Kevin Bross M’03 was recently named one of TIME Magazine’s 10 Innovative Teachers for his work in implementing instructional rounds at Blaine (Minn.) High School. Modeled on medical rounds performed by doctors, Bross and other teachers observe a classroom teacher and later conduct a debriefing that notes the effective educational practices they observed.

Teachers are given time to incorporate learning into their teaching, then other teachers cycle through to observe them. Finally, scheduled follow-ups ensure these things are going well or determine what a teacher needs to meet his or her goals. It’s all about identifying effective practices by watching, discussing, and repeating the process with different teachers.

“The recognition by TIME reaffirms the work we’re doing, and it’s nice that others see the value,” Bross said. “Instructional rounds are a collaborative effort with lots of people involved, and it makes me want to find ways to share this with other districts and help more students.”

Teaching in his blood

One could argue Bross has teaching and coaching baseball in his blood. Bross’ father taught social studies and served as head baseball coach at Anoka (Minn.) High School, where Bross played for him. Bross later taught social studies and coached the Anoka baseball team – and hired his dad as an assistant coach.

Saint Mary’s played an important role in Bross’ professional growth and development. After earning his bachelor’s degree in education, his dad pushed him to find a master’s program that was challenging, flexible, and could be completed while teaching. After several people recommended Saint Mary’s, he enrolled in the M.Ed. program in 2001.

“There were things that stood out at Saint Mary’s. I had been learning about research that would later become growth mindset theory, the value of feedback, and being challenged. In Tom Born’s summary paper prep class, he showed us two papers. One had minimal feedback, the other had red ink on every line,” adds Bross. “He said we could choose; I decided I wanted mine all marked up.”

Amazing things in classrooms

Bross consciously chose to dive in because he realized to truly grow he needed to be pushed. The feedback was valuable and helped him view teaching through a broader lens. After being a classroom teacher for 14 years, Bross moved to performing teacher evaluations, and believes he grew and benefitted more than the teachers he was there to help.

Amazing things were occurring in classrooms, and although Bross knew observational learning is really powerful, he also knew teachers had no time or structure to see other classrooms. Bross realized he had to figure out ways to get teachers into other classrooms to see great instruction.

“I had read about instructional rounds, I didn’t invent it, and knew the value of observing great instruction. It was a complete collaboration working with others to get this program going, and we have an amazing administrative team,” Bross said. “We identify who’s doing things that are working. We watch them, discuss, and repeat with different teachers. It’s a model for the next group.”

Promoting effective teaching practices

Bross is enthusiastic about providing coaching and support to facilitate effective teaching, and believes instructional rounds improve teaching by allowing the spread of effective teaching practices to rapidly move through a school.

“Our kids deserve the best instruction we can deliver, and I think this is just the tip of the iceberg,” Bross said. “I think we can do more and better, fine tuning and developing innovative practices. We need to keep focusing on what we’re doing and help as many students as possible.

“I would absolutely recommend Saint Mary’s because it provided me the challenge and insights that I needed to grow as an educator,” he added. One more classroom experience Bross really appreciates from his time at Saint Mary’s was meeting his future wife in his very first class. He thanks Saint Mary’s for that and the fact they went through the whole program together.

Story by Tom Brandes

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