Classroom walk-throughs have become common practice in schools. A walk-through can involve a single administrator, such as the principal, walking through classrooms, or an entire group of visitors.
Walk-throughs can yield many benefits, including creating a “cycle of continuous improvement” (Cervone & Martinez-Miller, 2007), providing school administrators with valuable data about instruction. Using the practice, administrators gain a snapshot of the type of instructional strategies and pedagogy occurring within a school, gauge the overall climate of the school, and stay in regular communication with teachers and students.
Walk-throughs can also assist teachers in their ability to deliver instruction since the data gathered from the process can prompt meaningful discussions about teaching (Protheroe, 2009).
Nevertheless, users of walk-throughs must be conscious in their use and careful with how they implement the practice. Research suggests that walk-throughs can produce negative effects—creating distrust and causing teachers to perceive them merely as “compliance checks”—if the purpose of walk-throughs is unclear or if a trusting relationship has not been established between administrators and teachers (David, 2008).
The following strategies are aimed at avoiding these pitfalls and living your “best classroom walk-throughs” on a regular basis:
School leaders can clearly communicate their purpose behind walk-throughs by connecting them to professional development opportunities and provide support in helping teachers make changes based on walk-through feedback (David, 2008). Research also suggests that walk-through intentions can be made positive by ensuring those conducting walk-throughs utilize high-quality, data-collection instruments and are properly trained in using these tools.
According to David (2008), this avoids teachers or site leaders being observed as seeing the data collection as “superficial.”
Focus on Continuous Improvement
Walk-throughs can be used as a method to create a focus on the improvement of instruction (Cervone & Martinez-Miller, 2007). The gathering of data from walk-through generates questions and ideas, which then can be collaboratively formulated into hypothesis to improve future instruction. Those ideas can be tested out, and school leaders and teachers can later reflect on that implementation, determining future steps in improving instruction.
Remember, the key is to work collaboratively on this process.
Have a Specific Focus
Connected to this cycle of continuous improvement is having identifying a specific focus for each walk-through. As Protheroe (2009) advises, “effective walk-throughs have a purpose.” With a predetermined purpose, school leaders can gather focused feedback and provide targeted feedback that assists teachers in improving practice. For example, one week, a principal might observe instructional strategies used, another week he or she might focus on whether learning objectives are clearly presented to students. Other walk-through purposes could be collecting data on classroom management practices, teacher-student relationships, or formative and summative assessments being administered.
Make Walk-Throughs Routine
Protheroe (2009) also recommends that walk-throughs become routine, a regular part of the school day, to be effective. Walk-throughs need not be long—perhaps five-to-fifteen minutes—but should be scheduled as part of the daily routine. This provides school leaders with a chance to gather data and provide feedback consistently and stay in constant touch with what’s happening in schools. Even a few minutes in a classroom, for instance, could provide a principal with a general sense of what’s happening during instruction.
Classroom walk-throughs can serve as a catalyst for positive change in schools, a practice that enables school leaders to gather valuable data and provide meaningful feedback that fosters improvement in instruction and benefits students. However, to be effective and enjoy your best classroom walk-through life, the purpose of walk-throughs should be made clear to everyone involved and those conducting walk-throughs need to be trained. In addition, walk-throughs require a specific focus and should be carried out as part of the school’s daily routine. Like any tool, walk-throughs, used the proper way, can build and create positive, lasting change.
Cervone, L., & Martinez-Miller, P. (2007, Summer). Classroom walkthroughs as a catalyst for
school improvement. Leadership Compass, 4(4). Retrieved from
David, J.L. (2008). What research says about … / classroom walk-throughs. Educational
Leadership, 66(4), 81-82.
Protheroe, N. (2009). Using classroom walkthroughs to improve instruction. Principal, 88(4),