Administrator Methods for Supervising Educator Practices

The role of school administrator in public education is evolving from a building manager into an instructional leader (Jacob & Lefgren, 2008; Platt, Curtis, Warnock, Fraser & Tripp, 2008; Range, Scherz, Holt & Young, 2011; Waldron, McLeskey & Redd, 2011). Shaping instructional curriculum and supervising teachers are two of the many roles of an instructional leader (Fink & Resnick, 2001; Heck, 1992; Marzano, Waters, & McNulty, 2005). The Commonwealth of Massachusetts promotes this leadership shift in the most recent regulations for educator evaluations (Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Educaiton, 2011).  In June 2011, the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted new regulations for the evaluation of educators in the Commonwealth (603 CMR 35, 2001). The legislation intensifies the expectations for administrators to perform formal educator observations and rigorously collect performance measurement data and artifacts.  Brief unannounced observations are encouraged to supervise educator practice.  In addition, administrators are encouraged to analyze student data, evaluate educator professionalism, and examine student work when supervising educators. Gordon and Meadows (1995) state that administrators may not be proficient with broad comprehension of specific curricula, but they are expected to effectively supervise teaching practices and support instructional growth for educators.

The practice of utilizing observation as a form of supervision is incorporated throughout the New Massachusetts Educator Evaluation requirements (603 CMR 35, 2001). A Task Force document (2011) clearly states three categories of evidence that should be incorporated in every district’s educator evaluation system to assess educator needs and performance (MA DESE, 2011, p.17):

  • multiple measures of student learning, growth and achievement;
  • judgments based on observation and artifacts of professional practice;
  • collection of additional evidence relevant to one or more standards.

  One of the three categories used to inform administrators on a teacher’s performance, is classified as “judgments based on observation and artifacts of professional practice” (p. 17).  The Massachusetts DESE frequently notes observations as effective methods for educator performance data collection. Although the Massachusetts DESE Task Force (2011) recognizes that educator data collection may include additional evidence of professional practice observed by evaluators in making judgments, it does not detail specific methods for administrators to collect this evidence.

Supervising educators through multiple instructional practice observations is a technique administrators in other states are increasingly using to evaluate educators (Range et al., 2011).  The literature collectively illustrates that gaining a deeper understanding of classroom environments will also support an administrator’s ability to promote student achievement in schools (Ing, 2010; Jacob & Lefgren, 2008; Range et al., 2011).  This paper will focus on the research question: “as school administrators seek to build their repertoire of skills for evaluating instructional practice, what research-based methods should they seek to develop?”

The scope of this literature review will examine multiple methods for school administrators to observe instructional practice.  In researching the topic, it was clear that current scholarly literature focuses on implementation of specific methods more than detailing specific methods administrators could utilize. It was clear that reviewing additional literature from published books was needed in this review to gain a deeper understanding of methods administrators could employ when observing instruction.

Furthermore, the paper will explain how the researched methods will assist in fairly evaluating educators under the New Massachusetts Educator Evaluation model.   Before focusing on the research question this paper will examine how the role of school administrator has shifted from building manager to a building instruction leader.

Instructional Leaders, Not Building Managers


Fullan (1991) makes the statement that the principal’s role has become  “dramatically more complex and overloaded” in the past decade (p. 144). Usdan, McCloud, & Podmostko (2000) note that ten to twenty years ago, building administrators were often only expected to focus on “staffing, dealing with day to day building issues, or complying with district-level mandates” (p. 2). Today’s school administrator has an overabundance of duties and responsibilities to balance with the mandates from state and national reform (Elmore, 2004).  Ediger (2009) believes today’s administrator must assist in teaching and learning situations and the educational needs of a school and its educators.

