Principal’s classroom visits don’t help

Principals say “instructional leadership” is important, but what does that mean? Cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham praises a new study that recorded how 100 principals spent their time during the school day.  Principals averaged 12.6 percent of their time on activities related to instruction, including classroom walkthroughs (5.4 percent) and formal teacher evaluation (2.4 percent).

Principals spent more time on instructional leadership at schools with more lower-income, lower-achieving and nonwhite students.
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“Just pretend I’m not here.”

Time spent on instructional leadership did not correlate with better student learning outcomes — unless the principal spent that time coaching teachers (especially in math) or evaluating teachers and curriculum. 

. . . informal classroom walkthroughs–the most common activity–were negatively associated with student achievement. This was especially true in high schools.

. . . The negative association with student achievement was most evident where principals believed that teachers did not view walkthroughs as opportunities for professional development.  (Other reasons for walkthroughs might be to ensure that a teacher is following a curriculum, or to be more visible to faculty.)

It’s all about the feedback, concludes Willingham. “Instructional leadership activities that offer meaningful feedback to teachers may help. Those that don’t, will not.”

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