5 Best Practices for Classroom Walkthroughs

[Infographic] 5 Best Practices for Classroom Walkthroughs

Our blog post on the 5 best practices for classroom walkthroughs was so popular, we decided to turn it into this easy-to-share infographic.  There’s nothing better than a simple, concise visual reference.  As they say, a picture’s worth a thousand words!

Classroom Walkthrough


Teacher Observations

Infographic – 5 Best Practices for Teacher Observations

Just two weeks ago, we published a blog post highlighting 5 best practices for teacher observations.

It was so popular, we decided to turn it into a simple infographic to share with others!

Best Practices for Teacher Observations


What is the purpose of your lesson? Did your students actually “get it”?

Why, exactly, are students spending time with you today?  What is it you want students to know, understand, and be be able to do as a result of this lesson and unit? Great teaching starts with a great reason to teach!

My favorite analogy to describe learning objectives (or lesson objectives, learning targets, learning goals, etc.) is to think about a GPS system.  Unless you are on summer break, it is not often that you get in your car and just start driving.  It’s even less often that you get in your car and the car decides to take you somewhere.  Instead, you take about 30 seconds and type in your destination.  Magically, the GPS system gives you turn by turn directions, and you can even look at the route in advance to know why the GPS system is taking you in a certain way.  Is there an accident on your typical route?  Perhaps a road is closed?  And what happens when you miss a turn or make a pit stop?  You receive specific and targeted feedback on how to stay on course.  Voila, you are at your destination!

How does this translate to the classroom?  Clear and specific (measurable even?) lesson objectives, teamed with effective checks for understanding and modifying instruction as needed, allow for students to know where they are going and when they have arrived.  Without a “road map” giving directions and feedback along the way, there is no ending.  Students will never know if they’ve gotten anywhere, let alone their destination. What’s just as important is the why.  Do students also know why they are spending time in school learning this?  Do they understand the significance and real-world application of the concepts being taught?

As simple as this sounds, the magic of these clear and specific lesson objectives comes from the teacher communicating them to the students.  Make it no secret – the students should know precisely what they are doing and why it is important.  Be explicit, and your students will take ownership of the learning themselves.

One simple and effective way of gauging how well students understand the purpose of the lesson is to ask them!  As an administrator, I made it routine at the end of each observation to ask a few students what they were doing and why.  I typically wrote the students’ answers in the feedback I sent teachers so they could read their students’ comments.  The student comments became an important part of my post-observation conversation with teachers.  If students are able to articulate the day’s learning, its impact, and its importance, there was clarity.  If students could not, it was time for me to ask more questions of the teacher to better understand why this might be.

Teachers can ask the exact same question at the end of a lesson, either as a quick exit slip, a short dialogue, or in some other way.

Are you allowing your students to know their final destination before even beginning the lesson, or are you having your students jump into the car without any idea of where they are going?

~Eric Bransteter

To Differentiate Professional Development? Or Not?

We expect our teachers to personalize the learning in their classrooms, to differentiate to meet the needs and learning styles of all students.  This is considered best practice.  After all, each student comes to us from a unique background, has different experiences, and learns in a certain way.  For example, student A comes from poverty, has limited experience in literacy, and helps to take care of his younger brother each night while his single parent works two jobs to keep the family afloat.  Student B has a different story: she has two parents at home who work during the day, has soccer practice three days per week, is read to each night, and travels with her family each summer on vacation.  Most teachers wouldn’t dream of treating these two students identically.  So they don’t.

Administrators are in a similar situation.  Instead of students, they have teachers to consider.  Each teacher comes to us from a variety of backgrounds, has different experiences, and learns in a certain way.  Sounds familiar?  It’s just like the students in the teacher’s class.

In a classroom, oftentimes the teacher’s intention is for students to transfer their learning.  The teacher has a vision of a specific outcome, performance assessment, problem the students must solve, project to complete, etc.  Throughout the learning, the teacher reinforces what each student is doing well and scaffolds when needed.  It is only through this backwards planning, starting with the end in mind, can the teacher personalize the learning for each student.

Shouldn’t administrators adopt this same mentality when it comes to professional development for our teachers?  Isn’t what is best practice for our students also going to be best practice for our teachers?  Not so fast.

Administrators need to consider the idea of fragmentation.  Fragmentation occurs when there is little direction and focus for where the staff is going.  Professional development can become fragmented if there is no clear target, goal, or direction.  Simply differentiating professional develop for the sake of calling it differentiated will lead to confusion, lack of clarity, and few meaningful outcomes.  Teachers will become upset and wait for this learning to pass.  Without a clear direction or end goal, the learning will not stick.

However, if the administrator has a clear vision of the end, much like the teacher has a clear and authentic assessment, differentiated professional development can, and most likely will, align everyone’s efforts.  The key is the administrator having a clear direction and defined outcomes.  The administrator then provides scaffolding and reinforcement specific to each teacher throughout the learning.  The goal is for the administrator to know where the teachers are going and guide them to their destination.

What are your experiences with differentiating professional Development?  Have you run into fragmentation?

Eric Bransteter