In response to the 11/3/11 post, “ A Reader Asks… PowerWalks and Fundamental 5 Support,” a reader asks: SC, How long should a person conducting a PowerWalk stay in the classroom to get an adequate idea of the instruction? SC Response This is a great question. But before I answer, I’m have to lay out some initial understandings. There are different types of classroom observations, used for different purposes. A. There are observations used for summative evaluation. These observations require the observer to spend a significant amount of time in the classroom (at least 25 minutes, if not longer) so the teacher has the opportunity to demonstrate the depth of his or her instructional delivery skill. For the record, there is no circumstance where I would condone the use of a short-time observation for the purpose of summative evaluation. B. Longer formative observations. These are used for the purpose of looking for specific skills that the teacher has been trained on, and the observer wants to see. For example, the teacher has been trained on a specific behavior management protocol and the observer wants to see the teacher use the protocol. That will often require the observer to remain in the classroom for an extended period so the teacher has the opportunity to use the practice. Then the teacher and observer meet to discuss what was observed, what it means and what should be continued and/or adjusted. C. Short-term formative observations. These are used for the purpose of identifying trends and for providing teachers with a “game-film” of typical instructional practices. PowerWalks is simply the best of these types of observations (there are many lesser and/or bootleg versions). What must be understood (though no one does) is that a single 3-5 minute observation means nothing. It is a random wisp of time. However, with 15 to 20 of these observations (if the right system is used, a very big “if”) it is possible to provide teachers with a fairly accurate picture of typical practice. It is with this information that teachers are able to make meaningful, incremental adjustments to their craft that can pay big dividends in student performance. Now here is the kicker, there are only a handful of districts and campuses that use this type of walk-thru information correctly. Sad, but true. It should be noted that in a professional, coaching environment all three types of observations should be used. And the purpose of each observation should be clear to the teacher, prior to the actual observation. How is this accomplished? Just make it procedure that if the purpose of the observation is for evaluation or to see a specific practice, then the teacher will receive prior notice. Otherwise, if someone walks into the classroom, the teacher knows it is for a short-term observation. So to answer your question, if the observer is competent, with a series of 15 to 20, three-minute observations the teacher can be provided with a fairly accurate picture of his or her instructional tendencies. Do know this, if anyone gives you feedback or tries to coach you after just 1, three-minute observation, he is sharing worthless information and wasting everyone’s time. Think. Work. Achieve. Your turn…

  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction.” Individual copies available on!
  • Follow Sean Cain and LYS on
  • Get the Fundamental 5 Lesson Plan App at the App Store – Fun 5 Plans
  • Confirmed 2012 Presentations: Region 16 ESC Leadership Academy (Keynote Address); NASSP Conference; NASB Conference