Differentiated Supervision:

Growing Teachers and Getting Results

By Ann Mausbach and Kim Morrison (Corwin, 2023)

S.O.S. (A Summary of the Summary)

The main ideas of the book:

  • Just as students benefit from teaching that addresses their specific needs, teachers thrive with supervision that is individualized and targets their unique concerns and challenges.
  • By expanding their approach to supervision, school leaders can grow strong teachers while simultaneously achieving whole-school improvements that benefit students.

Why I chose this book:

Supervision is incredibly important. It’s how we help teachers grow and develop, and in turn it is how we improve our schools and help students learn. Most school leaders I work with know it’s important, but so often I see them doing just one thing, that same old thing: one-on-one supervision. This type of supervision has its place, but it’s time consuming (one principal supervising dozens of teachers) and, often, it’s not that effective in terms of nurturing real growth. In many schools, supervision is desperately in need of rejuvenation.

Differentiated Supervision will help you build a synchronized, whole-school approach to supervision. In this new system, one-on-one supervision is bolstered by new ways of giving feedback – to small groups and even to the whole staff. Getting an entire faculty working toward practical improvements together can generate energy and synchronicity that one-on-one interactions never could. The supervision process has the potential to be powerful. It’s time to think outside the checklist and bring new life to supervising.

The Scoop (In this summary you will learn…)

  •   An expanded view of the potential power of supervision
  •   Methods for incorporating supervision seamlessly into school-wide goal-setting and professional development
  •   A new and more targeted approach to supervising individuals and teams, differentiating based on teacher needs
  •   How to meet your district’s supervision requirements while also helping teachers improve more effectively than before
  •   The four essential elements of differentiated supervision
  •   The Main Idea’s PD suggestions for expanding and targeting your supervision of teachers

Introduction – What is Differentiated Supervision?

Too often, supervision is an uncomfortable process for everyone involved. The teachers are nervous and feel pressured to act like everything’s going smoothly during observations. Then they receive the follow-up feedback agreeably so they can just get on with their teaching. Principals rush from one classroom to the next trying to complete the required observations during the prescribed timeframe and hoping that the feedback they’re giving will somehow translate into improved teaching practices and student outcomes. Spoiler alert: It probably won’t.

There are simply too many teachers for you to supervise everyone effectively using one-on-one supervision alone. On the other hand, teachers’ needs and strengths vary widely, so a one-size-fits-all approach, won’t work either. It’s time to improve what we do for supervision so leaders can truly grow thriving and effective teachers in a thriving and effective school.

The new approach described in this book broadens the reach of supervision and expands it across multiple tasks and activities leaders and teachers engage in. When supervision grows away from just one-on-one or just rubric-based, to something more comprehensive, it becomes more effective, too.

Done well, supervision is the process through which leaders help teachers to do the complex work of advancing student learning. Notice that the purpose is to help (not to sort the teachers into effective and ineffective). In the authors’ new model of supervision, leaders observe teachers not to judge them, but to uncover their needs and find effective ways to coach them. The aim of supervision is teacher growth (and ultimately student impact).

In Differentiated Supervision, authors Ann Mausbach and Kim Morrison bring their 50+ years of combined experience in school and district leadership to offer today’s school leaders an approach to supervision that will have measurable impact. Their approach, which includes four parts, is not meant to replace the traditional (and often mandatory) model of 1-1 observations and evaluations but to broaden it to include a number of other supervisory practices to make it both more robust and differentiated.

You’ll find that including a variety of supervisory practices will be more effective with different teachers. Think about it, why limit supervision to 1-1 feedback? Why not observe and give feedback to a team of teachers? Or even feedback to the entire school?

For Mausbach and Morrison’s expanded approach to work, four distinct elements are necessary. Here’s a quick preview of the four elements (with who gets feedback in each element), and each is described in much more detail in its own section of the summary.

The Four Elements of the Differentiated Supervision Model

Element I

Element II

Element III

Element IV

who: whole school

what: qualitative feedback

how: general walkthroughs

who: individual, small group

what: qualitative feedback

how: focused walkthroughs & PLCs

who: whole school

what: quantitative feedback

how: implementation studies

who: individual

what: quantitative feedback

how: district/state eval process

Before delving into the four elements of differentiated supervision, however, you should know that there are a few aspects of your school that will be deeply connected to this model of supervision.

One is the school improvement plan – a document that outlines how you hope to see your school grow and develop in the coming years. For the purposes of the differentiated supervision model, it will work best for your plan to consist of a short list of realistic goals, with each goal supported by a few concrete strategies. For example, “embed checks for understanding in instruction” might be a strategy that supports a goal to improve student achievement.

The goals and strategies on the school improvement plan should directly inform what is taught in professional development. In PD, you will instruct teachers on the strategies they need to implement in support of the improvement plan goals. These strategies will also become the focal points for your supervision of teachers throughout the year.

In other words, what you want to improve informs what teachers need to learn, which informs how you supervise teachers.

