A Principal’s Guide to Effective Classroom Walkthroughs

February 13, 2024 | By: Extramarks

A Principal's Guide to Effective Classroom Walkthroughs

In the world of education, classroom walkthroughs have emerged as a powerful tool for school administrators, teachers, and educational leaders alike. These brief, focused observations provide valuable insights into classroom dynamics, teaching strategies, and student engagement. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the essential aspects of classroom walkthroughs, exploring their purpose, benefits, best practices, and how they can transform the educational landscape. Whether you’re an educator looking to enhance your teaching or an administrator seeking to improve school-wide instruction, this article will equip you with the knowledge and strategies to make the most of classroom walkthroughs.

What is a Classroom Walkthrough?

A classroom walkthrough is a visit to the classrooms by the principals or administrators to observe the teaching-learning process. Used for evaluation of a new program execution, teaching strategy or classroom management, a classroom walkthrough can be both unannounced or pre-planned. 

Even though classroom walkthroughs are built around data collection and analytics, they play a key role in relationship building between teachers and school management. Every teacher tends to develop their own style of teaching lessons in the classroom. Being observed with the purpose of critique might lead to stress and performance pressure. Here, building the right context, frequency, and feedback pattern for the classroom walkthrough tool can help relieve tensions and bring about a positive change. 

Unannounced classroom walkthroughs are short and informal. They serve both general and specific purposes. However, formal classroom walkthroughs are pre-planned and informed classroom visits for a more structured evaluation process. The efficacy of pre-planned or formal classroom walkthroughs is often debated since the teachers are required to prepare the lesson plan for ideal conditions leading to specific outcomes.

Types of Classroom Walkthroughs

Types of Classroom Walkthrough

Classroom walkthroughs go across a broad spectrum. From brief, visibility-driven walkthroughs to mini-observation sessions, they sometimes go into in-depth reviews and evaluations. Based on the purpose, principals, senior educators or administrators can pick a suitable approach and plan. 

  • Formal Walkthroughs – These are longer, pre-planned observations, usually designed around specific data collection objectives, giving teachers time to prepare the lesson plan around the agenda. Scheduled and informed in advance, formal walkthroughs are like conducting primary research with a list to check and record all data needs. Modelled around data collection, formal Walkthroughs are useful in the following scenarios:
    • Implementation Support: A walkthrough planned with the goal of observing the implementation of a new program, curriculum or teaching method in a classroom. This kind of classroom walkthrough involves a detailed checklist or observation criteria to ascertain if the approach is being implemented correctly. It is also useful in understanding which aspects are flowing smoothly and what needs more refining.
    • Instructional Rounds: Based on a specific result or class performance, instructional rounds are classroom walkthroughs planned around picking key information from multiple classrooms that could be the reason for emerging trends. Usually undertaken by a group of administrators, educators and principals, instructional rounds allow for systematic observations by all stakeholders who can then use this information to decide future course of action.
    • Formal Evaluation: These walkthroughs are scheduled with the purpose of providing feedback and coaching to the teachers on efficacy in the classroom. More qualitative in nature, an evaluation walkthrough focuses on the delivery of teaching methods, clarity and student handling. Sometimes impacting the teacher’s professional record, evaluation walkthroughs are mainly used to coach new teachers or teachers on new methods and curricula.
  • Informal Walkthroughs: Spontaneous, unannounced and brief, informal walkthroughs are organic in nature. They are focused on the teachers and how the students respond to the teaching strategies. The objective of informal walkthroughs is to build teachers’ comfort with the process, frequency and its open agenda. The frequency and the duration of the walkthroughs are key to this approach.   Brief walkthroughs are easier to fit into a work schedule for principals without the added burden on time. Higher frequencies allow for observations to be whetted on multiple occasions and establish the walkthroughs as a routine activity, putting teachers and students at ease. They help principals and administrators  gain intuitive insights, draw observations, and build relationships with teachers in the following ways:
    • Open-ended Observations: These casual visits help in sensing the classroom environment and observing real-time lesson delivery. This provides the administrators with an authentic view of day-to-day instruction and classroom dynamics. Open-ended observations focus on what is going on in the classroom at the time of the walkthrough. It could be the lesson plan, student handling on that day by the teachers and the learning that is taking place in the classroom.
    • Coaching Sessions: Basis the open-ended observation, principals can have Informal discussions with all the teachers providing any key observations as a neutral observer and sharing tips to improve the lesson delivery. These inputs can also be used for general feedback, areas of improvement and coaching for professional development.
    • Evidence-based Discussions: Different from coaching sessions, evidence-based discussions focus on specific insights on the lesson or subject being taught, the teaching strategy being used, the teacher’s proficiency or skill with the method and classroom management. Even when the discussion is about a specific teaching-learning event, it remains conversational and informal, intending to understand the needs of the teacher in order to be more effective.
    • Criterion-referenced Feedback: This approach of informal walkthroughs provides feedback specifically towards any previously agreed upon goals or standards. It can be used as a follow-up step on the ongoing discussions or introduction of new practices. As with all informal walkthrough approaches, the inputs based on the observation are conversational and informal.

