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What to "Look-For" in Classroom Walkthroughs

Thanks to its partnership with publisher Eye on Education, EducationWorld is pleased to present this administrator tip based on the book Classroom Walkthroughs to Improve Teaching and Learning, by Donald S. Kachur, Judith A. Stout and Claudia L. Edwards. Learn more about the book at Eye On Education’s Web site.

In this tip, the authors demonstrate the many ways classroom walkthroughs can be used for continuous, systemic, long-range school improvement. We learn about the definition of a classroom walkthrough and how to incorporate "look-fors" into your walkthroughs.

classroom observationsWhat are Classroom Walkthroughs?

For years, classroom walkthroughs have been a standard practice that school administrators and other instructional leaders have used to improve their schools. The common elements of a classroom walkthrough are as follows:

  • Informal and brief
  • Involving the principal and/or other administrators, other instructional leaders and teachers
  • Quick snapshots of classroom activities (particularly instructional and curricular practices)
  • NOT intended for formal teacher evaluation purposes
  • Focused on "look-fors" that emphasize improvement in teaching and learning
  • An opportunity to give feedback to teachers for reflection on their practice
  • Having the improvement of student achievement as its ultimate goal


What are "Look-Fors?"

Look-fors are the specific elements of effective instruction or guiding principles of learning collectively identified by the principal and teachers. They are explicit teacher or student behaviors that participants will observe and record throughout their walks. Look-fors are clear statements or descriptors of observable evidence of teaching and learning such as specific instructional strategies, learning activities, behavioral outcomes, artifacts, routines, or practices. They are quantitative data that may assess both the degree of program implementation and needs of individual teachers, groups of teachers, the entire school, or school district. Broad focus areas as well as their related look-fors can be generated from such sources as the district strategic plan, school board goals, district benchmarks, curriculum standards, external regulatory mandates, the school improvement plan, professional development initiatives, and/or student achievement results. Focal points for observation can also be generated by individual teachers; grade, or subject-level, or department groups; or the entire faculty. Regardless of the focus, it is essential that teachers know what observers will be looking for in their walks.

Example of a Focus Question and Associated Look-Fors

Focus question: What evidence demonstrates that the amount of student writing across the curriculum is increasing?

Look-fors:

  • Students are able to explain the writing process;
  • Students are maintaining writing journals;
  • Examples of student writing are posted in the classroom;
  • Exemplar writing samples are posted in the classroom;
  • Prompts for journal writing are posted in the classroom;
  • Lesson plans include writing assignments; and
  • Students share drafts of writing with each other.

 

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