Formative Assessments and The Building Principal part 1: Brief Classroom Walk Throughs
All of the talk about using formative assessments for improving teaching has made me reflect on my role as an instructional leader. I have been asking classroom teachers are using formative assessments to see “where students are” as a means to improve instruction and learning. I am now wondering how I can create and use formative assessments to help me change the way I do my job as a building/instructional leader and ultimately improve teaching.
The classroom observation tool is relied on as the assessment of the teacher and teaching. As an administrator I go through the clinical observation model, preobservation conference, an observation and a post-observation conference. Somewhere in the process we give the teachers comments for improvement, and hopefully I see enough as I walk through the classrooms to see how things are going. How can a single snap shot of a teacher in action and a variety of informal classroom visits help change teaching, instruction and learning?
Looking back to a one-day workshop on Walk-throughs for Reflective Practice, presented by Kathryn Kee, we talked about collecting data in a 2-3 minute visit to a classroom. There were 5 focal points to the visit: readiness to learn, learning objection, instructional strategy, safety and a gallery walk. The gallery walk is a quick visual scan of the room to see how it supports learning. A short notation of the 5 points on a 3 by 5 card should give me all the data needed. The idea of follow-up was not needed unless there were serious learning or safety issues. The point of these visits would be to collect and collate data, which was to be used to form questions for the entire staff, grade level or department to help improve instruction and to drive Professional Development. The questions were to be in the form of a positive presupposition.
Used properly the data collected, coupled with focused conversations to improve instruction and better professional development.
For most of last year I used this format, substituting a brief checklist for the 3 by 5 card to collect data. I did see some trends in the data and did use it for individual and group conversations on improving instruction. It was good but not enough.
This seems to lack depth, I need something more than data collecting and the piece-meal professional development that followed. If I am to truly lead instruction and properly assess my teaching staff I need a better plan and more tools.
What other kinds of tools do other administrators use for assessment of teaching?
Given the nature of our times and the limited resources we have (both time and money) what do other administrators do to move teachers forward, especially in the light of the numerous improvement initiatives they are involved in?