Low-inference note-taking is an objective data-gathering strategy that captures exactly what the teacher and students are saying and doing without bias or judgment. It is an incredibly powerful tool because it grounds your conversations in evidence. Before we dive into how to implement this at your school, let's first take a look at the difference between high-inference and low-inference note taking.
|High-Inference Notes||Low-Inference Notes|
|Teacher asks good question about time||Teacher asks: “When does the delivery person arrive?|
|Students raise their hands to answer question||15-20 students raise their hands to answer question.|
|Quick transition from one activity to another||Transition from writing prompt to independent reading takes 10-15 seconds after the teacher says “Please transition now.”|
|Students were on task.||At least 80% of students were silently reading handout and writing their answers to three questions in their notebook.|
Collecting data this way sets the stage for productive professional relationships centered on teaching and learning, and a genuinely collaborative approach to instructional improvement. Yet like any effort, taking robust low-inference notes during a classroom visit takes practice. Here are three of our most valuable tips for improving your craft.
1. Use Technology
Capturing classroom practice with video or audio recordings allows everyone to review what actually happened during the classroom visit. In our experience, just watching or listening to a short clip of classroom practice is a great way to start a debrief conversation, often allowing the teacher to lead the conversation.
2. Capture the Time
Recording the time of classroom occurrences (e.g. the duration of a prompt, the length of a turn and talk, the span of a transition from one activity to another, etc.) can be extremely insightful for teachers. Asking a teacher to guess how much time they spend on an activity and then comparing it to the real time spent can be a powerful learning opportunity. Remember that highly effective feedback should never feel like a "gotcha" moment for the teacher so be thoughtful when posing questions.
3. Develop a Coding System
It’s nearly impossible to capture all of the nuances of classroom interactions. One tool to capture more is to develop a coding system. For instance, in your notes "T" can stand for teacher, "S1" can be the first student that speaks, and "WT = 3-5s" can stand for a wait time of 3-5 seconds after a question. The key is to choose a system that allows you to capture more information during your visit.
We’re always happy to help and provide input where we can. If you have questions about your instructional support system, we’d love to talk to you. Schedule a complimentary strategy session with a Bullseye expert!