaluating instruction.

Reviewed by Marilyn King, deputy superintendent for instruction, Bozeman Public Schools, Bozeman, Mont.


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