How can Principal’s stay in touch with learning?

As part of the school’s ongoing review of curriculum, we have focused on maintaining consistency across classes and working in teams. Last year the staff conducted readings on peer assessments and classroom walkthroughs. Walkthroughs are an excellent way to keep up to date on what is being taught in the classrooms, issues in classes, teaching methodology, consistency across classes and show the staff and students that you care about them. Unlike observations–which look at individual teacher performance–walkthroughs allow instructional leaders to use aggregate data to see the big picture, determining the overall impact of new interventions and identifying gaps in instruction. They give instructional leaders tools to ensure that the focus of the school’s educational goals are being met as well as the consistency of the message across the school. Some of the focus areas of these walkthroughs include:

  • Standard look fors incorporate Robert Marzano (High Yield Strategies), Benjamin Bloom (Bloom’s Taxonomy), Phillip Schlechty (student engagement), and Carol Ann Tomlinson (differentiating instruction)
  • Common Core State Standards surveys include Mathematical Practices and English Language Arts & Literacy look fors to identify use of practices that help students meet the standards
  • Framework for Teaching look fors align with Domains 2 and 3 of Charlotte Danielson’s research-based instrumentOther surveys include look fors related to:

• Mathematics: Higher-order thinking skills

Walkthroughs target areas of school development such as:

  • Are teachers using research-based teaching strategies?
  • Do student grouping patterns support learning?
  • Are teachers and students using technology to support student learning?
  • Do students understand their goals for learning?
  • Are students learning both basic and higher order levels of knowledge?
  • Do student achievement data correlate with walkthrough data?

Benefits to me as the instructional leader of the school include:

  • Principals become more familiar with the school’s curriculum and teachers’ instructional practices;
  • Principals can gauge the climate of a school (Are students engaged? Are cross-curricular concepts a part of everyday teaching?
  • Are new teachers catching on?
  • A team atmosphere develops as teachers and administrators examine instruction and student motivation and achievement;
  • Principals establish themselves as campus leaders and instructional mentors, influencing teaching, learning, and ongoing school renewal; and
  • Students see that both the Principal and teachers value instruction and learning.
  • The data gathered during these walkthroughs can be used to prompt and provoke dialogue about instruction between teachers
  • Develop a school-wide picture made up of many small snapshots … It’s a strategy for providing a school, not an individual teacher, with feedback about what it’s doing or not doing.

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Walkthroughs follow a specific protocol, with time spent before each walkthrough to identify and discuss the focus of the observations, followed by a “debriefing” discussion among team members to identify elements that should be shared with teachers.

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