Walk-through – one step at a time

I’ve been using the Downey Walk-Through method of supervision more regularly since school began last year and with some work with my superintendent, have refined some of the things that are going on. Last year when I was doing them, I found it very clumsy to have an index card to write on. It wasn’t very easy to get the information that I wanted onto the card, I often forgot what each step entailed and didn’t do a great job making sure the objective was aligned with the curriculum for the subject/grade. This year, I decided to create a document for my PDA that I could use as a template and just fill in information. This worked somewhat better and I liked having the date and time automatically saved to the document. One drawback was making sure that, when I returned to my office, I downloaded them and added in any information that was needed.

A week ago my superintendent and I did a walk-through with 13 of 15 teachers. We would both enter the room, do a visual, record information and then exit. We would do 3 or 4 and then have a debriefing about what we noticed. We stuck to just what we observed with no additional information. We continued, trying to visit all the teachers but not quite reaching our goal. About half-way through, I asked to use the template she had created and found it to be very user friendly and exact. Now there are things I will change for my own use but it uses a more checklist approach with room for other observations. We were able to compare exact information after this which was very helpful for both of us.

The walk-through method of observation has allowed me to see the teachers in their classrooms more often, be visible to the students, got me out from behind the desk and allowed me time to do some serious reflecting and thinking about my own professional approach to helping other teachers. I know that in a few more visits I will be able to offer the teachers an observation, comment or question for them to ponder.

This has also allowed me to prepare better for the formal supervisions that I will be doing later. I know that, by seeing all the teachers and getting a better picture of what is going on in each room, my perception of any particular teacher is not in isolation. I will be better able to maybe offer up some ideas and suggestions having seen more teachers teaching. I’m thinking I’d like to use the walk-through but instead have a longer pause to see get more of a feel for what is happening with the class, watch student interactions and basically be better acquainted with the different curricula and methods of teaching. This way I might be able to offer some suggestions from my technology strength which would provide a greater opportunity for growth for both the teacher and the student.

I’ve been working on creating a wiki to gather information about supervision – both formal and informal. I am always looking for templates and different techniques and tools that people use when doing supervision. I know that many districts and divisions have their own policies and tools that they use and expect their administrators to use. I think that information about different ways of doing supervision – moving toward growth and helping the teachers to develop their skills, is one of the vital professional roles that administrators have within the school. We, as leaders, need to be setting an example for the teachers in being open to suggestions and looking for ways that we might improve what we are doing. Thus, the wiki. If you have any comments or ideas, please leave a comment here or on the wiki.


  1. Reply

    Saw Jen listed another of your postings on twitter, but I was taken with this one.

    As a teacher, I have always appreciated the walk-through, especially since it helps administrators quantify their viewpoint of the efficacy of the teacher in their milieu..their own classroom.

    I wanted to tell you that you have very strong metacognitive skills, but others have probably already mentioned that fact. I am always intrigued by the way you perceive an issue, activity and interaction and hold the metacognitive lens to it.

    It seems to me, a rare activity that should hold you in good stead for continued improvement as an adminstrator. Even though from the way you analyze your experiences, I think you are already seem to be on top of the game.

    While I have been lucky that 95% of my principals have been excellent, I will say that I only had one principal who really had the physical parameters of the walk-through down pat. As a very visually oriented person, I always notice movement in my surroundings, yet this man could get in my classroom, do his walk-through, and I wouldn’t notice him until he was leaving.

    Walk-Throughs are not easy, and they do require practice. In my experience with walk-throughs, the penultimate level for any administrator remains entering the classroom unobtrusively. Scientific thought and metaphors have permeated my entire life, so I would mention the “observer effect” in physics. Briefly, it is the concept that the moment there is an observer, they affect that which is being observed.

    Great, thought provoking post. I was impressed with the checklist idea. That always give you data to think about while you are analyzing the walk-through experience in an individual teacher’s classroom.

  2. Reply

    First, thank you for your kind words.

    I’ve been working on the whole walk-through experience and the most difficult are the ones where the teacher’s door is closed and at the front of the room. There is no way to enter that room unnoticed. I have learned to walk softly, move quietly and try not to disturb the atmosphere of what is happening. Not always easy but when it does happen you see such incredible things. It really is a beautiful thing to watch a teacher in their element.

    I like the checklist just because it allows me to really look beyond – check out the usual and then look underneath.

    Again, thanks for your insights and input.

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