5 Ways to Make Classroom Walk-Throughs More Powerful

Conducting classroom walk-throughs (CWTs) is not a new concept. Educators have been walking through classrooms, gauging instructional practices for years. Unfortunately, CWTs are often conducted due to mandates from downtown and not from the internal desire to improve educational practices. Administrators go through the motions of walking through without the school getting the benefits of this researched based activity.

Here are five ways to make your walk-throughs more powerful.

  1. Don’t go alone.

CWTs are not meant to be conducted in isolation. Having an administrator walk through classrooms taking notes is a good start. Having teachers walk through classrooms with administration is even better. This way, the teachers conducting the walkthroughs can debrief after each visit, discussing what strategies the teacher was utilizing.

  1. Visit Every Classroom Every Week

Too often, CWTs are conducted when an administrator has a free moment. They’ll visit a classroom here or there, but never get to enough rooms to be able to collect enough data to see trends. CWTs need to be a priority. Time must be scheduled each and every day so that every classroom can be visited at least once per week. After a few weeks, enough data will be collected in order to see department, grade level, and school-wide instructional trends. Be sure to visit classrooms at different times of the day.

  1. Share The Data

Collecting data will not be of any service to anyone unless it is shared, analyzed, discussed and acted upon. I recommend sharing CWT data once a month with staff members. Data can be broken down by grade, department, or by individual teacher. Remember to be clinical, not critical with the analysis. Names of teachers or classrooms should never be used as CWT data analysis should not be used as a “gotcha”. You want your staff to embrace and discuss the data, not be defensive.

  1. Use The Data To Make Changes

Data is useless unless you do something with it. Once the data is analyzed, discussed, and digested, use the data to decide where you need to go with professional development. Walk-throughs can shed light on a variety of different instructional elements including student engagement, groupings, DOK levels, student and teacher actions, as well as classroom environment. Select the biggest area of need and provide on-going professional development in that area.

  1. Provide Immediate Feedback

Many teachers get stressed out when another educator comes in their room to watch them teach. Even worse is having that educator leave the classroom without providing any sort of feedback. The teacher is left wondering the visitor they liked what they saw or if their instruction is seen as a cause for concern. To avoid this anxiety, leave a post-it note on the teacher’s desk at the end of your CWT. Pick out one positive instructional element and praise them for it. This will put them at ease and open the door for future conversations about CWT data in the future that might not be so pleasant.

Dr. David Franklin, CEO of The Principal’s Desk, is an experienced school administrator, education professor, curriculum designer, and presenter. Dr. Franklin has presented at national and international education conferences as is available for school and district professional development sessions. 

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7 thoughts on “5 Ways to Make Classroom Walk-Throughs More Powerful

  1. V=ry true. In 15 years of teaching, I received 2 sticky notes saying “Great lesson” and ” Thank you. I learned something new this morning.”, and one actual card (Dr. Seuss hat). I cherished them and kept them on my desk for a long time.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am going to share this post! We spend a of time discussing the power of intentional CWTs and bringing other teachers, too. So often teachers don’t get the visit their peers in action and observe instructional strategies in practice.We just conducted CWT’s at a workshop this week and the teachers appreciated the post-it notes. We also left one for the students, too. I appreciate the five recommendations to making this experience meaningful.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have 5 ways to improve CWT’s too:
    1. Don’t do them if you don’t follow up with the teacher to have a conversation/coach.
    2. Don’t do them if you are just checking boxes.
    3. Don’t do them unless your intent is to provide specific feedback and provide support to improve/change instruction.
    4. Don’t do them to nail people to the wall. This creates the wrong environment for continuous improvement.
    5. Don’t do them just to say you have been in classrooms.
    If the ultimate purpose of them does not improve/change instruction, why are you doing them? People don’t get better by looking at a checklist. They get better by coaching and support.

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  4. I would suggest that fudamental to ‘learning walks’ is trust and agency. The first step is to have a conversation with the teacher asking what they would like the observations to focus on -something that they are working to improve. This then focuses the professional conversation later. That’s my tip.

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