Monitoring Teaching and Learning

The importance of the Instructional Core is also demonstrated among successful superintendents in the ways in which they actively monitor the teaching and learning that occurs in each of their schools. These instructional leaders institute such practices through a combination of methods, but primarily through classroom observations that are non-evaluative.

In some cases, superintendents monitor the quality of instruction using their own observation process. Such superintendent observations are not connected to formal teacher evaluation, but inform decisions about the system. Others use informal observation processes to check in on the quality of their system. While still others use structured tools in order to describe, quantify, and make decisions based on the data from their observations.

In addition to their own observation strategies, high impact superintendents rely on the regular supervision process of their principals by expecting them to regularly check in on the quality of the Instructional Core. The ability to provide instructional leadership through observation techniques is a strategy seen by effective superintendents as a particularly important, non-negotiable characteristic of an effective principal. Such superintendents know that when their building leaders demonstrate the ability to effectively monitor good teaching and learning, it actually allows them to focus on the more abstract, higher level leadership functions of their work and not worry as much about the minute details.

The idea of being in classrooms observing the Instructional Core is a clear principle that successful superintendents value. They make it a priority to deprivatize practice in all of their classrooms through observation. They see each class as part of the larger system; and to improve the whole, they monitor the quality of the most basic part ? the classroom.

Connections & Resources

The following indicators in the WISE Tool (Idaho's online planning tool) would make for natural connections for superintendents who are considering making plans related to this topic.

IA06 The district provides schools with technology, training, and support for integrated data collection, reporting, and analysis systems. PDF Icon CLICK HERE Link
IA07 The district sets district, school, and student subgroup achievement targets. PDF Icon CLICK HERE Link
IA11 The district ensures that key pieces of user-friendly data are available in a timely fashion at the district, school, and classroom levels. PDF Icon CLICK HERE Link
IB02 The district examines existing school improvement strategies being implemented across the district and determines their value, expanding, modifying, and culling as evidence suggests. PDF Icon CLICK HERE Link
IC01 The school reports and documents its progress monthly to the superintendent, and the superintendent reports the school's progress to the school board. PDF Icon CLICK HERE Link

The resources below are provided for further exploration of this topic. They are among many tools and readings that Idaho School Superintendents have either used or cited in their work.

Instructional Rounds in Education: A Network Approach to Improving Teaching and Learning

Instructional Rounds in Education: A Network Approach to Improving Teaching and Learning (City et al., 2009)

One of the most powerful tools that leaders use to monitor teaching and learning is Instructional Rounds. Modeled after Medical Rounds, this process uses non-evaluative observation that guides leadership and decision-making about the system. City et al. provide a framework for instituting the Instructional Rounds process based on a well articulated Theory of Action paired with a cycle of inquiry that helps leaders determine why anticipated results are not occurring.

For more information, visit Harvard Graduate School of Education's Usable Knowledge site on the topic at

Nine Characteristics of High-Performing Schools

Nine Characteristics of High-Performing Schools (Shannon & Bylsma, 2007)

The authors describe the practice of monitoring teaching and learning in this way. "Effective monitoring is non-threatening and occurs frequently. In other words, monitoring provides continuous feedback primarily for purposes of improvement, not for making major decisions about a student's future or a teacher's career." Chapter 6 of this resource provides information on how strong leaders might connect the data produced by student performance to that which comes from leadership observation practices.

This document is available for free download from the State of Washington's Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction at:

State Support Programs that Integrate Instructional Rounds