Thursday, January 31, 2008

Classroom "Walk Throughs"

Many of the schools I work with are training principals to use 10 minute "classroom walk throughs" as a method of teacher evaluation. I've never felt very comfortable about this process and now I know why. Read what Jane Davis has to say. To read the entire article go to the December 2007/January 2008 edition of Educational Leadership.

According to Davis, the idea behind classroom walk-throughs is to look "at how well teachers are implementing a particular program or set of practices." Classroom walk-throughs are a formative assessment tool that should focus on improving school-wide program implementation. They were never intended to be used as individual teacher evaluation tools and in fact, using them in that manner may very well backfire for a district.

Since so many of our South Dakota schools have decided to use this process, it is worth our time to become familiar with the research surrounding these latest educational process. According to Davis, the limited research varies in usefulness and effectiveness, but she does identify several studies that outline when classroom walk-throughs are useful and when they aren't. For example, Davis describes an in-depth study of three urban districts conducted by the RAnd Corporation. Their findings indicate that "administrators find walk-throughs more useful that do teachers" as teachers are rarely given individual feedback. However, used effectively, they become a vehicle for identifying school-wide professional development needs and that may be a good thing.

Davis warns against implementing a classroom walk-through program "when the purpose is murky or when trust among teachers, principals, and central-office staff is low." Under those circumstances, "walkthroughs are likely to be perceived as compliance checks, increasing distrust."


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