Learning Walks are a key strategy that you can use to transform the teaching and learning climate of your school and center your role as an instructional leader. Learning Walks are a non-evaluative, cyclical process used to assess the quality of student learning and effectiveness of instruction in your buildings in order for you to identify how you can support improvements to the learning experience. This strategy serves as an introduction to the learning walk process and provides critical steps for making this a transformational part of your daily leadership practice.
Begin by identifying a focus of your learning walks. This may be aligned to a district initiative or goal or simply to see how things are going.
Communicate the goal of the learning walk and this focus to your teachers. Be transparent and honest.
Develop or find a student-centered tool. A learning walk tool can support you to narrow your focus and should be aligned to the purpose you shared with teachers.
If you do not have your own learning walk tools, review BetterLesson's Learning Walk tools for Blended Learning, Social-Emotional Learning, EL Education, and Open Up Resources 6-8 Math in the resource section below.
Share the tool with teachers so they are aware of the focus of the learning walks.
Develop a schedule for your learning walks. It is important to visit classrooms consistently.
Consider tools that can help you make this part of your daily practice. For example, it may be as simple as a checklist of classrooms to visit or the use of a tech tool for calendaring.
For additional tech tool ideas, review the list below
Once you have communicated your focus, developed or found a learning walk tool, and set up a schedule be sure to visit classrooms consistently. 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.
When visiting classrooms, use your learning walk tool to take notes on your focus.
Review your notes to identify trends and additional supports you will provide for teachers.
Share great moments of teaching and learning that you observed at staff meeting.
You can note what practices you'd like to spread throughout the school via professional development and note areas that need to improve school-wide.
Remember the goal of learning walks is improvement not individual evaluation. Keep this in mind when identifying and sharing out.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Create a digital schedule/calendar for yourself, with correct synchronous video links.
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.
Conduct the distance-learning walk and take notes.
Share note-worthy observations or best practices learned with your school community and collaboratively develop next steps.
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.
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.
Google Calendar is one of a variety of free online calendar management systems.
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.
For more information on learning walks, explore the resources linked below.
In developing this strategy, the following resources and research was consulted.
Hear from one of our coaches to learn more about how Learning Walks can impact your school or district, as well as variations that can help make it actionable and replicable.