Shifting Perspective

For a long time school leaders were conducting classroom walkthroughs armed with a checklist.  We went in looking for, what felt like, a myriad of discrete pieces of evidence that would indicate effective instruction was happening. Is the objective posted?  What student engagement techniques are being utilized? What’s the cognitive level of the questions? Is the classroom environment literacy-rich?  We would leave the classroom with many bits of data but not entirely equipped with the information to determine how the strategies we observed actually contributed to student learning.

In contrast during formative classroom walk-throughs, principals focus on understanding the lesson from the student’s perspective.  Principals ask themselves, “If I were a student in this classroom, what would I be learning?” Conversations with students are critical in a formative classroom walk-through.  Asking students what they are trying to learn today and how will they know when they have learned it is a powerful indicator as to whether or not students know the learning target and understand how to demonstrate that learning.  By paying attention to what students do and say, the observer is more likely to understand how the teaching is impacting the student learning.

Rather than focusing on what the teacher did or did not do, when principals look for and learn about what the students are doing, saying, making and writing teachers begin to develop a trust and appreciation for the classroom walkthroughs.  Feedback that focuses on how the instruction supported the learning process “promotes a cohesive theory of action for effective teaching and meaningful student learning” (Moss & Brookhart, 2015).

Consider:

How would shifting the perspective from what the teacher is teaching to what the student is learning change the conclusions that are drawn regarding the effectiveness of a lesson?

Thinking about the walkthrough protocol currently used in your building, are the educators performing walkthroughs and those being observed able to explain how the items on the walkthrough protocol promote a cohesive theory of action for effective teaching and meaningful student learning?

How is the information collected from classroom walkthroughs used in your school? Who uses the information most frequently and why?

For more great information check out the book “Formative Classroom Walkthroughs: How Principals and Teachers Collaborate to Raise Student Achievement” by Connie M. Moss & Susan M. Brookhart.