A regular LYS reader asks,

“I’m very interested in PowerWalks. Our district utilizes the 3 minute walk through, which takes longer than 3 minutes, that’s for sure. Not sure that I’m 100% committed to this way of doing walk throughs. I’m looking for something that will benefit my teachers and students better.”

SC Response
Some quick background information. There are six basic categories of classroom observations. However, as you will see, each specific protocol will overlap into multiple categories. Briefly the categories are as follows:

Extended time observations
Longer than 15 minutes. These observations are usually scheduled and provide the teacher the opprotunity to demonstrate all that they know (the dog and pony show). But the dog and pony show is important. It allows to observer to gauge the current ceiling of teacher performance.

Short time observations
Less than 6 minutes. These observations are usually unannounced and give the observer an opportunity to gauge a teacher’s typical practice.

Subjective observations
Requires the observer to make judgment calls on quality and/or teacher intent.

Objective observations
Requires the observer to monitor only specific and observable practices and activities.

Formative observations
Collected data and observations are for the purpose of coaching teachers and improving performance

Summative observations
Collected data and observations are for the purpose of evaluating or ranking teachers.

All of these observations are useful, but as you can see the categories serve different purposes. Where administrators get in trouble is when they use the wrong tool for the task. Or they try to make the “Swiss Army knife” observation protocol. And like the Swiss Army knife, though it may look neat, it darn sure isn’t useful.

So now we get to practice. You need two tools. One is an extended time observation tool, primarily used in the summative evaluation process. The other is a short time observation tool, used only for formative assessment. Anyone who tries to convince you that one tool can do both is either trying to sell you something, is lazy, ignorant, and/or dangerous (I’m begging, someone try to debate me on this). Also, stay away from subjective tools. What you think is much less valid than what you actually see. You will never build sustainable system-wide capacity through subjective means. You may be able to develop individual talent, but if you are relying on individual talent to sustain your organization then you are already dying a slow death.

So where does PowerWalks come into play. It is a short time, objective, formative classroom observation tool. Nothing unusual there. But it has the most powerful disaggregation tool available attached to it. It constantly evolves and it is inexpensive. Nothing comes closer to giving you and your staff “game film” of instructional craft. Anything more would be a sales pitch, which I won’t bore you with. But if anyone in the LYS Nation is interested in trying the tool, you can use it risk free for a semester. And if you are attending the TASSP Summer Conference, every attendee gets PowerWalks for their campus for a semester for free. Plus, TASSP will train you how to use it, at the conference.

Think. Work. Achieve.

Your turn…