“There are two types of Principals. One who focuses on Operations or one who focuses on Instruction. You want to be an Instructional Leader if you want to change instruction and ultimately classroom results.” –John Hollingsworth, Co-Author of Explicit Direct Instruction
Administrators Can Become More Effective Instructional Leaders
Instructional Leadership programs usually involve a series of workshops and tools that measure, monitor, maintain, and maximize a school’s instructional program – what goes on inside the classroom each day. Leaders understand that a few days of training will not fix all of the issues at their site. However, the Instructional Leader does want to know that instruction is effective and that students’ needs are being met.
Changing the Leader’s Perspective
Certainly this means that curriculum is aligned to the standards and that the standards are well-covered. But this content is only half the picture. The actual classroom instruction is just as important, if not more so. It can be argued that the most influential person in the world is the teacher in front of a classroom. Research has shown that two factors have a major impact on student learning: Time on Task and Instructional Effectiveness. This is usually monitored through classroom observations.
What to Observe
Time on Task refers to maximizing every minute of instruction by utilizing student engagement norms, attention signals, and predetermined routines that reduce classroom disruption, decrease transition time, and enhance student engagement.
Instructional Effectiveness is the percentage of teacher instructional practices that align with effective research-based practices, such as described in Explicit Direct Instruction.
8 Classroom Observation Tips
Administrators should go in groups so everyone can agree on what they are seeing.
It is best to agree on using a rubric (see sample rubric) to record the observations.
Keep a pleasant expression on your face. It is nerve-wracking for the teacher to have observers in the class.
Do not write notes while observing. Wait till you are out of sight to record your notes.
Spend only 5 minutes in each classroom. Teachers will not have time to redirect the lesson.
Only note what you have seen during the 5-minute observation. Don’t assume you just missed a practice.
Hold a debriefing session in the hallway after each classroom visit. Discuss practices and share suggestions. Note areas for improvement. Set goals or objectives for further training.
Watch the schedule. Observations are best during Monday-Wednesday when typically new instruction should be taking place. Prefer to observe during the ELA, ELD, or Math scheduled blocks.
Building local capacity in educational leaders is a priority for Leadership Training. After several sessions, site leadership should be properly equipped to continue walkthroughs and training with minimal support from DataWORKS. Some schools opt to do regular check-ins with DataWORKS’ trainers to ensure that their coaches and administrators continue to provide the same level of coaching year after year.
By using Classroom Observations in a systematic and effective way, administrators minimize lesson disruption, and more importantly, identify ways to help teachers maximize their instruction. Administrators become powerful instructional leaders by taking the pulse of their classrooms in this way and leading their teachers in a gentle way to healthier instruction that supports efficient learning for their students.
Observation Sample Sheet for 10 Classrooms