In talking with a group of coaches today, the topic of teacher observations and how to manage observations was front and center. The question that one coach reflected on was: “Which kind of observation is better: the drop-in, which is unannounced, or the scheduled observation?”. As we discussed (and I put in my two cents…of course!) we came to this conclusion: BOTH are necessary to gather information about how to best support teachers.

When we do a quick- walk through of classrooms we are checking on and gathering information on specifics such as:

  • Is the pacing on target?
  • Are we starting and ending our instruction as planned?
  • Are students engaged in instruction?
  • Are teachers’ lesson plan playing out as written?
  • Is the instruction within a grade level looking similarly?
  • Can I pick up themes and trends that will help me plan for next-steps in coaching or professional development?
  • How is “business as usual” looking?

When we do a scheduled observations, we are typically looking for a teacher’s performance in a very specific area. It might be something such as, “Tara, I will be in your classroom at 10:45 am tomorrow to watch your vocabulary instruction on the new words for this week.” In this case, we are gathering information specific to a topic or area of concern and often seeing the end result of our coaching on a particular topic.

The combination of the “slice of life” drop-ins (or drive-bys as some call them!) and the scheduled, more formalized observation allows us to monitor instruction but also tailor our coaching specifically to teachers’ needs.