            In order for school administrators to transition into effective instructional leaders, they need to ensure quality instruction, model best practices, monitor the implementation of the curriculum, provide resources, and examine assessment data (Eisner, 2002; Fink & Resnick, 2001; Marzano et al. 2005; Palandra, 2010; Reeves, 2006; Weisberg, Sexton, Mulhern, & Keeling, 2009).   Fink and Resnick (2001) detail further by stating “effective instructional leaders establish
expectations for the quality of student work and then analyze the quality of teaching” (p. 24). Davis, Darling-Hammond, LaPointe & Meyerson (2005) found that develope an understanding of how to support teachers, manage the curriculum to promote student learning, and fostering powerful teaching and learning are three aspects of a school administrator’s role as educational leader. 

Building administrators must know the instructional practices of the school to fully assume the role of instructional leader (Marzano et al., 2005). The drive for administrators to assume the role of instructional leaders and supervise instruction will increase professional discussions focused on specific methods for instructional observations and assist in fairly evaluating educators (Bloom, 2007; Ing, 2010; Nelson, 2010; Ovando & Ramirez, 2007). As the impact of leadership on student achievement became evident, policymakers placed greater pressures on principals (Davis et al., 2005; Davis & Darling-Hammond, 2012).  In addition, principals are expected to serve the often conflicting needs and interests of many stakeholders while creating a productive school culture, modifying organizational structures that undermine the work, and building collaborative processes (Davis et al., 2005; Davis & Darling-Hammond, 2012).

As the literature above illustrates, building administrators are responsible for fairly evaluating educators and providing feedback for educator growth (Davis & Darling-Hammond, 2012; Eisner, 2002; Fink & Resnick, 2001; Marzano et al., 2005; Reeves, 2006).  This has never been more in the forefront of a building leader’s responsibility as it is today in Massachusetts and the new educator evaluation system. Developing multiple methods of instructional observation to apply to current practice will allow the building administrator to balance the needs of the school while fulfilling the role of instructional leader.

Supervising Educators


With an emphasis on the connections between classroom instruction and student growth, administrators can no longer exclusively perform one long formal classroom observation each year to evaluate teacher practice (Ediger, 2007; Ing, 2010; Platt, Fraser, Ogden, Tripp, & Fraser, 2000; Platt et al., 2008).  Nor can they merely visit classrooms or chat with students to gather informal information on teaching practices (Ing, 2010).  Unstructured and unfocused classroom visits by school administrators do not help in understanding the quality of instruction in a classroom (Marzano et al., 2005).

Beyond state regulations, educational and leadership studies have recognized the benefits of shorter observations (Ginsberg & Murphy, 2002; Gordon & Meadows, 1995; Gordon, Kane, & Staiger, 2006). More frequent shorter observations provide evaluators with a deeper understanding of classroom instruction and instructional flow.  This process allows evaluators to make judgments based on patterns observed over time. Gordon and Meadows (1995) state “The value of the classroom observation process is a critical component of educational leadership” (p. 1).  Toch (2008) recognized observation data leading to teacher evaluations is at the “center of the education enterprise and can be a catalyst for teacher and school improvement” (p. 1). Incorporating regular classroom visits, teacher coaching, professional conversations, and systematic observations will increase the effectiveness of the administrator as an educational leader (Bambrick-Santoyo, 2012; Gray & Lewis, 2011; Ing, 2010; Waldron et al., 2011).

Administrators who understand the instructional needs of their schools are in a better position to make informed decisions that impact student learning (Hallinger & Murphy, 1987; Heck, 1992; Ing, 2010; Leithwood & Jantzi, 2005; Waldron et al., 2011). Increased time spent observing educator practice will allow for robust data collection around performance (Ballou & Podgursky, 1995; Danielson, 2012; Reeves, 2006). Compared to analyzing student test scores, observing instructional practice is a direct way for administrators to understand what occurs in classrooms and engage in discussions with teachers about instruction (Fink & Resnick, 2001).  Range et al. (2011) and Ing (2010) found that classroom observations provide administrators with a current lens on classroom instruction and content as well as opportunities to give direct feedback to educators.  Moreover, developing multiple observation methods provide administrators with an awareness of how the school is functioning (Bloom, 2007; Colasacco, 2011; Goldhaber & Hansen, 2010; Harris & Sass, 2009).

