TEACH/Here Director Cheri Dedmon and I recently attended a three-day Instructional Rounds workshop in Denver with other members of Urban Teacher Residency United network. We were hosted by two different programs in the Denver Region—Denver Teacher Residency and Boettcher Teachers Program. According to the Instructional Rounds model, groups examine a problem of practice together and conduct shared observations in order to collect evidence that addresses that problem of practice. On an annual basis, one of the members of the UTRU network will host the Instructional Rounds and frame a specific problem of practice for the other residencies to examine. Denver Teacher Residency invited us to focus on the impact of host school sites and lead teachers in preparing residents that can teach effectively in any environment. More specifically, they felt like the graduates of their program were struggling when placed in a more challenging school setting than the site where they completed the residency. Boettcher invited us to focus on the indicators of effective mentoring, the recruitment of effective mentors, and the differentiated professional development needed to be an effective mentor.
On our first day, we reconnected with colleagues from across the country—Oakland, Atlanta, Richmond, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Chicago—and received a full review of the Boettcher and Denver programs. On the second day, we headed out to various school sites within Denver to observe teacher/mentor teams at work in their classrooms. We observed co-teaching, sacred meetings between mentor and resident, and interviewed principals about their relationship with the residency program. Late in the second day and continuing into the third, we reviewed the evidence that we collected from the classrooms and constructed feedback on the problems of practice. As is so often true with the inquiry process, one great question only led to another, and we left with many new ideas for improving our program. We will be focusing on aligning our resident assessment tools with our new district framework for evaluation (COACH model) so that we can target resident’s strengths clearly. We will also be critically examining our framework for identifying and nurturing the key characteristics of an effective mentor. We look forward to future use of the Instructional Rounds model both within our own program and at the national level with our UTRU colleagues.