Open Classroom Days

In order to make classroom visits a bit easier, I started the ‘open classroom days’ this year. Sometime in week 3 of each term, for two days, teachers are asked to either leave their door open or put a ‘welcome’ post-it note on their door. Colleagues are then allowed to pop in for a few minutes to observe the class. The rules for our latest iteration were:

We have been using Ron Ritchhart ‘Eight cultural forces that define our classrooms’ when we were involved in the ‘cultures of thinking’ program. These 8 categories are also very suitable as lenses for classroom observation.
Here are the aims of the Open Classroom Days:

A few dot points on how it went so far:

  • The idea was generally received positively, although there seemed to be a difference between ‘the idea of it’ and actual practical participation. Staff were very welcoming and flexible about having colleagues coming to visit them.
  • A lot of staff expressed that they like the idea but they were simply too busy to visit other classrooms. This is understandable of course. If you have class for 5 out 6 periods, you need that one period to prepare, organise, eat and regroup.
  • Some staff seemed wary that this was the ‘thin edge of the wedge’ towards appraisal.
  • The ‘learning walks’ were very successful. Small groups of about 3 or 4 people visited 4 or 5 classrooms in one hour. Below is what we looked out for and what we discussed briefly after the walk:
    • Three key cultures forces: Opportunities, Interactions, Environment. 
      These are non-judgemental observations. Through observing others, we reflect on our own teaching.

        1. What do you notice about interactions in the classroom (i.e.. Between students and teachers and between students).
        2. What learning opportunities do you notice?
        3. What do you notice about the learning environment.
        4. How do you relate these observations to your own teaching?
  • It is important to notify the student body of the Open Classroom Days so that they understand why groups of teachers are coming in. It also models that we are all life-long learners, just like them.
  • Some staff did not seem keen on visiting classrooms. These open classroom days are as much about culture building as they are about classroom observation and professional development. I believe that getting a critical mass going will eventually lead to more reticent staff to also give it a go.

Visiting five classrooms in an hour is inspirational, invigorating and positive. It shows how wonderful our teachers and students are and shows the huge variety of different learning that goes on in our classrooms.