Classroom walkthoughs are a key component to improving and sustaining excellence in schools. However too often administrators observe for teaching when they could be observing for learning. By establishing genuine rapport and building a culture of learning, teachers will be more likely to positively engage in the observation process, and your effectiveness as an administrator will improve.
By promoting objectivity and personal reflection without negative criticism, classroom observations for learning imply a sense of introspection and capacity building rather than telling a teacher what he or she is doing incorrectly. Effective feedback should be concrete, goal-related, and actionable. ‘Good job’ is not feedback at all.
Feedback to a teacher should be constructive and understandable and the sooner the teacher receives the feedback the better. Sending an email of your walkthrough to the teacher is ideal. There should be continuous follow up to ensure and re-enforce that the teacher is growing positively and because students too want feedback with regards to your observations, making comments like “You are very lucky to have a teacher like Mr. Jones” go over well with both the students and your staff.
Like students, teachers need to know and trust you in order to welcome you into their classrooms. Balancing specific feedback with reflective questions is essential. Any question that causes teachers to reflect and has the potential to result in improved classroom learning is a worthy one.
Successful principals use walkthrough observations to engage teachers in conversations about student learning. Often this means capturing ‘Kodak Moments’ – a snapshot of learning. The more they focus on learning – evidence of student learning in classrooms and evidence of teacher learning through the development of a collegial learning community, the stronger their school becomes. The more they engage teachers as learners, the better their classroom practices become. The better their practices become, the higher the learning outcomes they will see demonstrated.
Many principals ask to review the lesson plan they are going to observe. What they look for are the objectives of the lesson, and how the content will be relevant and practical to the students. They also look for a place for post-lesson reflection where the teacher can note whether she or he met their objectives and what they might do differently next time. Reviewing post-lesson reflections of past lessons give a good indication about how a teacher is growing. By knowing what the students are expected to learn in the lesson, the observation of learning during the ‘Kodak Moment’ will be easier to interpret as learning success. And it leads to more meaningful feedback and the asking of appropriate reflective questions.
To summarize, here are the 5 key points to effective walkthroughs.
- Focus on learning
- Establish a genuine rapport and build a culture of learning
- Promote objectivity and personal reflection without negative criticism
- Effective feedback should be concrete, goal-related, and actionable
- Balance specific feedback with reflective questions.