In creating a framework for an observation program, the IL Challenge curriculum details the danger of building classroom walkthroughs via checklists and itemized reports. Some walkthrough programs include pages upon pages of items to “check off” during an observation session; the glaring problem here is that you may NEVER see an item that is necessary to complete a pre-built walkthrough. The teacher simply may not get to that skill or tool on the one day (hopefully, every two weeks) that you happen to walk into the classroom.
Instead of formulating detailed checklists for a walkthrough, it is better to advise faculty on the general plan you have upon arriving in a classroom. Faculty should know what you are doing as you observe. If you just jump into a classroom unannounced and without a basis for being there, you could cause panic in a teacher, or (more tragically), you could create a scenario where a teacher teaches beyond his/her typical style because he/she is “trying to please.” I know that teachers may act differently when I walk into the classroom…that’s ok. But I would hope they are comfortable teaching at their very best versus creating something that isn’t real.
So the goal of any walkthrough program is to be totally transparent: teachers should know exactly what you are doing when you enter a classroom to observe. I need to do a better job of describing my process, or framework, to the faculty at the beginning of the year. For instance, they need to know that my observation will be followed by a narrative report that has questions I would like them to answer. I know I can’t meet with every teacher after each observation, so they must understand what I expect of them.
In addition to the framework I describe to faculty, I need to express the program with a set of vocabulary that we all can share. If I am speaking with faculty about a walkthrough, the goals that I want them to set, the questions I will ask, and their responses to these questions need to use the same vocabulary so we can lay a foundation for for growth. When two faculty are talking about their goals or a recent walkthrough, they should understand the framework and use the same vocabulary to describe it.
Between framework structure and the vocabulary to build it, an instructional leader can create a united development program within a school where teachers understand what is expected of them and are able to bond together and motivate each other to improve based on these expectations.