Northwest Regional Comprehensive Center

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Principal Walk-Throughs: A Tool for Alaska Instructional Leaders (2010)

Education Northwest developed this document for Alaska principals to support their planning and conduct of regular and systematic walk-throughs of each classroom to observe instruction and student learning. Accompanying materials include several sample walk-through observation tools that support principals’ effective use of the strategy and a DVD that the principal can use during professional learning community discussions to explain how the conduct of walk-throughs is intended to promote effective instructional practices. Viewing the entire video provides a context for understanding feedback as the end-goal of walk-throughs. There is key content at the end of the video, when principals speak about the lessons they have learned from the process.

When walk-throughs are incorporated into the principal’s daily instructional leadership routine, a powerful message is sent to the teachers about the importance of their daily instructional practices and the value the principal adds by participating in their daily routine. Suggestions are offered about how to optimize the value of walk-throughs by providing feedback to the teacher about what was observed. Following a walk-through the principal might promote dialogue with the teacher by doing the following:

  • Be clear and intentional about how and when feedback will be given
  • Schedule time with teachers to provide the feedback following the observation
  • Use an observation form that captures qualitative data focused on instructional practice
  • Align what is observed with the school’s goals and instructional objectives
  • Describe a particular observation and pose challenging questions about lessons, curriculum, and teaching strategies
  • Promote reflection on best research-based practices by recommended reading
  • Suggest strategies that turn good learning environments into great ones
  • Use faculty meetings, professional development, and instructional planning meetings as platforms for sharing anecdotal feedback on teacher behavior, student behavior, and overall classroom climate
  • Let teachers know the principal understands daily challenges and successes in their classrooms and use this shared knowledge as the foundation for building a professional learning community with the faculty