What to Look for When Observing Teachers: Conducting Classroom Walkthroughs through the Lens of Student Achievement Data

By Pitler, Howard | Leadership, January-February 2009 | Go to article overview

What to Look for When Observing Teachers: Conducting Classroom Walkthroughs through the Lens of Student Achievement Data


Pitler, Howard, Leadership


After you have breezed in and out of classrooms conducting walkthrough observations, do your teachers ever ask, "What can you tell from observing three to five minutes of my teaching?" It's a fair question. And in some cases, the answer may be, "Very little." However, if you know what to look for and systematically collect and analyze observation data to coach teachers to higher levels of performance, your classroom walkthroughs can be among the most important things you do as an instructional leader. Here are some questions to ask when observing classrooms.

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1. Are teachers using research-based teaching strategies?

The strategies from McREL's publication, "Classroom Instruction that Works," (Marzano, 2001) provide an example of a framework you might use to determine the extent to which teachers are using research-based instructional strategies. Great teachers, however, not only employ research-based instructional strategies, but also understand their purposes and use them intentionally. So during follow-up coaching, you should ask teachers to articulate why they used a particular strategy.

2. Do student grouping patterns support learning?

You should expect to see teachers using a variety of student grouping patterns in the classrooms--including large groups, small groups, pairs, cooperative groups (small groups with assigned roles) and students working as individuals. But more important, teachers should understand how different grouping patterns support learning and be able to articulate in follow-up conversations why they were using a particular grouping strategy in their classroom.

3. Are teachers and students using technology to support student learning?

Although technology is prevalent in classrooms, many teachers do not put it to best use. It's useful to look at how teachers and students are using technology to support learning. For example, do students have "fingers-on-the-keyboard" opportunities to deepen their learning?

4. …

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