Multiple Methods of Observations

An administrator’s understanding of multiple observation methods is essential in becoming a strong educational leader (Platt et al., 2008).  Schools that are improving typically have created a powerful instructional culture through formal and informal observations and a set of supportive evaluative practices (Marzano et al., 2005).  There are many observation methods that an administrator can use to collect data about teacher practice (City, Elmore, Teitel, and Fiarman, 2009; Ing, 2010; Marzano et al., 2005; Range et al., 2011; Range, Duncan, Scherz, & Haines, 2012; Vasquez, 2004).  In reviewing the literature three approaches arose: formal observation, informal observations, and collaborative observation approaches (Downey, Steffy, English, Frase, & Poston, 2004; Frase & Hetzel, 1990; Glickman & Gordon; 2004; Goldhammer, 1969).  Formal and informal observations are an individual undertaking typically by the school administrator or supervising professional. Learning Walks and Instructional Rounds are observation methods of practice conducted by a group of the current school based educators often working with the building administrator (City et al., 2009; Jove, 2011).  Collaborative observation approaches are also methods an administrator can utilize to support improvement in educator instruction and visually collecting evidence simultaneously through collaborative visits in the school.

Administrators who observe instruction and use that data to deliver targeted feedback assist educators in adjusting practice by providing evidence based judgments and detailed next steps (Jacob & Lefgren, 2005; Marzano et al., 2005; Platt et al., 2008; Range, Young, & Hvidston, 2013) Range et al. (2011) and Marzano et al. (2005) believe observations without follow-up rarely impact instruction. Feedback for educators cannot happen if administrators do not have methods to effectively supervise educator instructional practices and collect evidence (Platt et al., 2000; Platt et al., 2008). If enhancing educator professional growth is one objective of effective evaluations, utilizing multiple methods to supervise educators is paramount to gathering an awareness of an educator’s instructional practice.  The following sections will detail the three researched methods to inform readers and assist administrators to build their repertoire of skills for evaluating instructional practice.

Formal Lesson Observation

Traditional observation models are routinely comprised of one long formal observation with a pre- and post-meeting between the educator and administrator (Bloom, 2007; Danielson, 2012; Ing, 2010; Iwanicki, 2001; Range et al., 2011). Formal classroom observations were once called clinical supervision in the 1970’s (Range et al., 2011).  Clinical supervision was introduced in Robert Goldhammer’s1969 book Clinical supervision: Special methods for the supervision of teachers. Goldhammer believed that for effective supervision to take place administrators must be willing to take the time for coaching and supporting teachers. In turn, teachers would identify areas of need to garner support from the observer in a pre-lesson meeting. After the pre-lesson meeting, the formal observation would take place followed by a meeting to discuss the observation data and next steps.

Glickman and Gordon (2004) and Zepeda (2007) built off of Goldhammer’s work, incorporating Goldhammer’s theories and ideas with skills necessary for today’s instruction leader.  In their more contemporary analysis of observations and observation methods, both Glickman and Zepeda concurred with Goldhammer that a formal observation consists of a three-step process: the pre-observation conference, the extended observation, and the post-observation conference.

The pre-observation conference is a meeting between the observed teacher and administrator when the teacher articulates the lesson that will be observed.  The discussion by the teachers should include lesson objective, instructional moves, and lesson closure. During this meeting the administrator can ask clarifying questions and support with understanding the lesson direction where needed (Glickman & Gordon, 2004; Goldhammer, 1969; Platt et al., 2008; Range et al., 2011; Zepeda 2007).

