Action Step and Orientation
R2. Ensure quality of instruction and services by having site administrators regularly visit classrooms.
This lesson is addressed directly to administrators and focuses on the role of leadership in ensuring quality of care and instruction at your school. It will guide you in establishing or strengthening your system for communicating the goals of the TSLP to staff and providing systematic feedback to staff on their implementation of language and pre-literacy initiatives.
Part 1 of this lesson guides you in establishing expectations about classroom visits and communicating with staff about your system.
In Part 2, you will find information about providing feedback to staff and using the information you collect to support your staff in providing quality care.
To get started, download the Implementation Guide for this component and refer to the Action Step for this lesson. Review the Implementation Indicators for each level of implementation and note the Sample Evidence listed at the bottom of the chart.
Part 1—Providing Instructional Leadership Through Classroom Visits
One of the most important roles of an administrator is instructional leader. Your teachers look to you and your team for instructional expertise and guidance for their own professional growth. One of the most powerful ways you provide instructional leadership is through regular classroom visits along with ongoing, reflective communication with staff about their instruction. These practices create a team environment in which staff members see you as instructional mentors. Also, the children under your care see that both teachers and administrators are invested in them. Action Step R2 focuses on providing instructional leadership through these regular classroom visits. In this lesson, you will consider how to implement an effective system for observing and providing feedback to staff that meets the unique needs of your school.
Clarifying your purpose for classroom visits
As you well understand, early childhood teachers must meet different types of expectations on a daily basis. They must maintain a strong understanding of children’s basic safety needs and how to comply with the minimum standards that are required by law.
In addition, staff must be effective caregivers and teachers. They are the primary support to children as they learn and develop in each of the skill domains emphasized in the state guidelines and in your site’s data-informed plan for improving language and pre-literacy instruction. Given the multiple expectations placed on staff, you will want to ensure they clearly understand the purpose and goals for your classroom observations.
The purpose of your observations is to document how much and how well staff are working toward the targeted literacy initiatives you have set for your school and to effectively support them in their efforts. Your goal is to ensure children are being supported in meeting the TSLP language and pre-literacy targets.
You want staff to understand that your formal classroom visits are focused on supporting their instruction and their professional growth as early educators. As you might imagine, this Action Step relates closely to the goals of your school’s assessment plan and your effective instructional framework.
Therefore, one of the first steps you should take as leaders is to establish and communicate the goals and expectations for your formal classroom visits to your staff. Emphasize that the visits are not focused on site compliance and then address any misconceptions staff may have about what you will assess during your visits.
You and your team may want to consider the following questions to create a collaborative environment and establish effective communication between you and your staff about classroom visits:
- What are our staff’s current expectations about formal classroom visits? Do they align with the goals we set for the visits? How can we support staff in better understanding the purpose of classroom visits?
- Are classroom visits regularly scheduled (e.g., once per month with a 15-minute follow-up conference)? Are teachers adequately informed about the schedule? Is the schedule followed consistently?
- What tools will we use during our visits to record information (e.g., observation forms, checklists, debriefing forms)? Are they accessible to staff, and do they understand their purpose?
- Do staff members understand how they will be evaluated and given feedback? Do we have a clear system in place for these practices?
Having a clear purpose and well-communicated goals for your formal classroom visits will support staff in knowing what to expect and understanding how the system benefits their own professional development. A key component to your system will be effectively using the information you collect from formal visits to support language and pre-literacy efforts at your school.
Part 2—Implementing a System of Regular Classroom Visits and Feedback to Ensure Quality of Instruction and Services
As with any assessment activity you do, the goal is to use the information you collect to improve outcomes for the children in your care. The same goes for classroom visits. Feedback to staff should focus on instruction and classroom practices. The information collected during classroom visits should be used to provide quality feedback to the instructional staff as part of your school’s ongoing efforts to achieve the targeted literacy goals of the TSLP.
In focusing on targeted literacy goals, observers should look for how well teachers implement the following:
- Instruction and programming that meet the expectations of your data-informed plan for improving language and pre-literacy instruction
- Programming and services that meet the needs of diverse learners (English learners, dual language learners, children with advanced skills, children identified with delays or disabilities)
- Connections to home and collaboration with families
- Use of assessment data (i.e., information from developmental checklists, observations of children, pre-literacy screeners) to plan care and instruction
This Action Step is closely aligned with those in the Leadership component, particularly Action Step L4. Lesson L4—Instructional leadership is focused on your role as an instructional leader and provides guidance in observing and providing feedback to staff. You and your team may also read or review Lesson E2—Rich environment for further guidance in creating tools for your classroom visits that are designed to measure staff’s implementation of effective classroom instruction. Also, the “Literacy Walkthrough Template for Early Learning Classrooms,” from the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), is one available resource that can serve as a guide as you create or refine the tools you use for your classroom visits at the prekindergarten level.
