Many schools use protocols, or structured conversations, to support collaboration, reflection, and problem-solving among teachers. Protocols guide a process of observation and reflection; they “constrain participation in order to heighten it” (McDonald, 2007, p. ix) and support insight, honesty, curiosity and respect among participants (McDonald, 2007).
Some schools use protocols primarily for reflecting upon and improving their assessment of student learning. Other schools use protocols to periodically describe and deepen their understanding of a particular child. While some protocols center on specific issues such as literacy development, others are aimed at improving teaching practice through improved communication and collaboration among teachers.
The Collaborative Assessment Conference protocol used by the Teacher Round Table aims to “encourage conversation among teachers about what the work shows and how they can act individually and collectively on what it shows in order to benefit their students” (McDonald, 2007, pp. 80-81).
Professional Learning Communities (PLC) and Critical Friends’ Groups (CFG) are proven to be a successful model for effecting school improvement. In fact, for numerous states (including Vermont, California, Arkansas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, New York and Louisiana), establishing Professional Learning Communities is the primary intervention-response for schools not meeting the benchmark for Annual Yearly Progress according to NCLB.
A Professional Learning Community is described by DuFour (2002) as having 5 dimensions: supportive and shared leadership, shared values and vision, collective learning and application, supportive conditions, and shared practice. The work of the Teacher Round Table offers a process that creates opportunities for collective learning, shared leadership, and supportive conditions. It also provides an alternative to standardized assessments, complementing breadth with depth.