Quality Teaching Rounds: Talking about great teaching

Quality Teaching Rounds, developed by Jenny Gore and Julie Bowe, involves teachers working in professional learning communities (PLCs) of four or more to observe and analyse each other’s teaching (Bowe & Gore, 2017) a. The QTR is a protocol using a set of “good teaching practice” criteria with which a lesson is “coded” and then discussed by a group of three or four teachers. The three dimensions and 18 elements are grouped in three domains of good pedagogy: Intellectual Quality, Quality Learning Environment and Significance.

How it works:

A group of four teachers (three could work, but four is optimal) observe a lesson by one of the group. The three observers “code” the lesson using the Quality Teaching criteria. After the lesson, the group of four get together and discuss the lesson. The discussion is not an appraisal of the teacher; it is about discussing the elements of good teaching.

Below are my notes of an excellent two day PD I was lucky enough to attend b, guided by Professor Jenny Gore. She was insightful, interesting and showed us how the QTR model is one of the few ways in which teachers can have safe and constructive discussions based on lesson observations.

I have blogged about Jenny Gore’s QTR before, but at that time, I didn’t fully get how useful and great this protocol actually is. Now I do, and I can’t wait to start working with it at my school. Here is the blog post from June 2016.


What are Quality Teaching Rounds?

  • It’s a positive, respectful experience
  • It’s a framework with which to affirm teachers
  • It’s about the teaching, not about the person
  • It’s about the practice of teaching.
  • It’s about the principles that guide teaching.
  • It’s been around for 15 years.
  • It’s about the conversations you have afterwards.
  • It’s the thinking afterwards which changes people.
  • You are not rating your colleague, you are having a conversation about teaching.
  • You use description, not judgement.
  • It’s about a sense of community and commitment
  • focused on the impact of teaching on student learning
  • a respectful, safe forum for discussing practice
  • an opportunity to build professional relationships, trust, and respect
  • an approach to facilitation collegial and inclusive, with all PLC members contributing
    informed by rigorous research
  • an opportunity to enhance our teaching
  • deep discussions built on the Quality Teaching mode impactful, improving teaching quality and teacher morale

Quality teaching rounds, what it isn’t:

  • It’s not about the coding or the numbers
  • It’s not a teacher appraisal system
  • It’s not about critiquing a lesson, it’s talking about teaching
  • an inspection focused on the teacher
  • a scoring exercise focused on numbers
  • a performance appraisal dominated by one member of the PLC
  • a fad or gimmick
  • expensive, especially given their demonstrated impact

The Themes of QTR:

  • Safety, Trust
  • Value of being in each other’s classrooms
  • Value of common language about good teaching.

“Coding” a lesson

This is what a ‘Coding sheet’ looks like. The numbers in green are what the researchers in the room gave the lesson, the other numbers are what I scored it. In a way it doesn’t matter what the scores are. QTR is about quantifying and codifying good practice and then having in-depth conversations afterwards.

My general notes from the sessions with Jenny Gore:

  • Groups of four works well.
  • Protocol: Each person takes the lead on one of the elements. Take it in turns. Wait your turn.
  • Teachers are often harsher on themselves than academics are on the teachers.
  • Just the fact that something was coded a 5 does not mean it’s perfect.
  • Order rests on activities rather than rules
  • Metalanguage in the QTis language about language.
  • Writing rubrics is really difficult, there is a science to it. Teachers play linguistic and semantic gymnastics.
  • Knowledge is open to questioning. Sometimes teaching can oversimplify knowledge.
  • The three dimensions are what matters.
  • You don’t expect to see every element.
  • What is the diff between deep knowledge and deep understanding? You can bring deep knowledge to a lesson but students can walk out with a shallow understanding. TWO are students addressing key concepts and key ideas. Can we draw out the big ideas?
  • Deep knowledge: What do you want them to learn? Often it is just “content”, but is that what you want them to learn? What are the big ideas?
  • Getting to deeper knowledge: Ask “What do you want them to learn?” several times: “I am teaching about the Rain forest” > Deeper > structure of the rain forest > Deeper> ecology of the rain forest > Deeper > having respect for ecology. (Or ask: So what?)
  • Problematic knowledge = TOK, there are multiple answers
  • Most PLCs take 18 months to mature.
  • Minimum of three in a QTR group. 8 days of QTR days a year.
  • You either tell or show.
  • If you don’t show them what a good one looks like #WAGOLL, the ones who will succeed are the ones who are already succeeding.
  • Jeff Layton: The kids sink to the occasion (but they can also rise to the occasion)
  • Teaching is sooo complex, there is no one way to do it.
  • Engagement = a serious investment in classwork.
  • We need to have high expectations for student learning. It needs to be challenging for them.
  • Social support: a class has to be a safe space, where students treat each other respectfully, where contributions are valued.
  • Most teachers don’t know how good they are.
  • It’s not about changing a whole lesson, it is about tweaking it.
  • There’s very little PD which fundamentally changes or impacts on the WAY we teach.
  • Experienced teachers may get better at a whole lot of stuff, but do they get better at teaching itself? Not necessarily.

Interesting links for me to read and consider:

  1. https://research.acer.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1336&context=research_conference  (back)
  2. On the 25th and 26th of February 2020, at Lauriston Girls’ School  (back)