School Improvement Plan Professional Development Plan Focal Points for Supervision

But in this model, remember, supervision isn’t just observations and 1:1 feedback. It’s a collection of activities all aimed at helping teachers improve student outcomes. Here’s where we come to the four elements of differentiated supervision. The four elements are not four steps to be completed in sequence, but four aspects of supervision, which should function as a cohesive whole throughout the entire school year. To understand each element clearly, however, we’ll go through them one at a time in the next four sections.

Element I – General Walkthroughs

The Four Elements of the Differentiated Supervision Model

Element I

Element II

Element III

Element IV

who: whole school

what: qualitative feedback

how: general walkthroughs

who: individual, small group

what: qualitative feedback

how: focused walkthroughs & PLCs

who: whole school

what: quantitative feedback

how: implementation studies

who: individual

what: quantitative feedback

how: district/state eval process

As Element I of differentiated supervision, general walkthroughs serve the purpose of monitoring how the school as a whole is improving. It is a formative measure of how well teachers are implementing the school’s goals. This looks like an organized, unannounced walkthrough through the school’s classrooms to observe teaching and learning (specifically the strategies in the school improvement plan) followed by a whole-school email with feedback. During these walkthroughs, you seek to answer the questions:

  • Is professional learning being implemented? • Is it making a difference for students?

The first of these questions requires some background work to answer it fairly and effectively.

Background Work Before Implementing Element I

Design Look Fors

To answer the first question, Is professional learning being implemented? you need to do a few things. First, with teachers you need to collaboratively outline the goals in the school improvement plan. Second, you need to provide PD on the skills and strategies needed for these goals. Finally, leaders and teachers must collaborate to define a set of “look fors” that describe what it would look like if school goals were fully implemented. These look fors give teachers clarity about what they are supposed to be doing and they give leaders clarity about what to focus on in general walkthroughs.

Look fors should…

  • describe what it would look like if the new skills from PD were fully implemented
  • be collaboratively developed by all staff
  • use clear language and common terms so that teachers across all teams, grades, and departments can understand
  • connect directly to the school improvement plan
  • be observable – something that can be seen or heard in classrooms

While something like “evidence of rigor” sounds observable, it’s really too vague. Any teacher or principal should be able to read the look for and know exactly what should be seen or heard in the classroom. A better look for would be, “Teachers will ask questions, cues, and prompts during group work to inform next steps.” Or this one centered around students: “Students can state the purpose of learning and can articulate their thinking strategies.” Here, the principal conducting the walkthrough need only ask a few students some questions to discover if the look for is present or not.

Create a Professional Development Plan

In addition to your look fors, you’ll need to have one more thing in place before putting Element I into action: a professional development plan. Your plan should be made up of two components: (1) staff outcomes and (2) a long-range PD plan.

Staff outcomes come directly from the school improvement plan. They are what staff need to know and be able to do in order to meet the goals using the strategies identified on the plan. Here’s an example:

Staff Outcomes



Write quality learning targets and success criteria to guide daily lessons

Goal 1/Strategy 1


Provide actionable feedback to every student

Goal 1/Strategy 2


Utilize a problem-solving model around restorative practice

Goal 2/Strategy 1

The long-range PD plan is a calendar outlining professional learning outcomes for every week of the school year. This includes what you will teach or practice in large-group professional development sessions as well as what PLCs will be learning or focusing on. Of course, you may need to adapt your plan to circumstances as the year goes on but do map out the plan at the start of the year.

Long-Range PD Plan

Large Group PD








(Week 1)

Introduction to learning intentions and success criteria


Practice writing learning targets and success criteria



(Week 2)

Focus lesson on use of learning intentions and success criteria in math


Write learning targets and success criteria using student work (math) 



(Week 3)

Focus lesson on use of learning intentions and success criteria in literacy


Write learning targets and success criteria using student work (literacy) 


Putting Element I into Action

Ready, set, go! It’s finally time to implement general walkthroughs. Refer to your long-range PD plan to determine the staff outcome and its associated look for you will focus on across the next three weeks. Element I occurs in a three-week cycle in which there is one designated look for you are observing. Within three weeks, you should observe in every teacher’s classroom. After that, you begin again with a new look for as your target. As a result, each teacher is observed at least once every three weeks.

Set Expectations

Explain to staff that you will be conducting walkthroughs with a focus on your selected look for. Teachers should know to expect you sometime in that 3-week period (though not the exact date) and know exactly which look for you’ll be looking for.


When you observe in a classroom for these general walkthroughs, you should be there only 5–10 minutes. Since general walkthroughs are short and unannounced, you can’t always pop in at the precise moment the teacher is demonstrating what you’re looking for. Instead of focusing on teacher behavior only, also look at student work and talk with students during every classroom visit. What students know, say, and do are student outcomes, which are ultimately more important than teacher actions. To answer the second question, Is it making a difference for students, you will need to ask students questions when you observe such as: 

  • By completing this assignment, what did you learn that you didn’t know before?
  • What does your teacher want you to learn by doing this lesson?
  • What have you learned this year that’s helping you do this?
  • How does this lesson connect to what you learned yesterday?
  • How do you know when you’ve done quality work?

