Learning Walks

You know about walkthroughs. Maybe you’ve studied instructional rounds. I’ve share my research paper on formative classroom visits. But what are learning walks? And how can they help your school?

What are Learning Walks?

A learning walk is an opportunity to visit multiple classrooms and learn from observation. Learning walks are typically done with a cadre of educators.

That said, a learning walk is not an observation of a teacher. It is not designed to give feedback to specific teachers.

A learning walk is an opportunity for a team to observe trends and specific strategies and how they’re being implemented.

When implementing learning walks, it’s vital that principals and school leaders communicate clearly about the intended purpose so that misconceptions do not develop.

Learning walks can quickly be interpreted as micromanagement and supervision malpractice. Clarity is essential.

Before the Learning Walk

The team that’s doing the walk will meet and decide on a focal point. What strategy or group of strategies are they wanting to learn about? This is very similar to instructional rounds, but it’s much less formal.

Then that team creates a basic form to gather their thoughts in a consistent manner. They key here is basic.

There may be checklist items, but open-ended formats allow the team to record their own thoughts and observations during the learning walk.

During the Learning Walk

The team can split into groups of two or three and go into classrooms. In the classroom they individually record their thoughts and make observations, and when appropriate talk to students about what they’re doing and what the students thoughts are.

They move from class to class recording their thoughts, but no teacher names are recorded. It’s about the practice and learning about the practice.

It’s not about the teacher as an individual professional.

Some informal chatting between classrooms can occur and sharing important AHAs is good, but most of that will be saved for after the learning walks.

After the Learning Walks

The team gathers together to discuss their observations. Descriptions, not judgements.

They’ll go through their forms one component at a time. At this time, we’re looking for trends in the observations. What important insights did the observers find, and how can those result in improved practice?

The overall data should be summarized and shared out with the entire school.

But remember this is not feedback for the teachers. The learning was for those doing the learning walks. When the data is shared, it’s very much a celebration of professional learning not feedback for teachers to use for improvement.

How Do They Help?

Learning walks help your staff visualize instructional strategies and approaches. It’s one thing to read about a strategy or listen to a presentation about instructional strategies. It’s another thing to do a learning walk.

Learning walks allow you to form new thoughts and to shape your thinking about instructional approaches and strategies.

They can benefit individual teachers, teacher teams, instructional coaches, or administrative teams.

PS – If you’re interested in feedback for teachers, Principal Tribe published a great article yesterday on 5 Ways to Give Feedback. Check it out – it features Dr. Todd Schmidt.