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Make the Most of Informal Classroom Observations

Thanks to its partnership with publisher Eye on Education, EducationWorld is pleased to present this tip from Instructional Supervision: Applying Tools and Concepts, 3rd Edition by Sally Zepeda. In this piece, Zepeda gives readers pointers about informal classroom observations and provides a sample observation note and form.

Sometimes referred to as pop-ins, walk-ins or drop-ins, informal classroom observations:

  • Are brief, lasting only 15 or 20 minutes (perhaps longer);
  • Can occur at the beginning, middle or end of a period;
  • Can occur at any time during the school day; and
  • Focus on a variety of aspects, including instruction, use of time, classroom management, transitions between learning activities and the clarity of instructions.

The informal classroom observation is a strategy to get principals into classrooms with the intent to focus on teaching, learning and the interactions between teachers and students as the events of instruction unfold.

Informal observations are not intended to supplant formal ones; they do not include a pre-observation conference. Informal observations do not necessarily include a post-observation conference, but supervisors can strengthen their relationships with teachers by communicating something about what was observed. Although face-to-face interaction with a teacher is the best way to do this, my sample informal observation note and sample informal observation form offer an opportunity for written comments after an informal classroom observation.

Perhaps the most important aspect of communicating what was observed in a teacher’s classroom is to be as specific as possible and to avoid platitudes such as "good job." Teachers will benefit more from specific information about their teaching, the ways in which they interact with students, or an approach used to deal with a classroom event. Timeliness is also important; just like students, teachers respond to immediate feedback.


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