Classroom walkthroughs and checklist leadership

In the past few days, I’ve stumbled across two interesting bits (see here and here) being written by principals about classroom walkthroughs—a really common practice designed to give teachers feedback about their lessons and principals feedback about the kinds of common instructional behaviors in their buildings.

And as popular as classroom walkthroughs are with school leaders and their professional organizations, I’m skeptical about how valuable they really are.  Instead of becoming a starting point for meaningful conversations between teachers and their administrators, I worry that they encourage and enable checklist leadership:

(download image on Flickr)

Now, don’t get me wrong:  Like any practice, classroom walkthroughs in the hands of the right folks can lead to real change in a building.  When a principal can provide tangible evidence to his/her faculty ofthe kinds of questions being asked or practices being used across a building, schools can start reflecting on whether or not those questions and practices support meaningful learning.

But what about buildings with principals who are underprepared or overwhelmed?  Isn’t equally possible that the kinds of simple observations enabled by walkthroughs can become the only source of information that principals use when making judgments about their teachers?

Intentionally or not, don’t walkthroughs encourage superfical judgments about instruction?  Aren’t they, by design, nothing more than quick snapshots of what’s really happening in classrooms?  Can administrators really get a complete understanding of instructional choices by looking at quick snapshots instead of engaging in more meaningful interactions with their faculties?

I guess what I’m wondering is wouldn’t the time of principals be better spent on a few deep and meaningful observations and interactions with faculty members than on a ton of short walkthroughs without meaningful follow-up.

And if principals don’t have the time for walkthroughs AND deep and meaningful conversations with teachers, shouldn’t walkthroughs be pitched?

Are they really a high-leverage strategy driving change in our schools?






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