Linda Fisher Provides Tools for Purposeful Walkthroughs

Walkthroughs are becoming popular with principals. At least, they should be popular with principals because they are an effective way to get to know students and get to see what is going on in the classroom. In a Thursday morning session, Linda Fisher, a former principal and present director of the Learning Headquarters in San Diego focused on walkthroughs that can dramatically improve student achievement.

The first type of walkthrough that she discussed was called a “Quick Scan” which is only about 2 to 3 minutes in length. It doesn’t matter how busy you may be, we can all find a couple of minutes to walk through the class and get a quick scan of what is going on in the classroom. These should be done a few times a week.

As much as it may be difficult to break away from the computer or not schedule back-to-back meetings, these quick walkthroughs are an important part of the day and should be done as frequently as possible. As a school administrator I get into every classroom every day. Linda’s suggestions provided me with a better way to look for what was going on in each room.

The other walkthrough Linda presented on was a little more defined and she called them a “Focused” walkthrough. A focused walkthrough lasts a little under 10 minutes and allows the principal to gather and record evidence. Linda referred to four lenses:

  1. Standards-aligned curriculum
  2. Effective classroom management
  3. High-quality instruction
  4. Ongoing assessment

The four lenses are the things that principals should be looking for when they walk into a room. It doesn’t take long to spot standards-based curriculum, effective classroom management, high quality instruction and on0oing assessment. Asking students questions regarding these four lenses will help principals see if students are learning what the teacher is teaching.

The last and most important part to the purposeful walkthroughs was to provide feedback to teachers. Regardless of whether the teacher is the most highly qualified educator in the building, all teachers deserve and should get administrator feedback. Linda discussed offering leverage points to teachers. Each of the four lenses allowed for three leverage points. By doing that, teachers are provided with effective feedback, and a point scale, that they can use to change their instruction.

Walkthroughs help administrators get a better idea of what is happening in classrooms, and they also provide administrators with an opportunity to see students actively engaged. When students see their principals in the class it helps those students understand that their schoolwork is important. Providing principals and other administrators with some key examples of what to look for is exactly what Linda did, and the audience walked away with tools they can use in their schools.

I sometimes worry that we are charged with collecting too much data which can take away from the creativity of a classroom. Using Linda’s techniques, administrators can find a balance between data and creativity.

Peter DeWitt, principal, Poestenkill Elementary School, Albany, New York

Peter DeWitt blogs at Finding Common Ground for Education Week. He presented on the topic of struggling learners at NAESP and can be reached at