Blast walkthroughs: how to build protocols that make the most of observation data

Pencil
By Carlye Norton

One of the most powerful data collection strategies a district can employ is walkthroughs. They can provide clear, actionable feedback about how professional learning efforts are translating into the classroom. But making them effective requires setting up strong protocols and building a culture of teacher buy-in so that they can serve their purpose as formative assessment without feeling too evaluative to teachers.

About Blast Walkthroughs

In this article, we’re focusing on walkthroughs that are short visits to several classrooms. Although such walkthroughs may also be referred to as learning walks or instructional rounds, we use the term “blast” due to their nature–continuous, numerous, and brief.

“Blast walkthroughs give you a schoolwide picture that’s pieced together from many small snapshots. When done well, they can give you another perspective on whether your improvement efforts are having an impact and identify topics that might otherwise be missed.”

Pencil

Mar y Sol Esparza

KickUp Education Research Specialist

Customizing Blast Walkthroughs to Fit Your Context

Before you start implementing blast walkthroughs, how will you gather support from your staff? Consider hosting a meeting to establish clear expectations on the purpose, process, priorities, and information-sharing for the walkthroughs.

Defining priorities

Define your scope and area of focus, making sure these are explicitly shared with teachers before the walkthroughs start.

Guiding Questions:

"A good look-for is something tangible that you can clearly see and communicate to teachers in advance. For instance, in your district is focused on formative assessment as an instructional priority, a look-for might be 'using checks for understandings like fist-to-fives, whiteboarding, or exit slips'."

Pencil

Mar y Sol Esparza

KickUp Education Research Specialist

Timing and frequency

In general, visits should be short and unannounced to give you the most accurate reflection of a typical day.

Guiding Questions:

Observers

Your purpose should define who conducts the walkthroughs.

Guiding Questions:

Sharing data

What you do with the data you’ve collected afterward will define the success of your walkthroughs. Consider how the information will inform your professional learning approach and also how you can tighten the feedback loop to build teacher buy-in.

Guiding Questions:

“Take the time to share out building results so that teachers are invested in your building’s progress. Sharing results—even in the form of emailing out a very basic key metric—provides the opportunity to reiterate school-wide goals and makes it clear that you recognize teachers’ seat at the table."

Pencil

Mar y Sol Esparza

KickUp Education Research Specialist

More tools

Looking for more help on incorporating observations or blast walkthroughs in your district? Check out how Belton School District (a 2017 Missouri Model School District) used walkthroughs.

From the blog