Track in Two Ways

You will be gathering so much information from the general walkthroughs that it is important to have a system to organize it. During and after your visits in classrooms, you can track what you see with the following methods:

The Feedback Journal

This is a spreadsheet with one tab for each teacher. On each tab, record the dates and times of each observation, the look-for, a description of what you observed, and a summary of your feedback. The aim is qualitative, not quantitative, feedback. Avoid a checklist-style form where you simply indicate whether something was observed or not. Instead, describe what you saw and to what extent it matched the look-for’s criteria. Capture enough to allow for some rich reflection after the fact.

The Walkthrough Summary

For each 3-week cycle, you should also record a “bird’s eye view” of the entire school to keep tabs on the functioning of the whole building. Here you name the look-for and the date range and sort teachers into one of three color categories:

Observation Focus: Clear Learning Targets

Week of Observation:

Week starting Sep. 7

Teachers Observed at “Green” (strong on this look for):

Naughton, Jones, Smith, King

Teachers Observed at “Yellow” (approaching):

Miller, Jay, Anderson

Teachers Observed at “Red” (needs support):



Each week (or more often), reflect on what you observed. Look for trends and patterns, as well as stellar examples of the look for (or examples that are very close). Your reflections will become the feedback you offer teachers.

Share Feedback

It is essential that you give feedback to the entire school after every general walkthrough. Without it, it’s not a walkthrough. The goal of this feedback is to validate what teachers are doing well and provide teaching and direction for improvement. You will give teachers individual and small-group feedback in Element II, but for now send the whole staff feedback in a weekly message.

This message should include trends you noticed as well as any stellar (or close) examples of the look fors along with photos and descriptions of what was successful. Avoid naming teachers, but instead, describe what their students were doing: “This week I was focusing on teachers using deep questions. One set of students was responding in writing to important quotes from a novel they’re reading. They had to describe the significance of the quote and what it implied about the character—very high-level activities!”

Keep the tone positive and stick to the stated focus (the look-for of this cycle). Be sure to refer to the school improvement plan and relevant goals wherever that makes sense. This is the important why-it-matters piece. Say and say again why the look for matters so that teachers connect it to student outcomes and it doesn’t feel random.

Finally, when your 3-week cycle is complete, consult your long-range PD plan, select a new look for, and begin again. The cycle repeats and each teacher is therefore observed at least once every three weeks throughout the entire year.

Why Element I Works

The four elements of differentiated supervision don’t stand alone, of course, but each one has its essential place in the whole. General walkthroughs, as described above, create the conditions for growth: a culture of accountability. School goals are set, teachers are taught strategies, everyone puts these strategies into practice as best they can, and leaders observe and give general feedback to the whole school. The leader demonstrates that these new strategies matter by observing teachers right away and frequently, just as teachers observe their students at work. The leader gives feedback to the staff as a whole. Stellar examples show teachers that this is something everyone is working on, what success looks like, and that success matters to the group.

The narrow focus of these walkthroughs enables you as the leader to observe more and give more feedback without every observation being weighed down by a complicated rubric encompassing all aspects of teaching. Narrowly focused feedback allows teachers to actually digest and act upon the feedback rather than being overwhelmed by too many suggestions at once.

Element II – Focused Walkthroughs & Participating in PLCs

The Four Elements of the Differentiated Supervision Model

Element I

Element II

Element III

Element IV

who: whole school

what: qualitative feedback

how: general walkthroughs

who: individual, small group

what: qualitative feedback

how: focused walkthroughs & PLCs

who: whole school

what: quantitative feedback

how: implementation studies

who: individual

what: quantitative feedback

how: district/state eval process

While Element I ensures that all teachers are observed regularly and the entire staff receives feedback as a whole, Element II ensures that individual teachers and teams get more individualized feedback. This is where differentiation comes in. Element II helps you to provides a different format for feedback from the whole-school type by observing and giving feedback to small teams in their PLCs after focused walkthroughs.

The two key processes involved in Element II:

  • The leader’s participation weekly in PLCs (or teacher teams)
  • Focused walkthroughs to give teachers feedback on what they’re grappling with in PLCs

Why is the leader’s participation in PLCs (or teacher teams) a key part of supervision? The PLC is the primary place that teacher learning takes place. So, if you want supervision to be about improving teaching, you’ve got to be at team meetings.

The above two practices, when used together, enable you to provide teachers with heavy doses of qualitative feedback. With Element I (whole-school feedback after walkthroughs) and Element II (small-group and individual feedback) in place, teachers will be receiving more feedback and more varied types of feedback than ever before.

Background Work Before Implementing Element II 

In order to put this element in place, you need have teacher teams or PLCs set up and you need to prepare for focused walkthroughs.

