Classroom Walkthroughs Can Improve Teaching and Learning

The principal of the 1,000-student elementary school wears running shoes. On the morning we met, she slipped off a pair of shiny red ballet slippers (“I teach a sunrise dance class to 20 students,” she told me) and laced up a pair of black sneakers.

Like many principals, she’s on the go for much of the day, checking bus arrivals and supervising lunch lines. But she’s also on the move through classrooms. The day I accompanied her on “morning rounds” we visited five classrooms in less than an hour.

Each week she conducts several unannounced walkthrough observations that last about 10 minutes each. On the day I went along, she said she was looking for three things: evidence of students’ writing, teachers’ skillful questioning techniques, and students’ interest and engagement in the day’s topic.

“I’ve coached my teachers on these expectations, and I’ve provided training in these areas,” she explains. She adds, “These visits are not for contractually required evaluations. Their only purpose is to improve teaching and learning.”

During our “learning walks,” as the principal calls them, we observed fifth-graders writing, editing, and illustrating essays on aspects of exploration, from backyards to outer space.

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