I last wrote of the important correlation between effective teacher assessments and professional development leading to a better learning experience for students – and isn’t’ that the ultimate goal of our education system?
These facts support two practices linked to highly effective teachers. On the one hand, highly effective teachers must think on their feet, making hundreds of decisions every day that support student learning. On the other hand, teachers must be able to reflect on their classroom practices and consider what went right or what went wrong about a given lesson or why their students didn’t learn as much as hoped.
One of the emerging tools that empower teachers to think on their feet and also reflect on their practicesis Classroom Observation. Classroom Observation tools have enjoyed a long period of expansion, and these tools actually track the development of the teaching profession, from its earlier work on teacher competencies, through the period of school reform and best practice research, into the period of state and national standards for teachers.
Now classroom observations have been re-engineered as “walk-throughs,” a more-informal-than-formalobservational tool completed by principals, coaches, team leaders, subject-area experts, or peers. As a formative measure, walk-throughs provide quick snapshots used for engaging teachers to consider how well they thought and acted on their feet. This snap shot is then paired with reflection – helping teachers carefully consider how their actions impacted student learning.
Walk-throughs help to close the loop in the world of teacher evaluation because they can include both broad-based and school-specific items. In other words, walk-throughs present what all professional teachers should know and be able to do, and they also present items that take into consideration other factors associated with individual schools and content areas and how students learn best in these classrooms and subjects.
Although there will continue to be hotly debated discussions about including student achievement levels with teacher evaluation systems, most educators would agree that classroom-based assessments and student achievement scores help teachers remain focused on their students and their learning journeys. Learning is, after all, the overarching purpose of the educational enterprise.