Rethinking Teacher Evaluation with 5-Minute Walk-throughs

Posted on Tue, Sep 11, 2012 @ 12:09 PM

Stopwatch5-minute (yes, 5-minute) Walk-throughs are being lauded by many administrators and teachers as an informal and perhaps surprising way to get an in-depth look at what works—and what doesn't—inside the classroom. 

How can anyone perform a classroom or teacher evaluation in only 5 minutes? Unlike traditional observations, 5-minute walk-throughs don’t bite off more than they can chew. Quick evaluations target specific and therefore digestible goals and keep both the observer and observed from being overwhelmed.

In order for 5 minute walk-throughs to work, administrators should

  • Have a specific observation goal
  • Conduct walkthroughs routinely and across all classrooms
  • Have clear documentation summarizing the goals, observations, and conclusions

Begin with a staff meeting that includes teachers
Before the observation, administration should call a staff-wide meeting to clearly explain what a 5-minute walk-through is and encourage staff involvement. Teachers should be told exactly what will be observed during the process.

Set up observation teams
While walk-throughs can be done by one person, it is best for two or more people to routinely participate so each person can have a specific task and more meaningful data can be accumulated. Rotating some of the observers each time is even more beneficial.

Before each walk-through, the team should set one specific goal. For example:

  • Let's see what student writing samples are displayed in the classroom.
  • Name the teaching strategies used by the teacher.
  • Are the learning goals for the lesson clear?
  • Let's evaluate the level of student engagement with the lesson.
  • What do we see that the teacher might not?
  • Is technology being used consistently throughout the classrooms?

By focusing on one objective and applying it to every classroom, the team will get a clear sense of whether the school/district goals are being met.  Strengths and weaknesses will become obvious.  If walk-throughs are routine, a bad or good day will matter less and less because a consistent theme—whether positive, negative, or neutral—will emerge.

Produce Clear Documented Reflections
When the day's walk-throughs are complete, the team should take the time to clearly pinpoint the observations and communicate them to the observed teachers.  This valuable feedback will create goals for subsequent walk-throughs.

The hope is that administrators, teachers, and even students, will begin to feel like part of a more collective whole.  Learning goals become shared, regardless of grade level or subject expertise. The result is that developing teachers continue to become more effective and engaged in the classroom. 


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Topics: Educational Leadership, Educational Leadership Degree, Educational Leadership Master's Programs, Role of Principal in School, Developing Teachers

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