How Many Classroom Visits Are Enough?

observationsI’ve been working with several school districts lately on the topic of teacher evaluation systems. This comes as no surprise, since it’s a hot topic these days. One question always comes up: How many classroom visits (observations) is enough?

From the administrator’s point of view, I prefer to visit classrooms as often as possible. This includes formal and informal visits – the informal visits consisting of Rounds (30-45 second snapshots) and Walk-throughs (5-15 minutes that include feedback to the individual teacher). For principals with 50-60 teachers (or more), time can certainly become an issue.

From the teacher’s perspective, the more visits the better, since most teachers crave that supportive, timely, accurate feedback. Some teachers have shared that there’s a fine line between “helpful visits” and “overwhelming presence,” and still others cringe at the thought of all those interruptions.

So where’s that balance? How do we conduct enough observations to be able to accurately describe a teacher’s performance in an annual evaluation appraisal without overwhelming them? How do we visit classrooms enough to see what’s really going on in there – in the wild, I like to say – so the feedback we provide is truly helpful? And how do we manage our time to free us up to get into classrooms in the first place?

Pete Hall is an educational consultant, former award-winning principal, speaker, and author of four books (including Lead On! Motivational lessons for school leaders (Eye on Education, 2011) and Teach, Reflect, Learn: Building your capacity for success in the classroom (ASCD, 2015). He shares his perspectives in 212-word entries every month or so. He can be reached for speaking engagements, professional development, or other queries at petehall@educationhall.com.

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