Friday, June 23, 2017

Walkthroughs Don't Work!!!

This year, after 23 years in education, I will work in a school where we will not do walkthroughs. Why do you say? Well it's simple. 

Walkthroughs don't work. 

Think about it. What has a greater impact on student learning, instruction or assessment?  Obviously instruction is the variable on student learning and assessment is the gauge of learning. If we really believe in this idea about growing kids, then why are we only assessing our teachers when we walk in their classroom?

The research shows that walkthroughs don't improve teacher effectiveness.  Here's what I mean. Walkthroughs with no feedback negatively impact teaching.  Yes, they make teachers less effective. Observations with a form have no positive or negative impact on learning, so walkthrough forms have little impact on teacher effectiveness.  When observations are accompanied with coaching, teachers see gains in their effectiveness. In other words coaching is what helps teachers grow. 

So What Will We Do This Year?
If we want teachers to grow, we must admit that forms with checkboxes won't suffice. Ratings scales won't do either. To grow our teachers, we will replace walkthroughs with coaching visits. 

Yes, Coaching Visits!!!

Our teachers will receive coaching feedback that does 4 things.
1. Affirm positive practices in places
2. Identify missed opportunities. 
3. Pose questions for reflection and to open the discussion. 
4. Help the observer grow in their ability to help teachers grow. (MOST IMPORTANT)

The Goal is Simple. 
We will work to drop the imbalance of power that the term, walkthrough, brings forth. If we are truly instructional leaders, then we must realize that we must offer our teachers instruction on how they are doing and how they can improve, not just assess how they're doing. Furthermore we must provide a platform of reciprocity for teachers so that teachers can also instruct leaders on how they can improve at supporting teachers. 

Pure and simple, the purpose of a walkthroughs is to rate the teacher.   The purpose of a coaching visit is to improve both the teacher and the leader. Just as iron sharpens iron, so does one person sharpen another. If we truly want to make schools better, it starts by creating observation system that require feedback protocols for that is the most productive way to grow all educators. 


  1. Great insights. Just had this conversation yesterday after expressing concern over admins doing more "walkthroughs"... coaching forms (checklists/papers) are annoying, but relationships that are ongoing and focused on shared learning and growth are the key. Simply doing walkthroughs (with no ongoing relationships and shared visoin) only creates more fear and animosity. Thank you for making me feel that i'm not the crazy one!
    Hilary Czaplicki

  2. Coaching is a great strategy especially when reflection is involved. I'm enjoying implementing coaching with students. Thank #morethanamathteacher

    1. Thank you Cindy. You are a great model for others to emulate. Hope you are well.

  3. Could you provide an example of what an ideal coaching/walk through looks like?

    1. Share what you see. Ask reflective questions such as "what would you change" or what do you feel connected to kids best? The focus is on the attributes of the lesson.

  4. I totally agree! SPREAD THE WORD

  5. This idea must permeate how we prepare our future leaders. No longer can we settle for assignments that ask for a walkthrough form to monitor instructional initiatives. This is especially harmful when we return said assignments scored with feedback that does not take into consideration the context of the form within the leaders setting. We must stop settling for less than research based approaches for preparing our future visionaries.

  6. Important to model expectations and provide feedback to staff. On a walkthrough by my superintendent I asked if he wanted to teach my class. He took the chalk from me and taught my class. He thanked me for the opportunity. He was the only administrator who ever took the chalk and he also was the only one who encouraged us to be creative and let teachers create curriculum.

  7. Jerry, your comment is so important. I truly believe that leaders must also show what they're looking for by teaching kids with the teacher. Thank you for sharing a powerful thought.

  8. I think it's imperative to have developed look-fors or rubrics that you are using as you observe teachers. Otherwise, what are you giving feedback on? You must have something to measure the quality of instruction you hope to see. The key is to develop relationships and communicate clearly, that this is an opportunity for professional growth both for the teacher, and the observer. I'm not sold on the fact that their is a big difference between calling them walk-throughs or coaching visits as much as I am about what must take place following the visit.