Make Time for PLCs

If it doesn’t already exist, create a master schedule that defines who is in which PLC (everyone’s in one, and you’re in them all), and when and where each PLC will meet weekly. Then, here’s the hard part, protect that time on the calendar for everyone involved.  Have plans in place for dealing with other urgent issues that could crop up so you will not be called away. Make it clear that teachers who are scheduled to be at a PLC meeting are not available for last-minute lunchroom coverage or anything else at this time.

Clarify Outcomes for PLCs

The long-range PD plan and staff outcomes you developed in Element I will also be needed for implementing Element II. Refer to the long-range PD plan and identify a target outcome for each PLC meeting throughout the year. As meetings occur, specific questions and needs of the team will shed light on what needs to be done to achieve the desired outcomes.

Clarify Look Fors in Focused Walkthroughs

To get differentiated support to different teams, you will need to know what each team is working on. Before each focused walkthrough you learn what this is by attending their team meeting. Also, each team should unpack the look fors developed by the whole school (those needed to meet school goals) that are observed in the general walkthrough. Each team unpacks the look fors and defines more specifically what they mean for their actual grade, content, and context. These become the look fors for the focused walkthroughs.

Putting Element II into Action

Participate in PLCs

It may sound daunting but consider your role as your teachers’ coach. What would you think of a basketball coach who never attended practice and only watched a couple of games? You’re the coach, so go to the practice. Being present and participating in (not leading or dominating) every team’s weekly PLC meeting is one of your main coaching opportunities. Don’t miss out! At schools with large faculties, principals and assistant principals could work together, divvying up PLCs so that each had a supervisor present.

The goal of supervision is to improve teaching, and the goal of PLCs is also to improve teaching. So, if you want to supervise well, you need to be at the PLC where the action is happening – where teachers are discussing implementation and challenges.

When you are present at PLC meetings, you grow your understanding of the team’s and teachers’ needs and challenges. Then when you observe them, you will be able to think about those needs and challenges and help look for solutions. When you give feedback, it will be relevant to their day-to-day instructional challenges, which greatly increases the likelihood that your feedback will be followed and used to change teaching practices and impact students.

The team might follow a structure like the following to ensure they have a clear outcome for the meeting, use student evidence to examine the effectiveness of their teaching, and plan next steps which you, as the leader, will observe in the focused walkthrough:

I. Collaboratively develop the outcome for today’s meeting.

The team examines the long-range PD plan and refines today’s outcome for the meeting.

II. Analyze, discuss, and make decisions.

The team will explore questions such as the following:

         What is student work telling us about student learning?

         What do we want students to know and be able to do?

         What strategies did we already use that led to achievement?

         What should we do next and what other strategies could we try to increase achievement?

III. Reflect on today’s meeting and plan for next steps.

The team discusses what they accomplished today to support student achievement.

The team decides what actions to take based on today’s discussion (which the leader will observe).

Conduct Focused Walkthroughs

With the most recent PLC meeting’s discussion on your mind, you observe in the team’s classrooms. These are focused walkthroughs aimed at a particular team and a particular question or issue that has arisen during PLC meetings. Though teachers might not know the day of your visit, they know you’ll be visiting soon during a time when you can observe the exact thing the PLC has been grappling with. Each of these classroom visits should be about 10-20 minutes in length.

For example, you (the leader) might observe in a PLC that the second graders are struggling with place value. As a result, the teachers decide to implement mini lessons on place value. To do this well they outlined the components of a successful mini lesson. Then you will observe for these components in your next focused walkthrough.

Deliver Face-to-Face Feedback

At the next PLC meeting share trends and some stellar examples that you observed. Additionally, give teachers individual feedback face-to-face as often as possible but if time doesn’t permit, write an email or a note. The feedback is primarily qualitative, though if you collected student evidence, you should share that data, too. The “Three Rs of Feedback can help you remember to share different types of feedback with individuals or the team.

Three Rs of Feedback


Identify and validate anything you observed that aligned with look fors. Include what the teacher did and why it worked. Reinforcement increases the likelihood that this teacher (and others on the team) will engage in this practice again. Example: You listened to specific students during guided practice and their feedback helped you realize you needed to be clearer. You were flexible and clarified the directions for everyone. This helped even more students get on the right track.


Identify observed practices that did not align with look fors or were ineffective. The purpose is to help the teacher or team think about what action to take to improve practice. Example: It wasn’t clear whether all the students understood the point you made. Asking students to restate or paraphrase can be an effective check for understanding before moving on. At the next PLC meeting, let’s consider discussing effective ways to check for understanding and when to do that within a lesson.


Pose a question based on the reinforcement or refinement feedback you just gave. The purpose is to help the teacher think more deeply about their practice. Example: How do the questions you ask help you gauge student understanding?

Why Element II Works

It actively builds interdependence. By carrying out Element II you are embedding collaborative structures (like PLCs) in your school. You listen to teachers to understand their challenges. Teachers look to you and to each other for help diagnosing and solving challenges. Problems and weaknesses are not hidden or siloed away from the work of the group – they’re worked on together. Strengths and successes are also shared and studied so that good practices can make an impact in more than just one classroom.

