Many principals are aware of how important formal and informal classroom walkthroughs are. It gives principals first-hand knowledge of exactly what is going on in the classroom and shows teachers that they’re supported by their principal. Even quick observations can shed a lot of light on the classroom.
Even more important than the observation is what happens afterward. Observations in a classroom walkthrough don’t help if principals and teachers don’t discuss after to debrief and plan. Knowing what to discuss in the debriefing is just as important as conducting the walkthrough in the first place.
The discussion held after the observation is an important two-way conversation between the principal and teacher to get them on the same page about teaching goals and plans. It’s a place for principals to talk about what they saw during the observation, both good and things that need improvement, and for teachers to talk about where they feel they have been struggling.
During the Walkthrough
An informal classroom walkthrough is not planned and happens for about ten to fifteen minutes. This is opposed to a formal classroom walkthrough that is planned and happens for sixty minutes. No matter the kind of walkthrough the principal is participating in, it’s important that they take notes about what is going well and needs to be improved.
Seeing teachers in a classroom observation that is not planned is a valuable way to see how teachers operate in their classroom and with their students. When teachers are not prepared for observation, principals can see how the teacher works in their classroom.
These kinds of observations are a great opportunity to see what a teacher is doing well and what needs to be worked on. Observations show clear examples that the principal can use to point out to the teacher. These examples can help the teacher realize that the principal is paying attention and wants to help them be better.
A Two-Way Discussion
It is important during the following meeting that the teacher knows that this is a two-way conversation. The teacher needs to not feel like their teaching style is being attacked or that only the principal is allowed to talk.
The teacher should also feel like they can bring up any problems they have been struggling with that is affecting their teaching effectiveness. It can help set the stage for an open dialogue about how effective the teacher is in the classroom when they can begin by saying what they have been struggling with.
Teachers should also feel like they can talk about what they need from their principal to be successful. Improvement cannot happen in a vacuum and principals should be prepared to provide assistance to help their teachers reach their full effectiveness.
Name Specific Examples
When going over the notes after an observation, principals should be ready to name specific examples that they saw in the classroom. The examples should not be all positive or negative, they should be a mix of what the principal saw being done well and what needs improvement.
The positive examples will show the teacher that the principal does notice their hard work and that the principal is not just there to criticize. It shows that the principal knows that the teacher is working hard and appreciates their efforts. It’s easier to build a positive relationship when a boss acknowledges the good that an employee does.
The examples brought forward that need improvement should come with a discussion about why that needs improvement and what the teacher needs to grow into their full effectiveness in that area. It can be helpful for the principal to already have ideas but the teacher should feel free to chime in with what they think will work for them.
Develop a Plan
One of the biggest takeaways from a classroom observation is the improvement plan. The improvement plan should have goals and a structure in place that builds from the teacher’s current successes. Input from the teacher is also important.
Having a plan with structure and set goals gives both the teacher and principal a place to work towards. All plans need a path to get there and even setting milestones on the way to the end goal can help make achieving the goal much easier. All post-observation discussions should end with a plan in place that uses the examples from the principal to help the teacher improve.
Teachers also need to put input into the plan. They can determine if the plan is realistic for them and what guidance they need to reach those goals. Teachers can also bring up specific problems they’ve had and incorporate that into the end plan as well. Plans should always be made with input from both parties.
Discussing after the observation is what makes the observation so important. Nothing can be done to change a teaching plan if nothing is discussed. By detailing the results of the observation and developing a plan for the future, teachers know that the observation wasn’t just to cause stress.
Teachers should feel safe to talk about struggles they’ve had in the classroom and ask for support when working towards their full effectiveness. By making the discussion a two-way conversation, teachers will know that the conversation is not about pointing out flaws but rather working towards improvement.
Bringing specific examples into the discussion about what the principal noticed in the classroom will show the teacher that the principal does care. The good examples will show that the principal doesn’t just notice the negatives. The examples that show where the teacher can improve shows that the principal is thinking about how the teacher can improve.
All discussions should end with a plan in place. This plan should come with structure and guidance to meet the end goal. It should also be made with input from the teacher to incorporate their needs and abilities. Principals should be prepared to assist teachers.
Informal classroom observations are a great tool for principals and teachers, but only when the discussion afterward is helpful and uses information from the observation.