In McREL’s Power Walkthrough® training, we teach school leaders how to capture key instructional indicators in the classroom, such as what strategies are utilized, how to determine if the students are learning, and how students are grouped. Around this time every year, we examine our Power Walkthrough data from K–12 classrooms all over the world and in a variety of school settings (e.g., urban, rural, public, independent) to see the emerging trends and patterns in the collected data.
This year, we noticed an interesting trend when we looked at the student “grouping” data. In this portion of Power Walkthrough, the observer notes whether students are all focused on one source of instruction (whole
group), if they are working alone (individual), if they are working with one other person (pairs), if they are working in informal groups of three to five (small group), or if they are working in highly organized groups with individual
roles and responsibilities (cooperative group). While individual, small group, pairs, and cooperative groups have fluctuated or have only changed incrementally, it seems that Power Walkthrough users are recording an increase in whole group instruction over the past two years. This is surprising given that so much of “21st century” or “student-centered” learning touts reducing whole group instruction.
Below are two comparison charts that show these data that are based on 99,136 walkthroughs in 2010–2012.
While we can make a few assumptions about these data, there are a few caveats to consider: Some observers may be different due to job changes and additional clients; schools may have differing criteria of cooperative learning; and many schools use their own templates while these data are from our template. Regardless, though, this trend sparks questions about how we are using instruction and student grouping in our classrooms now and
into the future. Consider the following as conversation starters in your school:
- Students working individually were observed six percent less in 2012 than in 2010. Is this a positive or negative statistic?
- We were very surprised to see that whole group instruction had grown. Is this indicative that we are lecturing more? If so, what would cause us to do so?
- Does the nominal growth in small group instruction indicate a shift towards more collaborative and informal learning environments?
- Do these trends hold true in your school? What questions do these data spark for you?