In my work with principals and coaches I have found one area that is the most common struggle: teacher observations.

It’s the most important part of our instructional leadership job and we struggle the most with it! I’ve worked to deconstruct the myth of “having to know everything before you can give a teacher feedback” – that myth has held many a coach and principal back from the classrooms.

Here is the
very essence of observing in a classroom: To recognize a cause-and-effect relationship between what we observe teachers and students doing and what students actually know and are able to do as a consequence.

Basically, the role of the observer is to:

  • Search for the cause-and-effect relationship and if it’s there
  • Point it out to the teacher and give encouragement for the teacher to do it again or if it’s not there
  • Coach the teacher to prepare and plan to make it happen in future lessons.

So a conversation with a teacher might sound something like this:
“Tori, when I was in your classroom this morning to watch your math lesson, I noticed that you were very clear in your model of the step to solve the equation. I recognize that you’ve been working very hard to include as many models as possible and this was a great improvement – nice job!

One concern I have is that when you asked the students to work to solve the #3 and #4 following your model, I noticed that Thomas, Jenny, Heather and Thad struggled to complete the problem and you did not monitor their work, therefore they received no feedback. Essentially, the effect of your model on the students was nil.

I would like you to make sure that you monitor targeted kids who struggle even more than the others so that you make sure that the students are truly benefiting from the excellent modeling that you were doing.”

In the above conversation with Tori, I drew a very straight line from what she was doing and what the students, in turn, were able to do – this is how we have a “cause and effect” conversation.

When we are clear about what we are looking for and that what we are looking for is attainable by all staff members, then we take most of the mystery of observations away!

Observations are about what the teacher did and what the students are able to do because of the teacher’s teaching. In fact, that pretty much sums up the whole goal of our profession!