When McREL first introduced the informal observation software Power Walkthrough® (PWT) in 2007, it answered an emerging need for principals and school leaders to gather informal data as they conducted walkthroughs in their classrooms. The purpose was to have an informed understanding of what instruction looked like in their schools and to help guide faculty conversations and professional development (PD) efforts.
In recent years, however, we’ve noticed a trend of principals conducting fewer informal walkthroughs. This may be due to a growing movement of principals conducting rigorous, more formal evaluation walkthroughs or to an increasing number of PD support staff (e.g., coaches, curriculum directors, and teacher leaders) providing informal feedback to staff.
We’ve also noticed that, once a school has been using PWT for some time, school leaders often find themselves wondering about next steps. They have the data they need, but aren’t sure, beyond scheduling PD sessions and book studies, how to address instructional gaps that their walkthrough data show as evident.
In order to meet these new needs, McREL’s Power Walkthrough Coach™, available July 1, builds upon our successful informal walkthrough platform for school leaders, providing tools and protocols to help coaches more specifically address instructional needs with the teachers they serve. This is in line with emerging trends we’ve seen in schools and districts, where coaches or peers give feedback to one another, yet don’t often have a vehicle for doing so in way that captures look-fors and progress without being evaluative.
One feature of Power Walkthrough Coach, for example, is a time-stamped observation tool (see figure below) which aligns with the school’s existing walkthrough template. During a 30-minute lesson observation, a coach or peer teacher can quickly capture the action taking place during the lesson. After the observation, the coach can align those running notes with specific elements of the walkthrough template. For example, if her notes state that the teacher asked students to turn and talk with a neighbor about the learning expectations of the lesson, she may assign that activity to “setting objectives.” Later, when the students created clay models of their understanding of a process, those observation notes were assigned to “nonlinguistic representation.”
Power Walkthrough Coach also provides self-reflection tools and growth charts so that teachers can see their own progress as they learn new skills and techniques. As with PWT, Power Walkthrough Coach is not intended to be evaluative, but rather to give coaches and teachers tools to aid in improving their craft and helping learners in the most effective way possible.
All existing PWT users will be automatically converted to Power Walkthrough Coach on July 1. Look for more information in the coming weeks.
Elizabeth Ross Hubbell is a principal consultant in the Center for Educator Effectiveness, and co-author of Classroom Instruction That Works (2nd ed.), Using Technology with Classroom Instruction That Works (2nd ed.), and The 12 Touchstones of Good Teaching.
Lisa Maxfield is managing consultant in McREL’s Center for Educator Effectiveness. To learn more about Power Walkthrough Coach, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303.632.5561.