As an educational leader, you know that observations of teaching are essential to assessing a teacher’s performance and effectiveness. But what is the best way to go about conducting these observations? What should you be looking for? And what resources are available to help you make the most of your observations?
Here is a brief overview of walkthroughs and informal observations, along with some resources to help you make the most of this important part of your job.
What are Walkthroughs and Informal Observations?
Observations of teaching provide important evidence when assessing a teacher’s performance and effectiveness. As an evaluator observes a teacher engaging students in learning, valuable evidence may be collected on multiple levels. While many of these interactions may take place in the classroom, a more formal instructional setting, it should be noted that evidence of teacher practice is visible in many settings. Some teacher behaviors are observable in the classroom while other evidence may be obtained from formal conferences, informal conversations, and evidence of practice, as well as input from colleagues, parents/guardians and students.
There are two main types of observations: walkthroughs and classroom visits. Both have their own benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to know which one is right for your needs.
Walkthroughs are brief (usually no more than 15 minutes), unannounced visits to classrooms during which the educational leader observes teachers without interrupting instruction. The purpose of walkthroughs is to gather data on specific aspects of teaching practice in order to provide targeted feedback or support. Because they are unannounced, walkthroughs can give educational leaders an unbiased view of what is happening in classrooms on a day-to-day basis. However, because they are brief and focused on specific aspects of practice, walkthroughs may not provide a complete picture of a teacher’s overall performance.
Classroom visits are planned observations that usually last between 30 minutes and an hour. These observations typically take place during scheduled planning periods or after school hours. Educational leaders who conduct classroom visits typically meet with the teachers beforehand to discuss the focus of the observation and provide feedback afterwards. Classroom visits provide a more comprehensive view of a teacher’s strengths and areas for improvement than walkthroughs, but because they are announced, they may not provide as accurate a depiction of day-to-day instruction.
It’s important to note that both types of observations should be conducted using a standard protocol in order to ensure consistency and fairness. A well-designed observation protocol will outline the purpose of the observation, the focus areas, specific questions to consider during the observation, and how data will be collected and recorded.
Many states have developed their own observation protocols such as:
Ohio Teacher Evaluation System 2.0 – The Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES 2.0) utilizes both classroom visits and walkthroughs as part of its comprehensive evaluation process for teachers. The OTES 2.”)) 0 Walk-Through Observation Protocol provides detailed guidance on how administrators can conduct valid and reliable walkthrough observations that produce useful information for supporting teachers’ continuous growth
Regardless of which protocol you use, keep in mind that the goal is not to catch teachers doing something wrong but rather to collect information that can be used to support them in their efforts to improve their practice
When used correctly, walkthroughs and informal observations can be powerful tools for supporting teachers’ professional growth. By taking some time to familiarize yourself with commonly used protocols and resources, you can ensure that your observations are valid accurate and provide useful information for targeted feedback or support.