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I admit that in my years of reading blogs I have remained a reader and not a writer, but I could not but help commenting on this. In my jurisdiction (Ontario, Canada), classroom walkthroughs - as opposed to curriculum walkthroughs - are an expectation for all administrators. Equally important,though, is the expectation that administrators will consult with staff as to what they are looking for. In other words, this is not to be a random, at-the-administration's-discretion, form of teacher appraisal. The intent is that both administration and teaching staff collaborate together to determine what their school goal is, and then work together to move that goal forward.

The impression/implication that walkthroughs are presciptive in nature (from a system level perspective) is counter-productive at the least, and professionally insulting to both teachers and administrators.

Dave Sherman

I believe that the walk through observation is of critical importance in a principal's job. A thorough walk through should last at least 10 minutes, and you need a narrowed focus. The following criteria are what I am looking for:

1. What is the Activity Taking Place:
Subject area? Is it a Whole class, Small group, or independent lesson?

2. Is the Learning Goal stated or apparent? Do the students understand what they are doing and why? Yes or No

3. What level of Student Engagement is there? (high, medium or low)

4. Are Positive Classroom Norms (behavior) apparent and respectful? Yes or No

5. Is Thoughtful Reading, Writing, or Discussion taking place? Yes or No

6. Is there Evidence of Critical Thinking? Are high level questioning, and/or discussion strategies apparent? Yes or No

I shared these with the staff in the early fall, and we had a discussion about what each of these teaching strategies should look like in a classroom. We created a Google Document to preserve our thoughts. I then started the walk throughs, taking careful notes and compiling some interesting data which I shared with the staff in early December. I will be collecting more of this data as the year goes on, and I will be sharing it with the teachers in order to make comparisons.

The teachers are well aware of my expectations, and they have been shown what they all do well, and where they need to improve. All of the data was compiled anonymously. Each teacher needs to reflect on his or her own teaching as compared to the data I presented.

I also found that completing walk throughs with another administrator (like an AP, or assistant Superintendent) was very valuable. The discussions we had after the observations were excellent.

Robert Jacobs

We look at data by sub-group, cohort, and student. Data is very important, but when it comes to classroom walkthrough, I ask students two things. "What are you learning?" and "Why are you learning that?"

Those two questions have been powerful drivers in getting teachers and students alike to focus on learning instead of just the teaching.Great questions lead to great results.

Charlie A. Roy

What I look for in a classroom walkthrough is a feeling for the culture of the classroom. Mainly I mean the level of engagement of the students and the comfort or ease in which the flow of events goes back and forth between the teacher and the students.

Second I am looking for the quality of personal feedback. How does the instructor handle questions? If students are working in groups how active is their feedback and monitoring.

I look at some samples of grading to see how in depth the feedback is. Good teaching is tied to a great feedback loop and a classroom culture that pushes engagement and dialogue. If I see those elements I see great teaching.


Our administrative team is in the midst of our first round of focused classroom walk-throughs. We have created a structure and format that I find so easy, but I am quite afraid to say it too quickly as we still have to debrief next week about the process, gather the data and get feedback from teachers.

If I could thank of all of our teachers for engaging so willingly in this process, I would. In fact, I will! It is not easy having administrators come into the classroom, document some work, analyze a snapshot and not feel a bit worried that judgements about snapshots in time will be made arbitrarily.

So, here is the story. We are a small school - 4 buildings, 4 principals. Each month, until May, we are going to be conducting walk throughs of co-teaching classrooms. Our districts has made a heavy investment in staff and training for co-teaching. The data collected will help us analyze the effectiveness of our staff development as well as give us means to great conversations about our work and what other support do co-teachers need to support students of all levels. (Teachers will have the data too. This will be a transparent process.) Walk throughs occur with the 4 building principals, the Director of Student and Staff Learning, the Director of Special Education and Student Support Services as well as the Superintendent. Please note that we are never together. We split the work and visit classrooms individually. It is just more realistic for us time-wise.

The schedule has been created. The building principal is always in his or her building, but next month, we add a twist. Building principals will have their own building plus one other buliding. By the time we are finished, they will have visited all of the other buildings in our district which certainly can’t hurt for us to see K-12 co-teaching! The superintendent, director of special ed and director of student and staff learning visit all buildings as well. Because the bulk of our leadership team is involved, this allows time for the building principal to continue to do his or her daily work (since the workload is distributed).

I know that Carolyn Downey woud tell us not to leave notes, but we do because I think she would agree that this isn’t all about praise, but rather a targeted technique we can all live with as we collect data. We all use the same format.

We determine if it is Level 1 or Level 2 co-teaching.
We write a lesson description. (We are only there 5-10 minutes, so we write what we see in a nutshell.)
We list T-A-P or S. (Will explain more below)
We write positive feedback. Who doesn’t need kudos?
AND we write a reflective question…just something for them to think about in co-teaching.
I struggle to write a reflective question at times, but I am getting better at it, and I can already see an unintended outcome for me will be that I will be better in coaching and questioning.

This walk-through format was ‘borrowed’ with permission from Sonya Kunkel who did the bulk of our co-teaching training. TAPS is a term that she made up, I believe, to assess the level of student engagement.

T = Total Class Response. We are looking for total student engagement. Example - they are all writing, using white boards or working on the computer. Each student is perceived to be engaged in the learning.

A = Alone or Individual Responses. This is usually perceived as the most traditional. Teacher is directing the lesson and one student is responding at a time.

P- Pairs. Students are working in pairs and engaged in classroom work.

S - Small Groups. Students are working in small groups.

We ultimately hope for T, P or S in any classroom because those formats typically increase the likelihood that students are engaged in the work. We all write up this information while in the classroom (for about 5-10 minutes) and then leave a copy for the co-teachers.

Our first round of data collection will be the number of Level 1 and Level 2 sessions district-wide and by building. We will also collect information about TAPS by district and by building.


This month's, "The Learning Principal" from NSDC.org has Classroom Walk-Throughs as its headliner!

Melinda Miller

My 1st or 2nd year as a principal my staff created a list of "Look-fors" of things they thought I could "look for" in their classroom. I pretty much still use that list but need to revisit it. Our school is going through a reading initiative so I also look for implementation of the PD we have spent thousands of dollars on and I see it a lot:):):)
I'll just list some things that come to mind:
student engagement
teacher engagement
print-rich environment
organization - student and teacher
classroom set up - is there a place for small group instruction?
Anchor charts that apply to our state GLE's etc.
These are just a few of what comes to mind.
We have not been using walk-throughs formally yet or as "evaluations." I like Dave's point about using them to gather data about our building not as teacher evaluations so to speak.
Having said that, if I go into a teacher's classroom 5 times in a row and she/he is sitting at teacher's desk and students are coloring that would be a cause for alarm. Great comments above!

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