Global Perspectives: Taking a Page from Medical Training: Learning Rounds for New Teachers

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by Betsy Brown Ruzzi

Michael DayCIEB Director Betsy Brown Ruzzi interviewed Michael Day, Director of the School of Education and a professor of education at the University of Roehampton in London, about Roehampton’s new “learning rounds” for its teacher education students. Learning rounds are structured visits to schools to observe practicing teachers at their craft. Professor Day is a member of the CIEB International Advisory Board, and was formerly the executive director for the Training and Development Agency (TDA) for Schools in the UK.

The idea of learning rounds comes from medical education where medical students accompany leading physicians as they visit patients, and work with them in out-patient clinics, learning from them “on the job”. Adapting this practice for teacher education is not a new idea: it has been used as both a strategy for providing professional development for teachers and also as a teaching strategy for education students. Prominent examples are: Harvard University School of Education runs an institute on “Instructional Rounds” as a strategy for providing professional development for teachers; ASPIRE, the charter school network, runs its own teacher training program based on the medical residency model using learning rounds as a key teaching mode; and outside of the US, it is also being used by the University of Glasgow’s School of Education, where the University has partner schools piloting “learning rounds” for teacher trainees.

Betsy Brown Ruzzi: How are new teachers trained in England?

Michael Day: In England, individuals wanting to become primary school teachers can pursue a BA in education or can do a one year post-BSc/BA program if they already hold a bachelor’s degree. Secondary school teachers do a one year post-bachelor’s degree program after receiving a BSc/BA in the subject they plan to teach. Toward that end, Roehampton offers three programs all leading to Qualified Teacher Status, the license needed to teach in English schools:

  • A three-year undergraduate program for primary school (age 3-11) teachers leading to a BA Primary Education qualification.  The program combines university-based lectures on subject content and pedagogy with practicums in each of the three years.
  • A one-year Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) program for primary teachers.  Most students have a good quality honors degree in a subject related to the primary curriculum.  The course is 36 weeks, with 24 weeks of this pre-service training taking place in schools.  The time in schools includes training as well as teaching practice. Some schools sponsor trainees through the School Direct program (see below).  The course includes our learning rounds program.
  • A one-year PGCE for secondary teachers, also 36 weeks long with 24 weeks taking place in schools.  We offer this program with the School Direct program for secondary teachers and jointly negotiated a new curriculum and mode of delivery for the program, which includes learning rounds.

 
Betsy Brown Ruzzi: Before we hear about how the learning rounds work, can you tell us what the School Direct Program is?

Michael Day: School Direct is a government program that gives schools funding for pre-service teacher education and training and allows schools to “commission” a provider to do training for a candidate they select. It was put in place in 2011. The rationale for the program was two fold: 1) to remove the inefficiency of a double selection process with universities choosing candidates for their programs and then schools choosing among those graduates who they want to hire; and 2) to give schools more power in terms of influencing the shape and content of training.

Betsy Brown Ruzzi: What happened after School Direct was put in place?

Michael Day: Introducing School Direct was a major challenge for schools. The original idea was that they should bid for the number of training places needed to fill the teacher vacancies they were expecting to have to fill the following year. But many bid for more in the hope of creating a ‘pool’ from which they could select the best.  Then, essentially, schools found it difficult to select candidates for teaching. They found it easier to select a teacher to hire from among a large group of trained teachers than to select a young person without training and invest their own resources in training them. For the last two years, only 60 percent of School Direct “places” have been filled in teacher training, and the situation seems to be getting worse as schools become increasingly selective, and leave many of their places unfilled. There is now a major teacher shortage in the UK after three years of under recruitment. This is a real shame after the UK overcame a major teaching shortage 15 years ago through huge investments in teacher recruiting.

Betsy Brown Ruzzi: What happened at your university since School Direct was put in place?

Michael Day: First, the government cut substantially the number of PGCE places it allocated to us, and other universities, to create the pool of places to allocate to schools through School Direct. Our partner schools bid to the government for places and, when these had been allocated, we negotiated training packages with groups of schools, led by our Teaching Schools, and with individual schools.

