Open Your Door!

As a classroom teacher, I hated to be observed. Heck, I hated to teach in a room where another teacher was working, even if they weren’t even paying attention to me? I never could figure out why I felt that way…

Now that I have begun to live my life online — open and transparent, as much as possible — I realize how debilitating that prior mindset was to my teaching. Of course I learn a lot fromthe other great souls who are teaching and living out in the open. But my openness is forcing me to be more introspective and reflective: Why am I doing what I’m doing, and what can I do to make it better? Opening the door to my online persona has caused me to be more introspective and reflective. It has helped me to grow professionally and personally, even if nobody ever reads a word that I write.

I firmly believe that the average teacher’s, well, openness to openness is directly proportional to that of the school’s in which she works. It is a learned behavior that is nurtured by the institution. If a school were to implement a healthy open-door and/or walkthrough policy — with the goal of observation and not appraisal — it would be an easy step for those teachers to begin to share their professional practice to a wider audience.

So why are schools in general and teachers in particular so reticent to openning their doors, either to their parents or their colleagues or to the world? What are they afraid that others will see? Maybe more accurately, what are they afraid they themselves will see?

Image: ‘open door‘ licensed under CC BY NC

Walkthrough Observation Forms for Tech

After a bit of research, and borrowing liberally from the good folks at Instructional Coaching, I have come up with a walkthrough observation template that I am relatively happy with.

Instead of focusing on the Big Four (.pdf) of Classroom Management, Content Planning, Instruction and Assessment for Learning, I chose to focus on:

  • Classroom Management – Are students on task? Is the teacher interacting with students? Is the teacher making modifications to traditional classroom management techniques to account for tablets in class?
  • Lesson Structure – What is the lesson style? What is the activity (OO – Old things, Old ways, ON – Old things, New ways, etc)? Are tablets required? Are students engaged?
  • Tech skills – Is the teacher modeling necessary skills? Are the students fluent in the required skills? What are the skills required for this lesson?

You can download a .pdf version and a OneNote version of the forms below.

I plan on spending at most 10 minutes in the classroom. At the end of the walkthrough, I will sit down and record any other comments that come to mind.

The hardest part about these sorts of observations is trying to remain non-judgmental. Although it is not my intention, at this point, to share what I observe with individuals teachers, I will be using the information to make generalizations about student and teacher abilities and needs in order to better plan learning opportunities for each group.

As always, comments and suggestions for improvement are always welcome!

Three Point Walkthrough – OneNote version

Three Point Walkthrough – .pdf version

Classroom Walkthroughs for Tech Integration

One of the main focuses of Coaching Heavy is gathering and analyzing data regarding your work to make decisions about your effectiveness and how to proceed.

As a Technology Coach (not my official job title but this is what I’m lobbying for), I’m not sure what sort of data I can be gathering and/or analyzing. There are no test scores or formative/summative assessment data to collect. We, as a school, have not systematically implemented any sort of standards or performance indicators – a la the ISTE NETS or the AASL Standards – yet.

How does one measure the level of technology integration in a classroom? How does one measure the impact of that integration on student learning?

Towards the end of the last academic year, we were fortunate enough to have Bambi Betts on campus for a series of workshops with administrators and department heads related to improving teaching and learning. One of her recommendations was to implement classroom walkthroughs – short, frequent visits to various classrooms with a specific objective in mind to gauge the climate of the school and to get the ‘big picture’ of what is happening.

I think this is my way forward. Actually, I have already conducted a few. But I have a some problems:

  1. Other than the few hours that I spent with Ms. Betts, I don’t have any sort of training on how to actually conduct these walkthroughs. Sure, I’ve done my internet research but it’s not the same.
  2. I don’t feel (yet) like I have an all-access pass to classrooms. I feel like I’m invading or over-stepping my mandate. I’m pretty sure this is not the case, but that’s how I’m feeling at the moment.
  3. Most importantly, I’m not sure what I should be looking for during these walkthroughs. I can’t find an example of a tech-based walkthrough form. Without specific standards at our school – for teachers or students – how can I make an objective observation? (My initial form includes a description of activities that I observe, the skills required by students and teachers and any classroom management observations. I then plan on matching what I saw with the NETS for Students and Teachers after the observation.)

Do you have any advice as I look to implement this on a consistent basis? Any ideas for observational data that I can collect during these brief visits?