A twenty to forty minute classroom observation follows the pre-meeting.  Goldhammer, (1969) wrote that the central purpose of observation is to “capture realities of the lesson objectively”  (p. 83) enough to comprehensively enable supervisor and teacher to reconstruct the lesson as validly as possible afterwards, in order to analyze it. To conclude the formal observation method, a post lesson meeting is held. The goal of the post lesson observation is for the teacher and administrator to examine the observed instruction and data, identify strengths and next steps for instruction, and to have meaningful dialogue about the lesson (Range et al., 2011).

Edward Iwanicki (2001) found that traditional supervision models are outdated and rigid and do not support teacher growth and student learning because many of the observation models used in public schools today were developed in the early 1970’s (Bloom, 2007; Danielson, 2012; Leithwood & Jantzi, 2005). Expecting current administrators to observe educator practice using the same method as administrators from forty years ago would not meet the needs of today’s students and teachers nor the current expectations for evaluation. Frase (1992) raised the concern that in one or two formal observations teachers do not receive quality and accurate feedback and evaluation ratings of teachers become exaggerated due to the lack of observation data.  When administrators rely on one or two observations to evaluate educators, the process could be seen as administrator compliance rather than educator growth (Ediger, 2007; Frase, 1992; Ing, 2010; Marshall, 2005). Weisberg et al. (2009) warned administrators that conducting too few observations would lead to “excellence going unnoticed and poor performance going unaddressed” (p. 6).  Marzano et al. (2005) believed an insignificant amount of teaching is observed in a once or twice a year observation cycle and often the lessons that principals observe in a single observation are not the norm of that instructor or classroom. 

Contemporary research agrees that observing an educator once or twice a year is a model that will not support learning (Gordon & Meadows, 1995).  However, if combined with other observation methods, a formal observation is one strategy an administrator can employ to understand the educator’s knowledge and skill for planning lessons.  Additionally, combining formal observations with other methods of observation will allow the administrator knowledge of the current reality in a classroom. (Cherian & Daniel, 2008; Platt et al., 2008; Range et al., 2011; Range et al., 2012). 

Classroom Walkthroughs

A classroom walkthrough can be another valuable method for administrators to observe instructional practices. A classroom walkthrough is a brief classroom visit that occurs frequently and allows administrators to directly observe the teaching and learning that is occurring (Bushman, 2006; Downey et al., 2004; Downey, Steffy, English, Frase, & Poston, 2006; Ginsberg & Murphy, 2002; Platt et al., 2000). Ing (2010) recognized that walkthroughs provide school administrators with rich teacher observation data that can support evaluation. The more frequent the classroom visits, the more data an administrator can share with teachers to support growth and inform their instruction (Ing, 2010; Platt et al., 2008; Yariv, 2009). A classroom walkthrough is a way for administrators to function as instructional leaders and active participants with teachers (Fink & Resnick, 2001; Waldron et al., 2011). Downey et al. (2004) found principals who spend time in classrooms are in a better position to assist teachers with their instructional practices and thus break down the barrier of isolation. Walkthroughs allow school administrators to assist teachers by providing feedback and engaging teachers in substantive dialogue about their work (Fink & Resnick, 2001).

The literature encourages administrators to use classroom walkthroughs as a component of instructional leadership. For instance, Reeves (2006) found teaching should be more of a public process rather than an isolated process.  Frequent administrator walkthroughs allow for instruction practice to be a more public. Eisner (2002) suggested “principals should spend a third of their time in classrooms to engage teachers in the learning process” (p. 577). Elmore (2000) encouraged principals to become more directly involved with instruction if schools are going to make significant improvements with student achievement. With the shift to instructional leadership, it is critical for an administrator to be visible, engage teachers in educational dialog, and become a part of the learning day through informal classroom visits.  A walkthrough is a seamless opportunity to accomplish that objective.

Many of the authors of walkthrough observations as a method for administrators to observe instructional practice reley on the work of Carolyn Downey (Stout, Kachur, and Edwards, 2013; Platt et al., 2000). Practitioners have also documented Downey’s walkthrough strategies in published journals (Lemons & Helsing, 2009; Ginsberg & Murphy, 2002).