The primary schools we traditionally partner with let the university continue to provide pre-service training for their School Direct primary school teachers. The response from our secondary school partners was more mixed – ranging from those that were happy to ‘sponsor’ trainees on our PGCE, to those that wanted to deliver the bulk of the training themselves. Initially, we looked to take a market competitive position of being as flexible as possible. But the issue for the university was that we still carried the quality assurance risk for the training program. In our first year, the schools that wanted to deliver the bulk of the training had a hard time delivering on the training they planned to do. In some cases, the feedback from students was that they did not get adequate time with the teachers. Some schools seemed to be almost overwhelmed by running so much of the program, as it was not something they were organized to do. In some cases, they had bid for enough places to cover the cost of creating the capacity to run the program, but the actual allocation fell short and they then struggled to fund the capacity they needed.

So we decided to rethink what we were doing with the schools. Our Head of Secondary Teacher Training and her team jointly negotiated with them the design of a new pre-service program. They brought all the students together from the different types of training they were in and co-created a new program. Learning Rounds and Professional Studies Hubs are part of this new program. These are ways of structuring experiences at the school where trainees learn from master teachers. We created criteria for how these are done and asked the schools to “bid” on providing these services. The criteria for providing these services include releasing excellent ‘master’ teachers to fulfill these activities.

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Betsy Brown Ruzzi: Can you tell us more about what the Learning Rounds and Professional Studies Hubs are and what the differences are between them?

Michael Day: Students participate in Learning Rounds by subject groups. The students visit four different schools for one day each. They are briefed about what will happen in the classroom. They then observe teaching and, in most cases, participate in the teaching. The day concludes with a de-brief session and follow-up discussions.  Each day is focused on an issue such as lesson planning, assessment, or differentiation in instruction. The goal is to allow the students to see how excellent teachers in their subject area teach the national curriculum. In the UK, we have a national curriculum in each subject that ends with the General Secondary Education Examinations (GCSE )exams, which measure how well you have learned the curriculum.

Professional Studies Hubs teach students general pedagogy skills. Students are not divided by subjects groups. This program is 14 days long, seven in the university and seven in schools. Each day covers a different issue and includes a lecture linked to research, followed by watching an outstanding teacher demonstrate a technique, followed by the students trying it, followed by a de-brief.

Betsy Brown Ruzzi: How are the teachers who lead the Learning Rounds and Professional Studies Hubs selected and trained?

Michael Day: The university subject tutors identify subject departments in partner schools which demonstrate innovative and excellent practice. The schools then select the teachers in those departments to facilitate rounds, as part of the bids they submit. Our schools know which teachers are good for these roles. School heads (principals) observe teachers as part of the regular evaluation process. The university provides training for mentor teachers. This is multi-day training plus these mentors are allowed access to on-line training resources at the university.

Betsy Brown Ruzzi: Where did you get the idea for Learning Rounds?

Michael Day: From my time at the TDA I had been keen to follow examples from medical education of expecting senior expert practitioners to support the training of the next generation of teachers. At the same time, our government, and our House of Commons Education Select Committee, became interested in the lessons we could learn from Singapore about creating ‘master’ teachers to lead training. More generally, I was interested in developing a way for trainee teachers to learn from the best teachers not the newest teachers. Traditionally in UK schools, the first “management” task a new teacher is asked to take on is mentoring new teachers.

But it proved difficult to get our schools to give sufficient priority to training in the workloads of their best teachers. Ali Messer, Head of Secondary School Teacher Training, and her team drew on the work on learning rounds by James Conroy at the University of Glasgow, Matt O’Leary at Birmingham City University, and others, to devise this solution to give trainee teachers exposure to the best teachers in our partner schools.

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Betsy Brown Ruzzi: How has this experience impacted the schools?

Michael Day: I think this is making schools much keener to use good teachers for training new teachers. It is also reviving interest in more practice-based master’s -level work. At Roehampton, we are now collaborating with practicing teachers to recruit our trainees and teach our education courses. The students really like having practicing teachers and it “enlivens” the whole faculty.

The experience is also making both the schools and universities appreciate working more closely on training new teachers. Traditionally, teachers spent time at the university and then they went off and spent time at schools as part of their practicum. The learning rounds help prepare students for the practicum.

Betsy Brown Ruzzi: How are you measuring success for Learning Rounds and Study Hubs?

Michael Day: We are early in the implementation of this program. We are now just starting our third year. Up until now, we have included questions about the learning rounds/professional hubs on our exit surveys of students and have received very positive feedback.

Betsy Brown Ruzzi: What has been the response to the program?

Michael Day: Very strong.  Schools are keen to participate and have worked hard to develop the joint program.  We really appreciate the expertise of their teachers, and the quality of the contributions they can make.  Co-creation of the program has helped build much stronger university/school partnerships and ‘buy-in’ from schools.