It builds teacher efficacy. Research shows that teachers’ belief in their ability to help students learn really does help students learn. With Element II, you have teachers and leaders collaborating on a weekly basis to solve problems, improve teaching, and impact student outcomes. This really does build up teachers’ belief in themselves and therefore builds their efficacy with students.

It helps ensure PLCs are functioning well. Many schools have PLCs, but they aren’t as powerful at impacting student learning as they could be. An embedded leader makes sure the group is focused on a goal and gets feedback on the implementation of it in classrooms.

Learning is not allowed to become “nice in theory” but not put into practice. Instead, learning is focused on the real difficulties faced by the real teachers on the team. As much as possible, the learning, discussion, and analysis in the PLC should be an attempt to answer teachers’ specific needs and difficulties. Rather than leaving the teacher to wonder in isolation, “The students didn’t learn this as well as I hoped, what should I do differently?” teammates and coach are present to brainstorm and try out potential solutions.

Element III – Implementation Studies

The Four Elements of the Differentiated Supervision Model

Element I

Element II

Element III

Element IV

who: whole school

what: qualitative feedback

how: general walkthroughs

who: individual, small group

what: qualitative feedback

how: focused walkthroughs & PLCs

who: whole school

what: quantitative feedback

how: implementation studies

who: individual

what: quantitative feedback

how: district/state eval process

Elements I and II provide frameworks for delivering qualitative feedback to teachers (individually, as groups, and as a whole school). Element III introduces quantitative feedback to your new supervision approach.

Keep in mind that the four elements are designed to work together. Element III is not a strategy to grab when you need to collect some quantitative data. It’s a part of the whole. It is meant to help you to collect and analyze data on teaching practices that the whole school’s been working on all year. “A fierce, disciplined commitment to getting better requires a relentless focus on knowing what’s working and what isn’t, and then doing something about it.” And part of knowing what’s working is collecting quantitative data.

Element III is made up of three checkpoints throughout the year. These checkpoints are used to quantitatively assess current implementation of the strategies you identified in your school improvement plan. Just as teachers use benchmark assessments to monitor students’ reading or math achievement throughout the year, you will monitor progress on the adoption of teaching practices that align with your school improvement plan.

During these three checkpoints, you and the staff will conduct what is known as an “implementation study.” This starts with a different kind of walkthrough that focuses on collecting quantitative data. For example, you might find that out of 30 classrooms, you only observed the look for (a certain teacher practice) in 15 of them, that is, only a 50% implementation rate.

After this quantitative walkthrough, you will analyze that data together with staff, and also examine student achievement, too, to help you determine next steps. As you conduct your implementation study, the leaders and teachers work together to answer two questions:

  • How consistently are identified practices being implemented at this time? (this is the implementation data)
  • Are they positively influencing student achievement? (this is the impact data)

Preparing to Implement Element III

Create an Observation Checklist

While observations you conducted for Elements I and II were not checklist based, Element III observations do utilize a checklist. Remember, this supervisory practice focuses on quantitative data. So, develop an observation form with the look fors you and your staff created to support the school improvement plan (do not include all aspects of teaching (like an evaluation form). Something like this:

Look for


Not Observed

Group work is tied to the learning intentions from the lesson

Group work is based on inquiry or problem-solving

Teacher monitors the group’s ability to work together

Teacher is formatively assessing the group’s product

Schedule Your 3 Implementation Studies for the Year

If you’ve got Element I in place, you should already be observing in every classroom (as part of your general walkthroughs) at least once every three weeks on a repeating cycle. For Element III, a few times a year you will choose one of those 3-week walkthrough cycles and include the quantitative checklist of look fors for that cycle.

You should aim to conduct 3 implementation studies during the year, or roughly one every 8-10 weeks. If you can, it would be useful to get all your 3-week cycles, their look fors, and who you’ll observe each week on your calendar at the beginning of the year. If you’ve done this, take the time to identify which cycles will be used for implementation studies. Put one in late fall and two in winter and/or spring. Below is a sample of what the first few months might look like:

Cycle Number



Include the Implementation Study?