Crafting Differentiated Feedback

The outcome of both formal and informal walkthroughs should be timely, actionable feedback that can improve the teaching-learning activity in the classroom. Sensitively crafted feedback can provide both clarity and direction to the teachers. Principals or administrators can use differentiated feedback techniques to discuss their observations, identify strong points and touch upon areas that need work. You can also use this information to develop plans with teachers, access progress and share inputs for further improvement. This process of partnering with teachers to address their challenges and aid their professional growth builds trust and a collective spirit across school management. Types of differentiated feedback include: 

  • Directive feedback refers to direct or specific guidance. This approach is very useful when rolling out new teaching strategies or curricula. It sets down clear methods or processes and can also be used to guide new teachers who need more handholding.
  • Reflective feedback is an open, prompt-driven approach. Open-ended questions that encourage reflection on a specific challenge can help teachers come up with different solutions to address the challenge. This approach lets the teachers decide on the action.
  • Reflexive feedback reverses the process and seeks teacher input to address a situation observed in the classroom. This approach allows for feedback to flow from the teacher and can also include the help, training or skill upgradation they need outside of the classroom.

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Benefits of Classroom Walkthroughs

While the objective of classroom walkthroughs is enhancing instructional quality through aspects of learning effectiveness, teacher-student interaction and student performance, the benefits of the right mix of walkthroughs are reflected in more interpersonal dynamics between the teachers and the administration. Walkthroughs have become one of the key tools to align management and teachers to the instructional goals of the institute. Specific benefits of the walkthroughs include:

  • Trust Building: Classroom walkthroughs work as a trust-building exercise between the administration and the teachers. Principals get first-hand insights into the teaching process of the curriculum, understand the unique challenges faced by the teachers and can identify the training and developmental needs of the teachers. On the other hand, teachers feel part of a team where they can share and discuss their challenges openly without judgment.
  • Situational Analysis: Classroom walkthroughs help principals and administrators understand and identify strong points and areas of work towards the instructional goals of the institute.  They help highlight models that can be replicated and areas that need to be addressed.
  • Improved Communication: Classroom walkthroughs set up a new, frequent and less formal communication channel between the school principal and the teachers. It lays the foundation for a regular, focused and constructive dialogue where both sides work towards a common goal. Keeping the frequency high helps the teachers feel at ease with more opportunities to interact and review the progress with the administration. 

Tips for a Successful Walkthrough Plan

Now that we’ve looked at the different kinds of classroom walkthroughs and their advantages, it brings us to the next part on what makes for a good walkthrough program. Below are some pointers to ease you into the framework to get the most out of your classroom walkthroughs.

  • Build Walkthroughs Into Your Schedule

Work on a broad framework of weekly targets for walkthroughs you want to conduct. To ensure holistic understanding, rotate and space them in a way that you can observe each teacher multiple times. Schedule your walkthroughs at different times of the day. Keeping a walkthrough brief, with the objective of open-ended observation allows you to sneak one in between your meetings and other commitments. 

  • Building a Team

Build a team of leaders comprising of other administrators, instructional experts or department heads. Different sets of eyes can offer varied observations allowing for a richer discussion, which can prove to be a catalyst for all-round professional development. Use a combination of individual and team classroom walkthroughs to help distribute the time burden.

  • Communicate About the Purpose

Talk about walkthroughs as a tool and convey your purpose repeatedly to set the context with the teachers. Offer constructive, concise and useful feedback after the walkthroughs.  Share why walkthroughs are important and what you hope to gain from them. Also, share the key areas of observation and set a timeline for discussing learnings and feedback.

  • Ask the Right Questions

This aspect is very crucial to build a healthy rapport with the teachers. At times a nudge in the right direction can achieve far more than direct instruction.  Use open-ended questions that seek to understand the teacher’s process. Choose questions that highlight context, perspective, interpretation, impact etc., to lead an engaging discussion that keeps everyone from getting defensive.

  • Look for Bright Spots

Observe and share areas of positive growth as well as those needing more work. Lead with the positive and open up the part that needs more attention, for discussion or reflection. Sometimes acknowledging the good can motivate teachers to find innovative approaches for other areas.

  • Use a Template to Collate Observation

Identify a template that helps you capture all aspects of your observation in advance. Use this to capture both qualitative and qualitative data from your walkthroughs. Formal walkthroughs allow for data entry while observing, however, for informal walkthroughs,  put down your observations soon after the activity. This timely documentation of the observations prevents any loss of data. A template can also form the basis of your feedback discussions or presentations.


  1. What should be the objective of a classroom walkthrough?

    The objective of classroom walkthroughs is twofold. First, to nurture a strong, healthy relationship with the teachers. And second, to gather insights that can improve the teaching-learning process of your school. Often classroom walkthroughs are mistakenly perceived as a review or supervisory tool when instead they are a tool to help the principals be more effective leaders. 

  2. Should principals give positive and negative feedback?

    Instead of thinking of feedback as positive or negative, think of it as a growth catalyst. Share inputs for discussion to improve the effectiveness of the teaching-learning process. Authentic, constructive feedback not only improves teaching effectiveness but also leads to professional development for teachers. Seek to listen and understand before offering suggestions.

  3. How do I share feedback on subjects I haven’t taught?

    It is important to understand here that the feedback is not subject-specific. As an educational leader, your job is to observe and provide an overview of what you find. Classroom walkthroughs are a tool for identifying effective practices and gaps that can be filled. Your role is to identify these gaps and best practices, and further build an environment that nurtures solutions as a collective.

Last Updated on May 13, 2024

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