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TNLI: Action Research: Professional Development: Walkthrough Supervision

How does a policy of short, frequent visits by administrators affect student achievement?


A new method of teacher supervision has been showing up recently in public school systems. It is not supplanting the traditional method required by state policy but supplementing it. The new method involves frequent short visits to classrooms by a supervisor who looks for patterns in the teaching methods being applied.

Based on the work of W. Edward Deming in the 1950s, one of the objectives of this method of supervision is to reduce the apprehension occurring during regularly scheduled observations for evaluative purposes. As in Deming’s industrial model, improved “production” is the main goal of supervision. In the case of education, student progress is the “product” and the goal of the supervision is to improve instruction. With that improvement will come improvement in student learning.

Carolyn J. Downey has developed the Three-Minute Walkthrough method of supervision. It is designed to give a clearer picture of what is going on in school classrooms than is attainable through isolated observations. Supervisors make frequent short visits to identify patterns in the management or instruction in each classroom. After several visits, the supervisor opens a dialogue with the teacher to discuss the methods used. The discussions are to be nonthreatening and to assist the teacher in professional development.

The purpose of my research was to find out how the application of these methods actually affects the teachers and students in the high school where I teach. I surveyed staff members and students to learn their reactions to the first year of short visits by the curriculum supervisor.

Survey results indicated that neither teachers nor students found the visits to be particularly helpful. The visits without feedback left teachers waiting for some response to what they were doing in their classrooms. The presence of a supervisor was sometimes disruptive to the classes, with special education students most affected. Teachers of math, English, social studies, and science received more visits. Arts, health, and physical education teachers did not receive any visits at all.


  • Schools should modify current practices to establish better communication between supervisor and teachers.
  • Schools should develop a more effective dialogue in a nonthreatening manner between supervisor and teachers to enhance professional development.
  • Supervisors should give equal attention to teachers in all subject areas so that teachers in noncore subjects feel as if they are a valuable members of the school.


Full Study
Coming Soon!

Helen E. Gieske

Physics and Chemistry
Woodbridge High School

TNLI Affiliate:


If you would like to learn more about Teachers Network Leadership Institute--Delaware, please e-mail Michael Rasmussen.



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