Feedback Cycle 1

Group 1: Ms. A, Mr. B, Mrs. C, Ms. D, Ms. E, Ms. F, Ms. G, Mr. H

1st week of Sept


Group 2: Mrs. I, Ms. J, Ms. K, Mr. L, Ms. M, Mrs. N, Mr. O, Ms. P

2nd week of Sept

Group 3: Ms. Q, Mr. R, Mrs. S, Ms. T, Ms. U, Mr. V, Mrs. W, Ms. X

3rd week of Sept

Feedback Cycle 2

Group 1: Ms. A, Mr. B, Mrs. C, Ms. D, Ms. E, Ms. F, Ms. G, Mr. H

1st week of Oct


Group 2: Mrs. I, Ms. J, Ms. K, Mr. L, Ms. M, Mrs. N, Mr. O, Ms. P

2nd week of Oct

Group 3: Ms. Q, Mr. R, Mrs. S, Ms. T, Ms. U, Mr. V, Mrs. W, Ms. X

3rd week of Oct

Feedback Cycle 3

Group 1: Ms. A, Mr. B, Mrs. C, Ms. D, Ms. E, Ms. F, Ms. G, Mr. H

1st week of Nov


Group 2: Mrs. I, Ms. J, Ms. K, Mr. L, Ms. M, Mrs. N, Mr. O, Ms. P

2nd week of Nov

Group 3: Ms. Q, Mr. R, Mrs. S, Ms. T, Ms. U, Mr. V, Mrs. W, Ms. X

3rd week of Nov

Feedback Cycle 4

Group 1: Ms. A, Mr. B, Mrs. C, Ms. D, Ms. E, Ms. F, Ms. G, Mr. H

1st week of Dec


Group 2: Mrs. I, Ms. J, Ms. K, Mr. L, Ms. M, Mrs. N, Mr. O, Ms. P

2nd week of Dec

Group 3: Ms. Q, Mr. R, Mrs. S, Ms. T, Ms. U, Mr. V, Mrs. W, Ms. X

3rd week of Dec

Putting Element III into Action

Observe and Collect Implementation and Impact Data

In every classroom, use the checklist and mark whether each look for is observed or not. Your goal here is to gather the data you need to assess how implementation is going building-wide. This is the data that will be analyzed in the implementation study. You aren’t gathering stellar examples to share or providing qualitative feedback to the whole school like in Element I. You also aren’t helping teams and individuals troubleshoot and strategize like in Element II. This time around you are really assessing your own efficacy as a coach – are the teachers you supervise consistently doing the things you’ve been coaching them to do?

Remember that in addition to changing teacher practice you are also aiming to improve student achievement. You will need to examine student achievement results (impact data) along with examining changes in teacher practice (implementation data). Both of these types of data will be examined in the implementation study.

Teacher practice may change before you see an impact on student results, but by examining more closely just how many teachers are using the new practice, this will prevent you from simply abandoning the practice too soon. For example, if you observe that only 10% of the teachers are using the new practice, then it would be best to work for fuller implementation before giving up on that practice.

What type of student results should you examine? Use common formative assessments, benchmark assessments, or whatever makes sense given your improvement plan goals. Perhaps even attendance data or discipline referral data. But whatever goal you are working on, make sure you can look at both implementation data (what teachers are doing) and impact data (how students are doing).

Example of the type of IMPACT data and IMPLEMENTATION data you might examine for Element III

Strategy Being Studied: Use of one-on-one conferring with students to respond to formative assessment results


(Student results)

  • Common formative assessment results 

  • Reading benchmark data

  • Results of the teachers’ pre/post assessments

  • State assessment results


(Teacher implementation)

  • Qualitative data from walkthroughs

  • Number of 1:1 student conferences observed in walkthroughs

Share and Collaboratively Analyze Data

The feedback in Element III is school-wide and quantitative, but that doesn’t mean you can share it in a quick email or an announcement at a staff meeting and then move on. That email or announcement in which you share the numbers is only the beginning of the analysis required of you and the teachers at this stage. So, yes, you do need to start by telling the teachers how the staff is doing at implementing each of the look fors. For example: During this round of observations, 15 out of 30 teachers used a think-aloud model. So, our result is 50% implementation of that look for.

But don’t stop there. The next step is to work together with the teachers to analyze the observations from the look fors (implementation data) along with relevant student results (impact data).

Analyzing the data sounds good, you might be thinking, but are we seriously supposed to do this together with the whole staff? How are dozens of people going to analyze data together and have it not feel like chaos? This is a reasonable concern, but getting everyone involved in the data analysis is of paramount importance. Through this process, you are building collective efficacy.

You know how students do better when their teacher believes in them? Well, teachers, too, are more effective when they believe in themselves. Belief in their own efficacy is key. If we want to improve our schools, then teachers need a leader who believes in their collective efficacy as a staff, and the teachers need to believe in their own collective efficacy.  

By doing the analysis together, you communicate your belief that the teachers can figure out what the data means. You also show that you trust them as a group to connect teaching practices to student results and respond with action. Over time, they will see the fruits of their efforts, and come to believe in their collective ability to improve the school.

So, given how important it is for the staff to work together on the analysis, the authors provide a protocol you can use with your entire staff to review, analyze, and respond to the implementation study and impact data. For each step, teachers will have the chance to reflect individually, then share as a small group, and finally engage in a large-group discussion. You could follow this protocol in a whole-staff meeting, with PLCs, grade-level teams, or departments sitting together and functioning as small groups.

Implementation Study Data Analysis Protocol

Protocol Steps and Purpose

What the Leader Does

What Teachers Do

Step 1 – Preview

This step engages staff and helps to surface their beliefs.

Introduce the staff to this protocol and the data that will be analyzed (implementation and impact data).

Answer independently, then share with a small group:

  • I predict the implementation data will show…

  • I wonder...

  • This data may mean… about student learning

Step 2 – Review & React

This step focuses the entire group on the data and helps the group discover big ideas within the data.

