Walkthroughs And Observations: There Is A Difference
Just read this article about explaining the difference between walkthrough and observations. At my school, we call it the former, but it is more like the latter. Usually, the school leaders will ask the teachers what they want us to look at/for and what we will be observing when we come to a specific class. Is it instruction, the start of the class, group work, individual work or the wrap up of the class. I use a OneNote Class Notebook to take notes when observing. That way the teacher can see my notes right after class. We also have a conversation afterward, based on the observations.
Another variety is, of course, teachers visiting each other’s classes. I have written about it here.
Why you should
There are numerous reasons why principals and school leaders should engage in walkthroughs. I’m including some here:
Frequent five-minute visits focused on specific “look-fors” can give principals valuable information about what’s working—or not working—in their schools.
Teacher sharing of best practices; Increased principal awareness of what is happening in classrooms; Increase in teacher time on task; Better principal understanding of curriculum gaps and inconsistencies; Better principal understanding of professional development needs; Improvement in the quality of student work; Improved quality of conversations about instruction; and Development of a common language around instruction. Source: research report
I am very certain that we as leaders should visit classrooms as often as possible to get a clear idea of what is going on in our schools. Most times we learn something new and are amazed. Here is a picture from geography where the students use a color to indicate their opinion based on facts presented by the teacher. It made for an interesting conversation and also a good way to engage the students.
The most important part to a quality walkthrough is to provide effective feedback to teachers. Regardless of whether the teacher is the most highly qualified educator in the building, all teachers deserve, and should get, administrator feedback. Our profession is great because we are allowed the opportunity to have conversations about how we can be better educators and leaders. Walkthroughs give us a plethora of things to talk about such as student behavior, student engagement, classroom practices and teacher-student relationships. Source: Education Week, Peter DeWitt.
What you should be aware of
Why you should be careful when engaging in walkthroughs. The main point here is to make sure everyone has a clear understanding of why and how. In my school, there have been questions about the reason for a leader to visit a class.
The research suggests that walkthroughs can play a constructive role only when districts make their purpose clear and carry them out in a climate of trust. Many districts and schools can tell tales about walk-throughs that backfired.
Before launching any type of walkthrough process, it is important to ensure that everyone understands how it connects to improvement efforts. This connection should be reflected in the specific data that observers collect, the thoughtfulness and quality of the protocols, and the way the results are used. Checklists focused on surface features are not likely to provide useful information to teachers as they implement new approaches or refine their teaching practices. Districts will not accomplish much by amassing new data unless they train observers well and prepare educators to use the data. Source: ASCD, Educational leadership
My younger cousin is a school teacher and wants to improve his classroom. I am glad that your article mentions the importance of having everyone in the know about the purpose of the walkthrough. I will be sure to send your article to him so that he may take some pointers from it.