Downey along with Poston, Steffy, English and Frase (2004, 2008) wrote two books detailing the walkthrough process as an effective method of classroom observation.  Downey is both a scholar and a practitioner serving as a school administrator in the 1960s and a published author in the early 2000s. As a building administrator, Downey spent a majority of time in classrooms and out of her office (Downey et al., 2004).  Downey believed that spending a brief time in classrooms allowed her more classrooms visits on a more continual basis.  She saw this process as a way to assist her in developing a better understanding of instruction.

Downey described her practice as an administrator as “reflective thought” (Downey et al., 2004, p.10). Reflective thought permitted Downey to add to her practice during post observation meetings with teachers. She stated that completing shorter and more frequent classroom visits allowed her feedback to be more insightful and reflective. Stout et al. (2013) supported reflective thought and agreed it was vital for teacher growth and conducting a walkthrough was one process to begin a dialog with educators about instruction. Downey et al. (2004), asserts that, through frequent, short observations, an administrator can “obtain far more information about teachers” (p. 2).  Downey states that her walkthrough model is intended to be “collaborative” and “reflective” (p.125) and the end result of this process is to enhance and support the growth of teachers. Stout et al. (2013) agrees with this in more contemporary literature about the walkthrough method of observations. 

Downey et al. (2004) identified the walkthrough process as “brief focused visits” (p. 2-4) by school administrators to identify areas for teachers to reflect on in their own practice. Follow up conversations do not transpire after every walkthrough. However in order for teachers to reflect on practice occasional meetings are necessary between the administrator and teachers to discuss observed artifacts or instructional practice.

Downey et al. (2004) stressed the administrator begins the observation focused on students and lesson objectives, not the teacher.  While focusing on the students, the administrator will need to observe instruction and make a judgment on what the teacher is actually teaching. Downey et al. found a critical component to a walkthrough is for the administrator to observe “instructional practices, teacher feedback to students, response to student miscues, and teacher talk v. student talk (p. 17). Additionally, an administrator can observe the classroom environment for student work and note any safety or health issues observed to address with appropriate staff.

The walkthrough method of observation can be a useful strategy to support improved teaching and learning in schools. Administrators must ensure the walkthrough method of observation is purposeful and focused (Ing, 2010). Walkthroughs assist administrators with increasing their visible presence in a school.  Presence alone will not assure quality instruction and does not make an effective administrator. It is how administrators use the observational data that will make an impact (Platt et al., 2008). When school administrators visit classrooms, they must structure it in a way that is meaningful and purposeful for the teachers (Gordon & Meadows, 1995; Grissom & Harrington, 2010; Vogel, 2009).  The observational data is part of the continuous improvement process and ongoing assessment of curriculum and instruction.

By conducting multiple walkthroughs, school administrators are able to keep abreast of information and keep teachers informed about instructional programs.  Through this process of gathering information, building administrators will not only be able to support teacher growth they will be in a better position to fairly evaluate staff due to the robust amount of observation data (Downey et al., 2004; Marzano et al., 2005; Reeves, 2006; Stout et al., 2013).

Management by Wandering Around

Learning can take place anywhere and administrators should not be constrained by the classroom setting. Walkthrough observations are one method of informal observations, but not the only researched method. Ing (2010) stated administrators “who visit classrooms and follow up with teachers provide support to teachers to improve instruction” (p. 342). Frase and Hetzel (1990) identify a second method of informal observations called “Management by Wandering Around” or MBWA.

Frase and Hetzel (1990) discuss this method with a K-12 educational lens, however this is a leadership strategy originating in a corporate setting by Hewlett Packard in the early stages of the company (Peters & Waterman, 1982).  Packard believed that to be successful, managers should be out in the field or on the workroom floor and away from a desk at least half of the day (Peters & Waterman, 1982). Frase and Hetzel (1990) identified in K-12 literature similar traits of a good school administrator and identified that leaders who utilize the MBWA model could create a culture of professionalism and increase teacher participation and involvement in the school vision.