Share the data without your analysis:

(1) the implementation of look fors you observed across the past 3 weeks

(2) student impact data relevant to these look fors

Answer independently, then share with a small group:

  • Some patterns and trends that I see are…

  • I am surprised that I see…

  • I believe this data suggests… because…

  • I am not surprised that I see… because…

Step 3 – Reflect

This is an opportunity for teachers to reflect on their needs and contributions.

Provide time for reflection and participate in self-reflection, too.

Answer independently, then share with a small group:

  • What I did to contribute to…was…

  • I am stuck on why/how to…

  • I would like support in…    

  • I think we should try…

Step 4 – Define Action

This step promotes a collective commitment to action and improvement.

Facilitate a whole-group discussion of the teams’ needs and actions.

Help the larger group come to consensus about next steps.

Based on answers above, groups generate consensus on what their group…

  • Needs

  • Commits to start doing

  • Commits to stop doing

  • Agrees on as next steps

Define and Carry Out Next Steps

The final step, after the analysis, is to determine next steps. Is additional learning or support needed to help teachers implement one or more of the look fors? When will that happen, what will it look like, and who is responsible?

In one instance, teachers discovered students were better at articulating learning targets in math than in reading. And, in fact, reading achievement was lagging behind math. But why did students struggle more with learning targets in reading? And what could be done about it? The staff planned and carried out some next steps to investigate and address the issue:

  1. The principal conducted walkthroughs during the literacy block and found that while teachers were stating learning targets, they weren’t supporting and reinforcing them consistently with feedback to small groups or in conferences with individuals.
  2. More professional learning was provided on these practices.
  3. Staff worked together to restructure the literacy block to allow for more 1-on-1 conferencing and work with small groups.


Why Element III Works

This aspect of supervision works because it helps leaders learn exactly how much teachers are implementing the practices they are supposed to be implementing. It literally helps them quantify the progress the school is making.

Further, by analyzing student results along with teacher practice, it helps leaders connect the dots between those practices and student outcomes. Rather than abandoning a teacher practice when leaders don’t see results, this element helps them step back and consider how completely and thoroughly the teacher practice is being implemented first.

Finally, Element III puts the whole staff – leaders and teachers together – in an evaluative mindset, regularly asking: What’s working? What isn’t? Why? What can we do differently? And over time, participating in Element III with colleagues and seeing results in their students, will help build teachers’ collective belief in themselves and their ability to affect change, which of course builds their actual ability to affect change too.

Element IV – District/State Evaluation Process

The Four Elements of the Differentiated Supervision Model

Element I

Element II

Element III

Element IV

who: whole school

what: qualitative feedback

how: general walkthroughs

who: individual, small group

what: qualitative feedback

how: focused walkthroughs & PLCs

who: whole school

what: quantitative feedback

how: implementation studies

who: individual

what: quantitative feedback

how: district/state eval process

Unfortunately, the yearly teacher evaluation process required by your state or district rarely improves teaching and learning. And the differentiated supervision model is not about replacing or upending this process – it’s required, after all. But this new model tweaks this formal process to engage teachers in reflecting on and improving their practice – a much richer and more effective approach.

If you’re putting all four elements into practice, you will already have a sense, built up across the year, of each teacher’s specific needs and competencies. When you get to the end of year evaluation process you will be able to speak to their strengths and struggles, and therefore teachers will be far more likely to act on your feedback because it won’t feel generic. You will also come to know which feedback and coaching approaches are most effective with each teacher, so you can provide coaching that is tailored to them.

Putting Element IV into Action

Many of the steps of this element are already laid out for you by your state or district’s evaluation procedure. Implementing Element IV means carrying out the steps of that procedure as required but bringing the tools and the lens of the differentiated approach to the process. The exact number and timing of required, formal observations (and the conferences that precede and follow them) will vary. You should follow your own district’s guidelines. But when you do, you will find that the other elements have enabled you and the teacher to have a more productive (and more comfortable) interaction.

Set Goals

Traditional evaluation models typically include a goal-setting phase in which the teacher identifies one or two areas of focus for the year. In the differentiated model, teachers and leaders would do these same things, and they would make sure the goals aligned with the school improvement plan. Given the shared history of rich and authentic conversations connecting teaching practices to learning outcomes and discussing the teacher’s strengths and areas of needed growth, the goal-setting conversation should be deeper, more personalized to the teacher, and more thoughtfully aimed at student outcomes.

Prepare for Formal Observations

In the traditional model, leader and teacher meet prior to a formal observation to review and discuss the lesson the teacher has planned. In the differentiated model, you have additional resources to use in this process: the notes you’ve taken as you’ve carried out the other three elements. Your feedback log and walkthrough summaries should give you lots of qualitative information about this teacher’s practices, strengths, needs, and areas where they’ve demonstrated growth. Take time to read over, analyze, and include information from these materials in your pre-observation conference with the teacher.