In the NAESP guide, administrators can focus on one of three areas (learning, teaching, and classroom environment) and its related indicators during each of their visits. Any checklists that you adopt or create can be broken down with a focus on just certain practices to observe during a single walk-through. This may help the observer and teacher feel less overwhelmed by the classroom visit process. Further resources are available in the To Learn More section.
Once visits are conducted, you and your team will need to establish a system of providing feedback to staff and communicate this system clearly. You may develop a system for debriefing with staff after observations, focusing both on areas of strength and needed development.
The feedback that leaders give to teachers after a classroom observation can include discussion about
- how effectively children are learning;
- how engaging the language and pre-literacy lessons are and whether they are implemented consistently each day;
- how well prepared teachers are;
- how effectively materials are being used; and/or
- how regularly teachers consult data to help them plan instruction.
During debriefings (or conferences) after visiting classrooms, you will want to ensure that the teachers have an opportunity to communicate what they feel their successes and challenges are, as well as ways they would like to be supported in meeting their goals. When communicating your observations to staff, you want to be prepared to offer clear suggestions and a plan of support for improving in areas of need. Some key strategies for debriefing include (1) recognizing both strengths and needs, (2) validating teachers’ efforts in trying new practices, and (3) deciding together which next steps to take.
How and what feedback is provided has great potential for supporting growth in your staff. Providing feedback effectively may be one of a school leader’s most important skills. This handout provides a summary of Grant Wiggins’ “Seven Keys to Effective Feedback” for you and your team to review. There is a link to the full article on the handout and in the To Learn More section below.
As school leaders, you will analyze and use information collected from classroom visits to continually assess your school’s progress toward targeted goals and provide support where needed. Classroom visits are a key practice in identifying staff’s strengths and needs, and you can use this information to build on their efforts to achieve learning goals. This information can inform your plan for professional development throughout the year, as well as direct you in identifying and providing resources to staff that support them in their efforts to provide the best care and instruction possible.
Likewise, regular and systematic classroom visits allow you to identify effective teachers and build site capacity by empowering them to take on leadership roles.
Finally, you will want to include teacher input as you evaluate and revise your plan for improving language and pre-literacy instruction based on the information you collect from your classroom visits.
Setting a clear purpose for formal classroom visits, communicating that purpose, and providing teachers with quality feedback on their instruction are the key practices of effective teacher observations. As an important aspect of instructional leadership, classroom visits encourage a school climate of collaboration, teamwork, and support for both your teachers and the children under your care.
TO LEARN MORE: Use the following resources to learn more about classroom visits to support teachers and children.
“Using Classroom Walkthroughs to Improve Instruction,” available on the National Association for Elementary School Principals (NAESP) website, describes key ways that classroom visits can improve instruction and create a campus climate of collaboration and improvement. Although the article is written for elementary principals, much of the information can be helpful to you in establishing the purpose and goals of your system.
The “Texas School Ready! Language and Literacy Checklist,” from the Texas State Center for Early Childhood Development, is a tool available from the Children’s Learning Institute. You may decide to focus on part of this checklist during certain classroom visits. You can use this checklist as a guide to create developmentally appropriate checklists for use in observations of classes with infants and toddlers.
As with any Action Step that focuses on measuring care and instruction for children age 0 to school entry (SE), it can be helpful to review the various state guidelines and use them as you establish what to look for during classroom observations. These include the Texas Infant, Toddler, and Three-Year-Old Early Learning Guidelines and the Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines (Updated 2015)
“Seven Keys to Effective Feedback,” published in Educational Leadership, provides more information about the points mentioned on the lesson handout.
NEXT STEPS: Depending on your progress in establishing your system for classroom visits, you might consider the following next steps:
- Meet with your leadership team to establish or solidify expectations about formal classroom visits.
- Create a schedule for conducting classroom visits and conferencing or debriefing with staff.
- Create a classroom observation tool for use in documenting implementation of practices, strategies, and approaches targeted in your site’s data-informed plan for improving language and pre-literacy instruction.
- Plan a time to meet with staff and outline goals, expectations, and schedules for formal classroom visits
R2. Ensure quality of instruction and services by having site administrators regularly visit classrooms.
With your site/campus-based leadership team, review your team’s self-assessed rating for Action Step R2 in the TSLP Implementation Status Ratings document and then respond to the four questions in the assignment.
In completing your assignment with your team, the following resources and information from this lesson’s content may be useful to you:
- Refer to Part 1 for information about establishing expectations for classroom visits and a collaborative understanding with staff about your system.
- Refer to Part 2 to learn how to provide effective feedback to staff and use the information collected from classroom visits to build on efforts to improve language and pre-literacy outcomes.
Next Steps also contains suggestions that your site or campus may want to consider when you focus your efforts on this Action Step.
To record your responses, go to the Assignment template for this lesson and follow the instructions.