Classroom Walk-Throughs: Monitoring Cognitive Type

            Carolyn Downey advocates that instructional leaders use classroom walk-throughs to monitor and improve classroom instruction throughout a school or district.  Unlike formal teacher evaluations, walk-through’s last no longer than three minutes and concentrate on what Downey refers to as the “3 C’s”:  Context, Content, and Cognitive Type.  Because the amount of time required is considerably less than other methods, leaders can quickly become familiar with teaching patterns.  Data collected is best used to improve instruction schoolwide by engaging staff in a cycle of reflection and inquiry.

            Much has been written about students’ lack of ability to think critically.  Student access to classroom activities that require higher levels of thinking may be part of the problem, especially if teachers are not designing lessons with Bloom’s Taxonomy in mind.  Downey’s classroom walkthrough protocol includes collecting data for her third “C”, cognitive type.  The observer determines the Bloom’s level at which the teacher is teaching and the level of thinking required of students during practice or homework.  Next teachers review and reflect on the aggregate data collected by the observer and then set goals for improvement.  Some staff may need additional professional development before they can design lessons to include all cognitive levels.   If school leaders use classroom walkthroughs effectively, teachers will focus more on weaving all cognitive levels into classroom instruction and practice.