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Front-Loading for Success: Using Walkthrough Data to Drive Teacher Support and Student Learning

Updated: Apr 6

student learning

School leaders juggling a million priorities, often leave crucial tasks like data analysis on the back burner. While the summer months often present a whirlwind of activity for school leaders, prioritizing a dedicated day (or even half a day) to comprehensively analyze teacher evaluations and walkthrough data can be the most impactful investment for the upcoming school year. This data analysis unlocks valuable insights that inform strategic decision-making.

From Data Overload to Direction: Making Sense of Teacher Evaluations

Imagine this scenario: you spend a summer day not buried in emails, but strategically analyzing data. That sounds fun, right? 

But in all seriousness, strategically analyzing data means you have a plan for dissecting all of the data you spend a lot of time throughout the year collecting. For the purposes of this article, I am focusing on your teacher observation data.

Analyzing teacher data will unpack a goldmine of information. You're not just looking at individual reports; you're identifying trends across your entire teaching staff. Are there common areas where teachers seem to struggle? Conversely, are there pockets of brilliance that can be shared and replicated? By coding these evaluations (assigning categories to recurring themes), you move from data overload to a clear picture of your school's instructional landscape.

This process allows you to identify not just individual needs, but also areas where a school-wide focus can make the biggest impact. For instance, the data might reveal that many teachers struggle with creating student-driven activities. This insight becomes the foundation for your teacher support plan for the year.

Tailored Goals and Focused Support

Once you've identified key areas for growth, use them to set individualized teacher goals. But this is just the first step. Now, leverage this data to create a school-wide teacher support focus. School-wide teacher support will drive targeted professional development decisions that address the areas where your teachers, as a whole, need it most.

When rolling out this focus, use the data to show teachers the "why" behind the training. Let's say the data points towards a need for stronger questioning techniques. Explain how effective questioning can boost student engagement, critical thinking, and ultimately, their understanding of the material. This not only increases buy-in, but it also creates a sense of shared purpose amongst the staff.

Developing Look-Fors: Guiding Informal Walkthroughs

The school-wide focus area becomes the foundation for developing Look-Fors, specific and observable indicators that guide informal walkthroughs. These Look-Fors translate the broader focus area into concrete behaviors you can observe during classroom visits.

For example, if the data reveals a need for stronger questioning techniques across the school, your Look-Fors might include:

  • Frequency and distribution of teacher questions: How often are teachers asking questions? Are questions distributed throughout the class, or focused on a select few students?

  • Variety of question types: Are teachers using a range of question types that encourage higher-order thinking skills (analysis, evaluation, synthesis) in addition to recall questions?

  • Wait time: Do teachers provide students with adequate wait time to formulate thoughtful responses?

By focusing on these Look-Fors during informal walkthroughs, you can gather specific data on how effectively teachers are implementing the strategies learned during PD related to questioning techniques. This targeted data collection allows you to provide precise and actionable feedback to teachers, directly addressing the school-wide focus area.

Ultimately, formal evaluations remain essential for a comprehensive understanding of teacher performance. However, informal walkthroughs, informed by Look-Fors, provide a valuable tool for ongoing data collection and formative feedback that is centered, specific, and consistent. This two-tiered approach to walkthroughs ensures a balance between comprehensive evaluations and targeted data collection to support continuous improvement within the school-wide focus area.

Inquiry work in your PLC: Teacher support and student impact 

When data analysis reveals a school-wide teacher focus, PLCs become the ideal platform for teachers to delve deeper, translating data into actionable steps that improve student learning. Here's how PLCs can leverage inquiry cycles to focus on teacher support and maximize student impact. 

1. Examining the Data:

  • Discuss the focus area (e.g., questioning techniques) using data and student work samples

  • Analyze collaboratively: What recurring challenges are teachers facing as it relates to their questioning? How effective are the techniques based on student work samples? How is student understanding reflected in the work?

2. Collaborative Problem-Solving:

  • Share best practices and brainstorm solutions to address student needs identified through the data. I did a whole podcast on this. Listen to it here!

3. Action and Reflection:

  • Develop a shared action plan with specific, measurable goals aligned with the focus area.

  • Plan implementation and schedule follow-up discussions to analyze new data, student work, and refine the plan as needed.

This inquiry approach within PLCs ensures the teacher focus area translates to tangible improvements in student learning. A protocol for PLC’s and data-driven inquiry can be found here.

Data + Support = Student Learning Success: A Consultant's Guarantee

By front-loading your analysis and setting this cycle in motion, you create a synergy that benefits everyone. Teacher support directly addresses areas identified through data. PD becomes relevant and targeted. Walkthroughs provide specific feedback. PLCs become forums for collaborative exploration and growth. This data-driven approach ensures that your teachers are constantly evolving, and most importantly, your students are receiving the best possible instruction.

Connect with me on LinkedIn or Instagram for more.

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