In a previous post, I shared an instructional walkthrough form for my school. It is based on three different forms and an instructional framework, the Optimal Learning Model. This tool allows for the collection of both numerical and narrative information.
When I presented this form to my Instructional Leadership Team, they had a few suggestions to alter it. For one, they wanted to be able to write comments on the bottom after the walkthrough, not just me. We changed this section to “Reflections” and clarified that this space is now usable for both the teacher and the observer. Related, they wanted to expand this area and create more space to respond to the observations.
With the walkthrough form ready to roll, there was nothing left to do but try it. Five staff members agreed to be guinea pigs and allow me to observe their classrooms. Using Notability on the iPad along with a stylus, I started visiting classrooms ten minutes at a time.
I started by noting where I saw the learning occurring and quickly made tallies.
At the same time, I wrote observations and posted questions in the narrative space, such as:
The students worked quietly on the task at hand.
How did this activity promote this level of engagement?
As I wrote, I would notice a theme in my observations and highlight it on the left side.
Once I had completed my observation (no more than ten minutes), I politely interrupted class and let everyone know what impressed me about their learning. This experience could be nerve racking, especially in the beginning. I wanted to be sure that my visit was viewed positively.
After I emailed my completed form to the teacher through Notability, I entered the tally mark totals into a Google Form in my office. The spreadsheet is set up to automatically tabulate what percentage of instruction is either shared, guided or independent as a whole building (this data is anonymous).
To finish up, I wrote my own comments about what I saw in class in the Reflection box. This was more summative in nature, based on the evidence I had just collected. If the pilot teachers wanted to see my comments, I encouraged them to stop by and chat. I am hesitant to provide my summary, at least initially, because it can shut down the thinking of the teacher. I am making a judgment about their instruction instead of allowing them to arrive at it through professional reflection. This process is not intended to be an evaluation.
The next step is to collaborate with the teachers I am trying this with and continue to tweak the form as needed. It may involve completing a walkthrough as a group while watching a teacher’s lesson on video.
Overall, I am happy with the progress we have made in assessing whether our instructional framework is truly embedded in our classrooms. I know we will continue to make changes, which is part of the growth process for all of us.