The Teacher Tip
Why Visiting Classrooms Is So Important
August 2, 2018
Adapted from Reclaiming the Principalship by Tom Marshall.
Classroom visits are telling forms of research, whether we are interested in a very specific issue (relating to a particular grade, subject, or classroom) or an issue that touches the entire school. When we sit in on a meeting in which teachers talk about practice, we learn a lot about theory; but we know that when we visit teachers and learners in their natural habitat, we get a more authentic picture of what’s going on. As visitors in classrooms, we see not only the methods of instruction but also the silent types of communication, unarticulated but nevertheless visible cues to learning, power, values, activity and passivity (body language, room arrangement, charts and materials, silence), not to mention the social dynamics (the leaders and the followers; attitudes toward celebration, pride, fear, risk, tolerance, acceptance, isolation).
For the visits that we make as part of our research, we can use an agenda or a lens to help us identify the strengths and needs of our school, keeping in mind that our focus is on our research at this point, not on evaluating individual teachers. Our goal in all of this work is to find a plan that will improve the entire school.
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