I’ve been listening to a lot of chatter about classroom observation feedback. The most confusing to me has been coming primarily from assistant principals. It seems that many AP’s want to leave some form of written feedback with teachers after every short classroom observation. There are many reasons why this belief is incorrect, but I’m going to focus on one of the primary ones.
When one conducts lots of classroom observations, collecting data is just a positive by-product of the practice. From an Assistant Principal standpoint, the value of the walk-thru is to increase your ability to distinguish excellent instruction, from average instruction, from sub-par instruction. This can only be done through the observation of a lot of instruction. Once one can recognize what excellent instruction looks like, then one can coach a person to better performance. The power of coaching is the power of conversation.
It’s not that I don’t want teachers to get feedback, I do. I just want to ensure that they get good feedback. That requires the observer to be able to translate what they saw into meaningful advice and instruction. If you think you can do that after just one short classroom observation, you need check your ego. Over the past 5 years, I have easily conducted over 10,000 purposeful classroom observations, and I don’t make decisions and give advice based on what I see in just three to five minutes.
I’ve tried to put myself back in my old AP shoes. As an AP, I had lots of responsibility but little authority. Much of my ability to execute my job effectively was based on speed, energy, proximity and bluff. A skill set that I imagine is even more important now than it was then. Luckily, speed, energy and proximity lend themselves to the practice of frequent classroom observations. But leave the bluff in your office. Slow down, look for patterns and then reflect on what you have observed. After you have done that, talk to your teachers. That’s how you will improve your school and improve the craft.
Think. Work. Achieve.