Learning Rounds in Lithuania March 2015

lr2 lr3 lr4In May 2014, following discussions with TGA team members, a colleague (Catriona Oates) and I were invited to talk to a group of Scottish and Lithuanian teachers in Edinburgh about the Learning Rounds model of professional learning.[1] We were interested in the potential of the model to promote the TGA aim of building teachers’ confidence and capacity to incorporate citizenship into their teaching. We also hoped that participation in Learning Rounds would promote a shared understanding of the importance of a values-led approach in the classroom, and help educators consider how they might begin to evaluate this. Finally, we hoped that by taking part in this internationally valued programme, Global Ambassadors would be better equipped to lead global learning in their schools and communities.

Our optimism in this regard arose from a number of the distinguishing characteristics of the Learning Rounds model. These included the democratic nature of the approach which involves teachers learning from teachers, the emphasis on describing learning rather than judging teaching, the requirement for group observation in order to inform learning and the focus on the learning experience of the pupils.  The model which originated in Boston, USA is now popular in Scotland as a support for school self-evaluation and improvement planning.

Last year’s presentation was well-received and promoted lots of discussion. As a consequence, the TGA Project team offered further support to those present in terms of running a Learning Rounds in their own school. The Lithuanian teachers in particular were very interested in this concept, and a suggestion was made that perhaps I could travel to Kaunas to train a small group of TGA teachers, and to lead the very first Lithuanian Learning Rounds.

Further discussions with TGA and JKC in Kaunas allowed us to identify a host school (the Kauno Jono ir Petro Vileisiu Mokykla – Daugiafunkcis Centras) and a further 3 local schools who were keen for their teachers to participate.  A total of eight teachers were brought together for the training event on March 18th 2015.  Over the course of a day we revisited the key principles of Learning Rounds and examined the practice. The host school had already established the theme of “classroom relationships” as the focus for the next day’s observations, and we spent some time considering what we would be able to see and what evidence we might be able to gather if classroom relationships were working well.

We also spent time on the very important question of “So what?” considering what outcomes we believed should emerge from the Learning Rounds experience for those teacher present, and also for their colleagues.

We started Day 2 with a discussion in our two observation groups. It was very helpful that the host School Director joined one of the groups and participated in the observations. We then saw a total of 4 lessons each, following the Learning Rounds pattern of short, focused interwoven observations.

Each of the groups then discussed what they had seen on their class visits, and we came together to record what the teachers had learned about the learning experience of the pupils in the school. Our key questions were, “Did we see learning happen?”, “How did we know learning was happening?”, “What did the pupils do/say that promoted learning?”, “What did the teachers do/say that promoted learning?”. As this was a pilot, and intended to develop the skills and confidence of all of the teachers involved, it was very helpful that the observed teachers were able to join this conversation. A very animated discussion followed on strategies and actions that the participating teachers felt could be considered at individual and at school level to bring about improvement.

The day ended with a strong endorsement of the model and of the value of the learning that had occurred. There was a commitment by all of those present to take this forward as participators and as leaders.

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Some reflections

I was anxious as to the impact of my inability to speak or understand Lithuanian on the quality of the experience. The teachers coped excellently, and with some peer-to-peer translation and the service of Greta Gedgaudaite of JKC who had translated the slides and handouts that I had sent over earlier, and offered a first-rate interpretation service, we managed. In previous Learning Rounds I have observed that an outside person, who can ask key questions, and raise difficult issues is invaluable. My lack of Lithuanian meant that I was not able to be as helpful in this regard as I would have wished.

Because of the timing of the Learning Rounds and the nature of the population of the school, our observations were limited to only four classes, and these were fairly formal settings. It would have enhanced the learning, I think, if we had seen a wider range of classes, including practical learning, such as Physical Education, Art and Design, Science, etc.

We all agreed that this should be viewed as a pilot. In this guise it certainly created

interest, with a strong commitment to seeking ways to maximise the impact of the learning on school improvement.  In part this success certainly benefitted from the highly motivated, lively, committed teachers who formed this first Learning Rounds.

If the model is to be further rolled out in Lithuania, consideration should be given to the leadership of the project. My experience of leading Learning Rounds in Scotland is that is very helpful when the model has a passionate, committed champion to push it forward. Too often, those who have it “assigned” to them can feel overwhelmed by what can appear complex, and so progress in establishing the first Rounds can be slow. This seldom outlives the first event however, when the energy and experience of high quality learning means subsequent Learning Rounds become much easier. It would be good if the group who attended the recent training could be encouraged and supported in leading the model in their own workplaces, for example by establishing themselves as a learning circle.

I began this adventure wondering if Learning Rounds would “work” in Lithuania and if it could help promote the TGA aim ”to build teachers’ confidence and capacity to incorporate Global Citizenship into their teaching, enable them to support pupils to become ‘active global citizens’ and to lead on Global Citizenship activities within their schools and local authorities”. I believe we have made a useful start with this pilot. I hope that the shared experience has created a learning community among the Lithuanian participators, and this will be enlarged to include the Scottish teachers who are planning to run their own Learning Rounds in the weeks ahead. It will be very useful to bring together the two groups at a future date to compare experiences and to build a community of practice around the model.

Margaret Alcorn

March 2015

[1] See the Appendix 1 –  outline for the May 2014 presentation