Learning Walks: A Tool for Administrators to Take the Temperature of Learning

Stay in touch with the teaching and learning in your school with quick classroom visits
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About This Strategy

A daily round of quick classroom visits by administrators can transform the teaching and learning climate. This strategy covers the three most critical steps towards making this transformational step part of an instructional leader's daily leadership practice. It covers how to set a purpose, create a schedule, and use non-evaluative observation tools.

Implementation Steps

15 minutes
  1. Set a purpose and routine for your quick classroom visits. This step is often overlooked but very important as it provides you with a focus, and it is important that teachers know your purpose as well. The purpose doesn't have to be highly technical - just honest.

    • For example, you might tell a teacher, "I'm going to do my best to drop by your classroom every other day, just to see how things are going. Please let me know if there is something you'd like for me to look for, or if you need help with anything specific."

  2. Use tools that help you make and keep a schedule for dropping in to classrooms.

    • A clipboard with a checklist of classrooms or teachers and your note-taking template or Quick Observation Tool (included in the resource section below) is one simple example.

    • There are also tech tools that randomly assign you classrooms to visit, and support your note taking. (See the Resources and Tech Tools sections below.)

  3. It is critical that you see every classroom at least once every two weeks. The classroom visits can be divided up among a leadership group, which can include teacher leaders.

    • If more than one person is conducting quick classroom visits, it is vital that the group "tune" their intent together so that what teachers are experiencing is consistent (see the How to Use a Quick Observation Tool resource below). You can also create your own using the resources below. Remember, this is a quick visit intended to bring the school together, so always keep the visits brief and non-judgmental. You should not intervene in the teaching unless there is a safety/emergency situation.

    • Consult this resource to see how administrators in Charlotte-Mecklenberg schools conduct Three-Minute Walk-Throughs

  4. Use your notes. Share great moments of teaching and learning that you observed both at staff meetings and with individual teachers either in person or via email. Note what practices you'd like to spread throughout the school via professional development, note areas that need to improve school-wide, and develop a more nuanced picture of your teachers that will be invaluable during formal evaluations.

Conducting Learning Walks During Distance Learning

Caitlin MacLeod-Bluver
BetterLesson Instructional Coach

Staying in touch with what teaching and learning looks like in your school is always important, but in a distance-learning setting, it is perhaps even more valuable. Completing "distance-learning walks" can help you understand challenges educators are facing and share best practices with your staff for what synchronous and asynchronous learning looks like.  

Implementation steps:

  1. Set a clear purpose for your distance-learning walk. For example, are you looking to see how teachers are using a certain tech platform? Are you curious to see how teachers are using synchronous sessions to support struggling learners? Are you exploring how teachers are using asynchronous learning tasks to provide differentiated instruction? 

  2. Setting a clear purpose can help you determine what to observe: synchronous whole-class instruction, synchronous small group or 1:1 instruction, or an audit of asynchronous learning tasks. 

  3. Communicate expectations and norms clearly with your staff. Distance learning is new for everyone. It is important that your staff feel supported and know that the learning walk is to support teaching and learning. Consider creating a video to share with staff of you explaining your hopes and expectations of the learning walk. 

  4. Set up the logistics with your staff. 

    • For observations of synchronous instruction, small group sessions, or 1:1 support, make sure you know the time and have the correct video link. Also, discuss if you will introduce yourself to students in the video call and if you will have your video on. Make sure you know the context for the video call (for example, a live instruction, office hours etc.) 

    • If staff would prefer to send you a recording of their synchronous session, make sure teachers record their sessions and send the correct link to you.  See resources below for steps to record the video session. 

    • If you are doing a learning walk of asynchronous learning tasks, make sure that you have access to all the correct links and the correct sharing settings on Google documents. 

  5. Create a digital schedule/calendar for yourself, with correct synchronous video links. 

  6. Consider a digital learning walk observation tool or live teaching observation tool, like the two shared below. You could also design your own tool. This tool should be based on what your team has decided constitutes quality instruction synchronously, and asynchronously. If this conversation has not happened yet, consider delaying the learning walk until this tool has been created collaboratively and in alignment your vision for distance-learning instruction. 

  7. Conduct the distance-learning walk and take notes. 

  8. Share note-worthy observations or best practices learned with your school community and collaboratively develop next steps.

Supporting Special Populations

Schools serve an increasingly diverse population and have a responsibility to teach every child. Supporting specific best practices for EL and Special Educational students through quick classroom visits helps keep your leadership spotlight on what is actually happening in classrooms as a result of mandates or initiatives. It is a powerful tool to note strengths and areas for improvement. Modify your quick classroom checklist to look for specific practices and materials that support the EL or Special Education students in the classroom.

CRTL Modification

As schools across the country become more diverse, and serve student populations with different needs as well as cultures, teachers and school leadership need to bring a culturally responsive teaching and learning focus to their work. Quick classroom visits are a powerful way to see what teachers and student are experiencing, how any changes to curriculum and teaching need support, and how engaged students are in learning. Modify your quick classroom checklist to look for specific culturally relevant practices and materials.

Tech Tools

Repertoire

  1. Repertoire is a web-based app that supports classroom visits on a daily basis by randomizing classrooms to send you to, and providing a structure for note taking.

  2. Repertoire randomizes the classrooms you visit, ensuring that you cover all of the classrooms, and is set up so that you can tailor it to meet your quick classroom visit structure as well as evaluative visit requirements. It is not free.

Google Calendar

  1. Google Calendar is one of a variety of free online calendar management systems.

  2. Use the calendar proactively to plan your week, blocking off different times to visit classrooms as a time that is sacred and cannot be used by anyone else for any purpose, unless it is an emergency. Google Calendar allows you to organize your time much more efficiently, because you can block off work times, set up events, put meetings, events and reminders on other people's calendars, and share your calendar so that people can see when you are available and book time with you.

Research

In developing this strategy, the following resource was consulted.