Walkthroughs can be an effective way to observe instruction and to provide feedback to staff. In this blog, I will share some thoughts on what needs to be in place to launch an effective walk through program and seven mistakes to be aware of.
Walkthroughs work best when there is a good professional relationship between administrators and teachers. So, let’s assume that you have positive relationships with your teachers and other administrators. What are some key elements that make for great walk through experiences for all staff?
Collaborate With Staff
Administrators should work with staff to create key focus areas for walkthrough observations because focus areas bring clarity to walk through visits for administration and teachers. I am a proponent of establishing focus areas with faculty VS telling staff this is what we will do. To start the process of creating focus areas staff can look at data from the previous year, read articles and books on best practice in education to find focus points for the year ahead. The key is to not create too many; I suggest three to six focus points for the year. These focus points will be the topics of meetings, book study, article study, peer discussion, and class walk through.
Some Focus Areas
- As an example here are four focus areas my staff worked on:
- Engagement vs Compliance
- Learning Targets
- Higher Level Oral Questioning
- Effective Exit Passes
When I do walkthroughs staff know I will be focusing on the look for’s that we established as a learning community. I no longer have a veil of mystery of why I am in a class or what I am looking for.
My goal is to improve teaching and learning. Walkthroughs allow me to provide same day feedback to staff. This can be either a brief conversation or email to discuss what went well, what might be changed, who the lesson worked for, and who it did not.
Positives & Pitfalls
Walk through observations done with clarity of purpose and all understanding why they are done have the potential to build trust and create opportunities for feedback, conversation, and growth. They can improve teaching and learning. But done wrong, walkthroughs can also hurt efforts to improve teaching and learning. What follows are seven ways to ruin your walkthroughs efforts.
- Avoiding building trust between teachers and administrators; a guarantee that walkthroughs will not work.
- Completing walkthroughs when staff has no clue why the administration is doing them results in developing a divisive, gotcha school culture.
- Never letting staff know when walkthrough observations will occur.
- Inviting others to do walkthroughs who no one on your staff knows.
- Giving no feedback to teachers after completing walkthroughs.
- Making a walkthrough visit evaluative.
- Huddling in the corner with other administrators outside a class where you just did a walk through and looking very serious or angry.
Good planning, communication, professionalism and a commitment to building trust while improving are critical to launching effective classroom walkthrough observations. Invest time in doing them right and you have an additional strategy to improve instruction and learning. Do them wrong, and you will hurt your leadership and put a wedge between you and staff.
Make the right choice!