Ing (2010) applies the MBWA concept in the K-12 school setting by stating “principals who understand the instructional needs of their schools better position themselves to make informed decisions that impact student learning” (p. 339).  She went on to state that the informal observations need to be “quick visits that occur more frequently” (p.339). Frase and Hetzel (1990) write about three fundamental values to MBWA applicable to its use in schools: “caring, trust, and openness” (p. 1-2).

Frase and Hetzel (1990) believed that “in effective schools people care about each other” (p. 1). Caring about people is the trademark of this observation method. By strategically wandering around, administrators can have multiple encounters with the school stakeholders (teachers, staff, students) and have a real time look into the day. Marzano et al. (2005) recognized the more visible an administrator is in the school the more they can use the observed information to care and support teachers.

Administrator trust is built on teachers believing administration has the knowledge of their current practice in order to support and fairly evaluate them (Platt et al., 2000).  The Management by Wandering Around method of observation provides the opportunity for administrators to be visible and gather instructional and cultural data on educators.

Caring, trust, and developing openness alone will not assist an administrator in preforming a quality observation.  Frase and Hetzel (1990) wrote, “visibility alone will do little in improving unless it is coupled with a well-focused visit” (p. 75). By wandering around, a building administrator can observe interactions between teacher and student, bulletin boards, collaboration between teachers, PLC meetings, hallway duty, and many other educator responsibilities you can’t see in the office.  Management by Wandering Around is another informal method for collecting observation data on classroom instruction and teacher/student interactions.  However, if administrators are not attentive, strategic, and mindful of the environment during the observation, MBWA could turn into a stroll around the school and not garner rich data to assist in evaluating educators and supporting instruction. 

Collaborative Journey: Learning Walks and Educator Rounds

This literature review has detailed formal observations, informal observations, and walkthrough observations to gather instructional evidence to support a teacher’s evaluation.  There are also collaborative approaches for administrators to observe instruction and events in a school.  Learning walks and educator rounds are two collaborative approaches in observing practice.  Traditionally Learning walks and educator rounds are designed for educators to work together to improve instruction (City et al., 2009; City, 2011; Jove, 2011; Lemons & Helsing, 2009).  However, an administrator can support improvement in educator instruction and visually collect evidence simultaneously through collaborative visits.

Learning walks.

A Learning Walk is a brief structured classroom visit that provides school administrators and teachers opportunities to reflect on what students are learning, learning strategies, student interaction with the content, and student engagement (City et al., 2009; City, 2011; Jove, 2011; Lemons & Helsing, 2009). A Learning Walk is conducted by a group of school-based educators working with the building administrator (Feeney, 2014).  Once the learning walk team is developed, a structure is followed to keep consistency (Feeney, 2014; Jove, 2011; Lemons & Helsing, 2009; Marzano et al., 2005; Platt et al., 2008).  Often an observation data collection instrument is selected by the school administrator for the Learning Walk team to collect and organized observed information.  The Learning Walk instrument could be a check list, narrative template, or electronic photo device. The goal of the Learning Walk process is to develop a deep understanding of teaching and learning and allow educators to reflect on professional practice (City et al., 2009; City, 2011; Jove, 2011; Lemons & Helsing, 2009).  Additionally, educators can reflect and identify how to incorporate those practices into their own instruction.

A Learning Walk has three components beginning with a pre-walk meeting (Bushman, 2006; Jove, 2011; Lemons & Helsing, 2009). The goal of the pre-walk meeting is for the learning team to identify the instructional focus to be observed during the walk and which classrooms to visit (Feeney, 2014).  Depending on the team, a short discussion on why classrooms have been selected may be necessary.  Some examples of an observation learning focus can include, but are not limited to: questioning strategies, classroom management, differentiated instruction, cooperative learning, wait time, and classroom development (Platt et al., 2008).

