Professional Development

Beyond Just Surveys: Why Educators Should Shadow Their Students

By Arianna Prothero — November 04, 2022 1 min read
Image of an adult and student talking as they walk down a school hallway.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

School and district leaders can be several degrees removed from students’ experiences, even if they spend all day together in a building. And that means they might be missing important insight into how students experience school and what could be holding them back.

Surveying students is one popular way of getting feedback, but there is another powerful and less resource-heavy tool for teachers, teacher coaches, principals, and district leaders to get a students’-eye-view of school: shadowing students.

Shadowing a student means not just following them around all day, but doing everything the student does: schoolwork, tests, physical education, eating school meals in the lunchroom, and even waiting at the bus stop with them.

“We want to know what time they are getting up,” said Limary Gutierrez, the associate superintendent of educational services for the Soledad Unified School District in California. She was speaking on a panel as part of Education Week’s regular “Seat at the Table” webinar series.

“Walk in a day of the life of a student,” she said. “What data can we gather? What are we assuming? There might be other needs aside from their instruction” that need to be addressed.

Education researcher and best-selling author of Visible Learning, John Hattie, said he frequently shadows students in his work.

“Students see incredible variability in class to class,” he said. “How do we see their learning through their eyes, and how do we teach them to become the teachers? That’s the fundamental premise of that work.”

See also

Education Opinion Lessons Learned from Shadowing Students--Three Years Later
Contributing Blogger, February 28, 2018
10 min read

Education Week followed an assistant principal who shadowed a student for a day in 2016. EdWeek asked Karen Ritter, then an assistant principal at East Leyden High outside of Chicago, to grade several aspects of her school before and after the shadowing exercise.

The grades she gave her school for how actively students were learning, how engaged they were, and how well teachers drew connections from student work to the outside world all dropped after she shadowed a student. The grades she gave her school for school climate and expectations remained the same.

Reflecting on her experience at the time, Ritter said: “I think I will do some more shadowing experiences, with an ELL student, with a special ed student, and with an AP-level student. The point is to know what the students are thinking and wanting, and to start with them.”

Related Tags:

Events

Special Education Webinar Reading, Dyslexia, and Equity: Best Practices for Addressing a Threefold Challenge
Learn about proven strategies for instruction and intervention that support students with dyslexia.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
The Key to Better Learning: Indoor Air Quality
Learn about the importance of improved indoor air quality in schools, and how to pick the right solutions for educators, students, and staff.
Content provided by Delos
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Leading Systemic Redesign: Strategies from the Field
Learn how your school community can work together to redesign the school system, reengineer instruction, & co-author personalized learning.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Professional Development Opinion How to Elevate the Voices of Teachers. Try Narrative Pedagogy
The narration of a story can serve as a powerful mechanism for transforming learning.
Rebecca Thomas & Steve Saville
7 min read
shutterstock 276696266
Shutterstock
Professional Development What Works—and What Doesn't—in Teacher PD
PD frequently misses the mark. But researchers have learned how to make it count for teachers—and some of their tips are low cost.
7 min read
Young Black girl giving her teacher a high five in a classroom.
E+/Getty
Professional Development Spotlight Spotlight on Professional Development for Leadership
This Spotlight will empower you with insights on motivating teachers all year long, improving communication with school staff, and more.
Professional Development From Our Research Center One-Time PD Is Not Effective. Why Do Districts Still Rely on It?
One reason, experts say, is a mismatch between what teachers say they want from PD and what administrators think they want.
3 min read
Speaker giving presentation to a large crowd at a conference. Photographed from behind the crowd.
iStock/Getty Images Plus