Principal Michael Miller always holds a pre-conference with teachers before doing an observation. He discusses the lesson to be taught with the teacher. Each year, Miller also includes a special "look-for" in his observation. This year's special emphasis relates to the LCD projectors that were installed in all classrooms. "I've asked all teachers to incorporate our new LCD projectors into the lessons I observe. That way, I get to ensure teachers are using our new technology to aid in their teaching."
"Too often I'm left with the perception that the kids don't really know what they are supposed to be learning, so I ask all teachers to post on the board the essential questions for each lesson. Those questions help students define what they are to be learning. Questions engage students much more than simply posting a lesson objective." (Duane Kline)
Principal Michelle Gayle examines every lesson she observes to be certain it addresses standards and benchmarks. Her observation instrument includes a place where she records that information as well as evidence of low, mid-level, and higher-order questioning and learning. "We are a Florida Reading Initiative (FRI) School, so I look for aspects of our FRI plan in every classroom -- things such as active word walls and students who are using text marking and other strategies that enable them to learn as they read." In addition, Gayle looks for evidence of research-based instructional strategies; infusion of technology within the lesson; the use of manipulatives and other resource materials; classroom displays; and "target boards" that display examples of high-quality work so students know what it looks like.
When principal Brenda Hedden observes a lesson she's looking to see if instruction is appropriate for students. "I want to see if the teacher is pitching where the student can hit," Hedden explained.
"When I observe the non-tenured teachers in my school, I use a standard classroom observation approach that I call 'The Kodak Moment.' My observation takes a 'snapshot' of learning in a classroom. Instead of observing a teacher teaching a lesson, I start out with the idea that I'm observing learning in Mrs. Smith's class. That is where I try to keep my emphasis. The more I focus on learning -- evidence of student learning in classrooms and evidence of teacher learning through the development of a collegial learning community -- the stronger my school will be." (Jim Thompson)
Take Five more to read this entire article from Education World's "Principal Files" series:
"Excellent Evaluations: Practical Tips for Improving Principals' Observation, Teacher Evaluation Skills"
(Education World -- March 25, 2005)