I’ve attended and facilitated a lot of professional learning in my career as a teacher and instructional coach. Without question, the most consistently effective professional learning has come from collegial intervisitation.
There’s an undeniable relevance to being in another teacher’s classroom. Every teacher teaches differently: Some teachers do big things differently, like teaching trigonometry before polynomials, or never collecting or reviewing homework. Some teachers do small things differently, like always correcting the statement “A triangle has 180 degrees”, or using a random number generator to call on students.
However they manifest in a classroom, experiencing those differences has an immediate impact on an observing teacher. Maybe you’ll see technique or strategy you’ll want to try. Or maybe something you see will make you think more deeply about your own approach. Intervisitation is so effective because every observation of another teacher is really an observation of yourself. You can’t help but reflect on your practice.
I’ve found intervisitation especially useful during remote learning. Simply experiencing remote teaching from the other side has been invaluable: What’s it like to try to do math virtually? How does it feel to sit in a breakout room? And it’s been very helpful seeing how different teachers try to solve the same problems, like how to properly present mathematics, how to get students engaged, and how to gain access to their thinking.
After a round of intervisitations, our geometry course team had conversations that were both enlightening and heartening. We saw the different ways in which we were each finding success, and the similar ways in which we were all struggling. Teaching is an isolating job, but those common struggles unite us. And we have a better chance of overcoming them together than on our own.