Conduct Formal Observations

Traditionally, the teacher adheres to the planned lesson as closely as possible while the leader observes and writes a detailed description of all that occurs. Because of the frequent walkthroughs and conversations about teaching practices present in the other elements of the differentiated model, however, teachers should feel empowered to adapt to student needs and flex their lesson plan as needed, even during a formal observation. And, in addition to taking observation notes, leaders should also talk to students about their learning, look for evidence of learning, and jot down questions to ask the teacher during the post-observation conference.

Hold Post-Observation Conferences

Your district has probably issued a teacher rubric to guide your post-observation conferences. Under the differentiated model, you will still address the categories on the rubric, mark scores as required, and so on, but you should not allow the required form or rubric to shape your conversation. Going through the district-issued form one item at a time leads to a hodgepodge of random suggestions. By the end, the teacher has received feedback on so many topics that taking next steps feels overwhelming – making change unlikely.

You and the teachers will get so much more out of these conversations if you deliberately link your observations and feedback to the school’s goals and to the aligned professional learning that’s taken place. You do need to touch on the teaching categories required by your district form, but mention them as they come up, instead of using them as the guiding framework.

Differentiating Your Feedback

Okay, but how can I differentiate the feedback I give to different teachers with different strengths? What might that sound like with different teachers? You are certainly not alone in grappling with this challenge. Mausbach and Morrison provide sentence starters and examples for a continuum of three different coaching stances below. This is differentiation in action! It also changes the traditional evaluation process from something “done to” teachers to something “done with” teachers. Choose the stance that matches the person and situation.

Three Coaching Stances

Consultant: Your feedback is explicit and direct. “Let me explain how.”

Be a consultant when… the teacher is learning something new and has limited experience or understanding of the topic.

Sentence Starters: “Pay attention to…” “It’s important that…” “Always keep in mind…”

Sounds like: “When sharing today’s learning intention, you didn’t include success criteria. It’s important that learning intentions are tied to success criteria so students can monitor their           learning.”

Collaborator: You engage in dialogue, examine classroom evidence, and deepen learning. “Let’s brainstorm.”

Be a collaborator when… the teacher is at surface-level implementation, and student results are not at desired levels.

Sentence Starters: “Let’s examine…” “How might this affect…” “Why do you think…”

Sounds like: “Students had difficulty comparing and contrasting. Why do you think this happened? Let’s examine the depth of knowledge for the task to see if we can figure out what       happened.”

Coach: You help teachers reflect, self-reflect, and generally promote self-regulation. “What do you think?”

Be a coach when… the teacher is aware of what works, and how student results are the result of their teaching.

Sentence Starters: “What might be some ways to…” “How do you know if it worked…” “What else…”

Sounds like: “What do you think you did during this lesson that worked? What are your plans for the students who didn’t reach mastery yet?”

Teacher Map

You might also want to keep a “Teacher Map” to help you track both individual and building needs. The map is a spreadsheet you keep for your own purposes to help you figure out which actions to take next – not a document shared with teachers. It should include each teacher’s name along with a snapshot of their student outcome data, as well as a brief summary of your qualitative thoughts about their classroom environment and strategy implementation. It might look something like this:

Teacher Map

Teacher Name

Average Percent Growth on MAP

% Proficient on District Assessment

Learning Environment

SIP Implementation

Mrs. H



Some behavior referrals. Students inconsistently engaged.

Most look fors present during observations and implementation studies.

Mr. F



Many behavior referrals.

Lack of classroom management.

Few look fors present during observations and implementation studies.

Why Element IV Works

One of the reasons Element IV works is that it truly differentiates the coaching teachers receive. A teacher with years of experience with classroom routines might need only coaching-level feedback on classroom management, for instance. However, that same teacher might need consultant-level feedback on implementing a new technology-based strategy that’s further outside her expertise. The differentiated supervision model helps supervisors understand teachers better and give them more of the support they need.

Another reason Element IV works is that the evaluation process is not where you begin in the differentiated supervision model. First come the three other elements which serve to establish a foundation of trust and a culture of feedback so that by the time teachers go through the evaluation process, they are much more likely to trust and engage with feedback from administrators. They have come to learn that administrators are focused on learning and next steps and not aiming to judge and use this as a “gotcha” approach.

Finally, to make good decisions about next steps in the learning journey, both leaders and teachers need a combination of formative and summative data. Used well, the evaluation rubrics can provide additional summative data to support this process.


As you prepare to implement this new supervision model, bear in mind that your frame of mind and your intent will matter just as much as completing all the to-dos in each element. If you supervise with a check-the-box frame of mind, using this model or any other, you will not get the results you hope for. Instead, approach the work of supervision thoughtfully and aiming to carry out each step richly and productively. Commit to the work of supervising and dig deep for connection between practices and results.

Finally, if you feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the task of nurturing and growing your school, teachers, and students, remember that the very largest of jobs must begin somewhere. Persist at the important work of growing teachers. Sow some seeds today. Even if they look very small compared to all that must be done, they will, with care, grow and bear fruit.

THE MAIN IDEA’s PD suggestions that go along with this book are not included in this html link. To see those ideas, go to www.TheMainIdea.net and download the full book summary.