Classroom walkthroughs are one way administrators can get an idea about how teachers are instructing and how students are learning throughout the school. When an administrator enters a classroom, he or she will look for certain things to make sure the teacher is effective and the classroom is conducive to student learning.
What Is a Classroom Walkthrough?
You're right in the middle of teaching your students a great lesson when the classroom door opens and an administrator walks in, quietly heading to the back of the room to observe. This could be a nerve-racking moment, but it shouldn't be because you're prepared for this. Right?
Administrators conduct classroom walkthroughs to gather important information about the teaching and learning going on in their school. Walkthroughs are informal and short, used to get a snapshot of what's happening in different classrooms. When all of these snapshots are viewed together, administrators can get an idea of what is effective and ineffective in the classroom on a broad scale. He or she can then use this knowledge to implement schoolwide changes to improve both the teachers' instruction and the students' learning.
Now that we know what a classroom walkthrough is and what it's used for, we need to know what administrators are looking for when they walk into your classroom.
What Is a Look-For?
To make it easy, administrators are paying attention to things called 'look-fors.' Every school is different and you should be aware of the look-fors your particular school expects during a walkthrough such as specific things written on the board or lesson plans readily available. In addition to these specific look-fors, though, administrators are generally looking for the same things when they enter a classroom for a walkthrough.
Organization. When an administrator walks into your classroom, they're going to glance around to see what your room actually looks like. This first impression can tell someone a lot about what might be going on in the classroom. A disorganized room might be a sign of disorganized instruction, whereas an organized room suggests organized instruction.
An administrator might ask themselves questions such as:
- Is the classroom cluttered and chaotic or neat and orderly?
- What's on the walls? Is it current and instructional?
- How is the classroom set up?
- Is the teacher prepared for the lesson?
- Are the materials being used in the classroom easily accessed?
Every day before the bell rings, make sure your classroom and your instruction is organized to be more conducive to learning. This will ensure that you're prepared for anything that arises, even a classroom walkthrough.
Student Engagement. This is a big one. You could be teaching a very interesting and exciting lesson but if none of your students are paying attention, then you're not being an effective teacher.
Administrators will look to see if students are engaged with the material and the instruction going on. If students are playing on their phones, doing homework for another subject, talking about things unrelated to class, or have their heads down, then you need to rethink your approach.
Ask yourself these questions to ensure your students are engaged from the moment they walk into the room and stay engaged until the end of the period:
- Are you presenting your lesson in an engaging way? Could you make it better?
- Are you doing most of the talking?
- Are your students participating in the lesson?
- Are you using differentiated strategies to reach all of your students?
- Are your students on-task?
High Expectations. Administrators will be checking to see if you have high expectations for your students. But how can administrators assess high expectations if they're only in your classroom briefly?
If you have high expectations for your students, it will show in the rigor of your instruction, challenging assignments, and critical thinking questions. Bloom's Taxonomy is something you should already be familiar with and use regularly when planning your lessons. It was created to emphasize higher order thinking in students.
The lower levels of Bloom's taxonomy focus on knowledge, understanding, and applying. At these levels, students are simply asked to remember, organize, and use acquired knowledge. The higher levels of Bloom's taxonomy focus on analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. At these levels, students have to use their critical thinking skills to take the information they're learning and use it in a new way.
All of the levels of Bloom's taxonomy are important, but if a teacher is only using the lower levels for their instruction, they're not pushing their students to their full potential. Make sure you have high expectations for your students and you're constantly challenging them in the classroom.
In addition to the three main look-fors mentioned above, administrators will also focus on:
- Student-Teacher Interactions. Do you give clear instructions? Do you encourage your students? Do you provide helpful feedback? Are you checking for comprehension?
- Grouping. Do you use full group, small groups, pairs, and individual learning in the classroom? Are you intentional in selecting student groups?
- Time Management. How is your lesson pacing? Are you going too fast or too slow? Do you waste time during transitions from one activity to another? Do students take too long to settle in and get started?
- Students. Administrators might ask students what they are doing in the classroom. Students should be able to relate their current assignment with the learning objectives.
While having an administrator conducting a classroom walkthrough might send you into a panic, you really shouldn't worry. As long as you're prepared for the day, you should simply go about your lesson as planned and effectively teach your students so they can continue learning.