During last night's #edchat, educators from around the world discussed how teachers are observed by their administrators. The chat led to a discussion on walkthroughs. I have been a principal for seven years now, and each year I have tried to design a walkthrough template that was meaningful to me as an administrator,
but more importantly meaningful to the teacher. It has been a challenge. Finding the right balance between collecting data and providing feedback to
teachers is difficult.
Last year at Van Meter, we used the whole year to design a template that allowed us to focus on the 5 Characteristics of Effective Instruction found in the Iowa Core. Teachers and administrators had input in its design. The template we came up with is used to collect data for us to determine how often each characteristic is observed. The program we use is called ewalk. Our walkthrough data is collected on this template by using our iPod touches. The data is then used to analyze what we are doing as a building. The results of our first couple of weeks of walkthroughs are here. The data is great for analyzing our building data, but does little for feedback to individual teachers.
I really wanted to come up with something that is more meaningful for teachers than the 5 Characteristics of Effective Instruction template. One of the challenges of walkthroughs is that they are so short in nature, so I wanted a template that would
be easy to use, but also provide feedback to our teachers in a hybrid walkthrough model. Teachers that on our evaluation schedule are required to have a formal observation. We will still do the formal observations using the documents established by the district. But now I am also doing 10-15 minute walkthroughs using a template I designed similar to Chris Lehmann's from SLA in Philadelphia. This template allows for more meaningful feedback to teachers and enable us to have a more open dialogue about what effective instruction looks like.
To further enhance the discussion, in early October, we did group walkthroughs that included an administrator, a secondary teacher, an elementary teacher, and students. Yes, I said students. We want to empower our teachers and our students to have a voice in what takes place in our classes. I would have to say the discussions that followed the walkthroughs were as powerful and meaningful to the teachers involved as almost any conversation I have ever had with them. Listening to their peers is meaningful, but listening to students talk about what works for them in classes is priceless. We plan on doing these types of walkthroughs monthly to help increase the learning of our students by improving the quality of instruction they receive.
It will be our first year of using these walkthrough templates. I believe the process we have in place will allow us to collect a lot of data which will help us improve as a building. However, more importantly, using the 10 minute walkthrough, we will be able to have meaningful conversations on how to improve the quality of instruction for each of our teachers. I look forward to the journey in helping our teachers be the best they can be, because I for one believe walkthroughs do make a difference.