The classroom visit follows the pre-walk meeting and should last between 5–10 minutes.  The team should split up into small groups to visit multiple classrooms (Bushman, 2006; Jove, 2011; Lemons & Helsing, 2009). Team members will take notes of the identified focus while in the classroom. The identified process for classroom visits should remain consistent throughout the observations.  Student questions can also be developed in the pre-meeting and then asked during the Learning Walk (Marzano et al., 2005; Platt et al., 2008).

Following the observations, the Learning Walk team assembles for a post meeting (Feeney, 2014; Jove, 2011; Lemons & Helsing, 2009; Marzano et al.; 2005; Platt et al., 2008).  At the post meeting, each observing team member shares his/her observations and provides evidence to support any claim made about the observation. The team members identify instructional tendencies, patterns, areas of instructional strength, and areas for educator growth. At the conclusion of the sharing, the team members reflect and can offer recommendations to the administrator about next steps for the school.  Marzano et al. (2005) believes that the more information a school leader has, the more ability they will have to lead and support teachers. The Learning Walk process allows for educator collaboration around best practices and administrator opportunity to observe classroom practices and other arenas in which educators work. It is not recommended to use the learning walk as the educator formal observation but data from the visit can help shape the understanding about the teacher and his/her practices and dispositions and support the evaluation process.

Instructional rounds.

Instructional rounds are an orderly observation method for educators to collaborate and improve instruction.  The Instructional Rounds method of observation is similar to a Learning Walk however the focus of Instructional Rounds is firmly on the instructional core and the “relationship between the teacher, the student, and the content” (City et al., 2009, p. 21).  City et al. (2009) believe administrators too often concentrate on the teacher in front of the students rather than the students themselves. Successful rounds generally focus on “one rich problem based on students’ learning as opposed to the classroom teaching” (p. 22-23).    

The Instructional Rounds process is adapted from the medical rounds model that doctors use in hospitals (City et al. 2009; City, 2011; Roberts, 2012; Roegman & Reihl, 2012).  The medical profession incorporates rounds with physicians in teaching hospitals to teach and share knowledge based on diagnosis and treatment of patients. City et al. (2009) believe Instructional Rounds help educators look closely at what is happening in classrooms for specific students in a systematic, purposeful and focused way. Educators who participate in rounds should expect to learn themselves; whereas in the formal or informal observation only the person being observed is anticipated to learn (City et al., 2009; City, 2011; Roberts, 2012; Roegman & Reihl, 2012).

As with Learning Walks, the building administrator is part of the Instructional Round team.  Educators’ focus during this process is on instructional practice growth, but an administrator can use this time to learn more about his/her teacher to assist in supporting growth and fairly evaluating them due to the rich observational data gathered. Instructional Rounds are completed by a group of educators (City et al., 2009; City, 2011; Roberts, 2012; Roegman & Reihl, 2012). Marzano (2011) believed teachers are using skills observed during rounds to improve practice, where as the administrator is gaining a deeper understanding of the instructors in his/her building.

City et al. (2009) have been recognized in literature as leaders in Instructional Rounds research and process (Marzano, 2011; Roberts, 2012).  Their work has been cited in educational journals and scholarly studies as a breakthrough in defining the Instructional Rounds method of observation (Marzano, 2011; Roberts, 2012). 

