There are many reasons for observing classroom practice. The extent to which observations actually result in improved teaching and learning, however, can be linked largely to the leaders’ purpose and theory of action underlying the walkthrough. How can leaders use a walkthrough process, with a clearly defined purpose, to improve teaching and learning in their schools?
The Center for Educational Leadership provides training in learning walkthroughs for school leaders based on the following theory of action (Fink & Markholt, 2011):
- If we, as school leaders, spend regular and focused time in classrooms observing and describing teaching practice and student learning, with the support of an instructional framework, then we will develop a common vision and shared understanding of high quality instruction.
- If we develop a common vision and shared understanding of high-quality instruction, then we will be able to identify the supports teachers need and lead with greater clarity the improvement of teaching practice.
- If we are open and transparent about our own learning, then we will be able to engage in and model the kind of reflective learning necessary to support a learning community focused on growth and continuous improvement.
A CEL facilitator leads a series of on-site classroom walkthroughs to help participants deepen their understanding of an instructional framework within the context of their own school and district. Participants gather evidence of teacher practice and student learning to assist in their analysis of classroom instruction and to guide the improvement of teaching and learning. During learning walkthroughs participants will:
- Develop a shared vision for teaching and learning and calibrate understanding of particular areas of the instructional framework by establishing corresponding “look fors.”
- Observe in classrooms and script in order to collect observable, descriptive data.
- Respond to observations by identifying evidence of practice relative to a particular area of focus (noticings) and generating questions for consideration (wonderings).
- Analyze data (noticings and wonderings) against the ideal in order to identify trends.
- Develop a testable theory as to why trends might exist, and determine possible next steps for leadership.
Additionally, we can facilitate area-of-focus learning walkthroughs for the purpose of helping school leaders develop and receive feedback on a particular problem of practice. Leaders identify a student problem of learning, contributing instructional and leadership problems of practice, which provides the focus for the day’s observations.