Observing a CueThink Classroom: A Walkthrough Guide


Today’s administrators are required to be in many places at the same time. They have to constantly size up the different school initiatives and instructional strategies to decide which ones can improve student learning.  We have created a guide to help administrators observe what an active and collaborative math classroom looks like.

A CueThink classroom can lead to reflective conversations about the quality of student thinking as well as the quality of finished products. One way to gain insight into these types of conversations is through classroom walkthroughs.  Walkthroughs provide a snapshot of what is visible in classroom culture in longer than 5 to 10 minutes per class..

Key to a classroom walkthrough is knowing what you're looking for in a classroom. Using a checklist helps facilitate thoughtful conversations with teachers about their practice and the classroom environment. Principal John Skretta (2007) says that “their greatest value is that administrators can use them to gather data, which in turn can be used to prompt and provoke dialogue about instruction between teachers and administrators”  (Protheroe p. 30). Using a walkthrough protocol allows administrators to make the most of their time to understand how a CueThink classroom looks, sounds, and feels like in action.

How does a CueThink classroom feel?

One element of school culture is how classrooms feel. Tangible evidence of school culture (the physical, visual, auditory, or other sensory signs) demonstrate the behaviors of teachers, students, parents, and administrators (Shafer, 2018).  Questions to ask during the walkthrough related to the feel of the classroom environment include:

  • Are the students excited about learning?  

  • Do you want to stay beyond allotted time because it feels like the place to be?  

  • Are students persisting in their work? Are the students working through issues without giving up?  

  • Are they working beyond the frustration of not understanding and learning to take it slow? Are students talking about their challenges and ways to figure them out?

What instructional elements do you see in a CueThink classroom?

The visual aspects of classroom observations give administrators a picture of the instructional and curriculum components.  Thinking about evidence of student learning is not only in the work the student completes but in the process and tools of learning.  

  • What are there observable objectives? What does the student need to know and be able to do in this lesson?

  • What instructional materials and technology are used?

  • Are students engaged?  

  • Is there evidence of flexible student grouping?

What teacher behaviors do you see?

Listening to the quality of school talk in a classroom gives administrators useful data into the effectiveness of instruction. It is a direct link to assessing if the student truly understands the skills and concepts taught. Listening to the student presentations at the Review Phase of CueThink gives data on student thinking that is needed to plan the next instructional steps.

  • Is the teacher encouraging talk about problems and the use of language that facilitates problem-solving?

  • Is the teacher illustrating application, analysis, and creation of new ideas and strategies?

  • Is the teacher modeling problem-solving language and think-alouds to illustrate thinking?

What student behaviors do you see?

John Hattie states that quality feedback is an essential part of visible, active learning. CueThink fosters opportunities to receive three types of feedback: task-oriented, process-oriented and self-regulation. (Hattie and Zierer, p. 85) Conversations led by students are a staple of the CueThink experience.  Students generated questions are compelling data gathering opportunities that document student understanding. Their questions and conversations are indicators of students engaged in a task.

  • How is student engagement taking place?

  • Is student engagement a slow, thoughtful work process that involves challenge and dealing with difficulty?

  • Are the rates that students work differ based on the problem-solving process and skills set of the student?

Using the CueThink Observation Protocol As a Part of Administrative Practice

Printable Observation Protocol

Printable Observation Protocol

The CueThink Observation Protocol provides administrators with information about the power of problem-solving.  A protocol is defined as “A protocol is defined as "agreed-upon guidelines for reading, recording, discussing, or reporting that ensure equal participation and accountability.” (Berger and Libby p. 345) Protocols provide the observer with a means to frame discussions and data to help with instructional planning. The CueThink Observation protocol is a jumping off point for Administrators as a lens to frame the learning experience in the classroom from the teacher and student perspectives.  The information can help determine the effectiveness of the platform and lead to instructional decisions.

Works Cited

Berger, Ron, et al. Learning That Lasts: Engaging, Challenging, and Empowering Students with De. John Wiley & Sons, 2016.

Hattie, John, and Klaus Zierer. 10 Mindframes for Visible Learning: Teaching for Success. Routledge, 2018.

Protheroe, Nancy. The Principal's Playbook: Tackling School Improvement. Educational Research Service, 2010.

“What Makes a Good School Culture?” Harvard Graduate School of Education, www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/18/07/what-makes-good-school-culture.