The initial step in the instructional rounds process is to meet as a team and identify a problem of practice then, as a group, look for the problem in practice during Rounds (City et al. 2009, Marzano; 2011; Roberts 2012).  The problem of practice focus and observation is to “gather information directly on the work of teaching and learning” (City et al., 2009, p. 99).  It is important to note that during the rounds educators are asked to make observations and describe “what is seen during instruction rather than making judgments” (City et al. 2009, p.84). Following the Rounds, participating educators meet and debrief their observations (City et al., 2009; Marzano, 2011; Roberts, 2012). The purpose of the debrief meeting is to discuss the collected evidence of the group and what learning arises from the observation. City et al. (2009) encourage educators to describe, not judge, the data that is relevant to the problem of practice and listen and learn from colleagues to analyze patterns that emerge. Finally, educators will identify the next level of work for the school or his/her own practice at the close of the debrief meeting (City et al. 2009; Marzano, 2011; Roberts, 2012).

Learning Walks and Educator Rounds are both collaborative and intended to produce educator growth.  Compared to formal and informal observations and walkthroughs, these methods are not direct observation of an educator by an administrator.  However, participating in learning walks and educator rounds will proved a building administrator a view of the school that he/she can not get from a formal observation alone. Teddlie, Kirby, and Stringfield (1989), directed an educational study observing the differences at the classroom level in effective and ineffective schools. They found that the principal in the effective school was described as “having her finger on the pulse of the school” (Teddlie et al., 1989, p. 231).  Learning Walks and Instructional Rounds assist administrators with having a pulse of the school while allowing them to accumulate a running account of teacher instruction, interactions with students and other faculty members, and observe student work in the classroom and posted.  All of this rich observational data will provide a full scope of the educators’ work as an instructor and as a professional. 

Implications for Further Research

This literature review focused on school administrators observing instructional practice by incorporating multiple research-based methods.  A limitation of the literature reviewed was a lack of studies focusing on “what” data should administrators focus on during the observations.   The literature detailed that utilizing multiple methods of observations to collect instructional data is the first step in the observation process and will assist in developing instructional leaders. Without a variety of observation strategies administrators cannot collect the high leverage data to provide targeted feedback. City et al. (2009) stated, “many educators are not sure what to look for when they open the door and what to do with what they see” (p. 3).  More work is needed analyzing these methods in practice. Another implication for further research is in the area of educator feedback an administrator can provide from the evidence collected during the observations.  Many researchers identified that feedback can be linked to educator growth (Ing, 2010).  Additional examination is warranted on the topics of administrative feedback and high leverage data to collect during observations. Connecting “what” to look for during the multiple methods of observations and providing targeted “next steps” after collecting the artifacts would allow a doctoral study to examination the full sequence of educator observation and how it supports evaluation. With a wider study scope and time, I believe this can be accomplished. 


In conclusion, administrator observations have undergone many changes in recent practice and the increase in need has been influenced by the political and social climate of the country. In June 2011, the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted new regulations for the evaluation of educators in the Commonwealth highlighting the newest educational reform.  The stated goal of the new Massachusetts evaluation system is to promote student learning, growth, and achievement by providing educators with feedback for improvement (603 CMR 35).  For an administrator to have the knowledge of instructional practice to deliver growth-providing feedback, he/she will need multiple methods of observations to collect data. Administrators who can develop multiple observation strategies are in a better position to gather a full scope of educators work.  Collecting a robust understanding of educator practice will allow administrators to fairly and accurately evaluate staff. 

Frase (2001) reports that teachers’ professional learning and pratice increase when principals are visiting classrooms on a regular basis. Blasé and Blasé (2004) also believed that teacher morale and motivation increases when principals are visible in the learning day. Darling-Hammond (1990) points out that supervisory practices of principals can affect the following: teacher motivation, knowledge, satisfaction, communication, consensus, trust, confidence, and decision-making. School administrators who spend time in classrooms are better able to assist teachers with their instructional practices and thus break down the barrier of isolation (Darling-Hammond, 1990). Formal observations, walkthroughs, systematically wandering around, conducting Learning Walks and Educator Rounds are multiple methods of observing educator practice.  School administrators can utilize many methods to assist educators by providing feedback, engaging in substantive dialogue about their work, and fairly evaluating their practice. 


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