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Learning Walks as a Collaborative Tool

Learning Walks as a Collaborative Tool

Author: Katie Hou

In this lesson you will learn the purpose and types of learning walks.

In this lesson, you will learn how a learning walk supports collaboration and continuous improvement through the use of the PLC structure.

In this lesson, you will learn how to leverage technology to conduct and analyze data from learning walks.

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Hello, and thank you for joining me for Learning Walks as a Collaborative Tool. By the end of today's tutorial, we will be able to answer the following essential learning questions. What are the type of learning walks? What is the purpose of learning walks? How can learning walks support collaboration? How can I use technology with learning walks?

Let's get started with a learning walk overview. Learning walks are a non-evaluative brief observation of classrooms. The purpose of doing these is because we want to improve professional practice, specifically focused on student outcomes. Educators provide and receive feedback, and this can happen in an individual setting or as a team.

Before a learning walk takes place, there's typically "look fors" that are identified so that a question is posed and the people performing the learning walk have an intentional purpose for being in there. They're not looking at everything. They're looking for something like our objectives posted on the board, or is there evidence that the students are aware of the learning targets, et cetera?

And this is really a great exercise for faculty learning. There's a variety of different learning walks we're going to talk about today. And one of them is a ghost walk. The purpose of a ghost walk is basically to examine classrooms without students present.

You might be thinking to yourself, why would we want to examine classrooms without students present? Well, that's a really good question because we can look at the environment. We can look at how has the teacher arranged his or her classroom. Is it conducive to learning? Is there a place for objectives are posted on a daily basis and more?

So these are usually conducted within one hour, and it will include people such as the principal, assistant principal, teachers, a building leadership team, coaches, or the professional learning community. And the following includes a summary of data that was collected. And the data is going to look like evidence and questions that are posed with the entire faculty. We've talked in the past about the importance of space and what the environment does for learning. So even though students aren't present, and we can't necessarily observe questions like are students aware of the learning objectives, we can still talk about is our environment conducive to learning?

The next type of learning walk is the capacity-building learning walk. And the purpose of this learning walk is to collect data, and this is where we're looking for evidence of effective practices. And we're also looking at gaining insights into next steps about how we can better our practices.

This is typically conducted in one hour, and it includes team members, such as the principal, assistant principal, any sort of instructional coach, and other members of the building leadership team. You're not necessarily going to have other teachers on a capacity-building learning walk. And in the follow-up, we'll include a summary of the data collected, and it will be shared with the entire faculty.

Then we have the faculty learning walk. And this is where the entire faculty is invited to visit classrooms. And it's typically conducted all day, and a teacher would go visit another teacher during his or her planning period. This type of walk includes the principal, assistant principal, and then just whoever is available for each time period. And, hopefully, the entire faculty will get to participate in a faculty learning walk by the end of the year. And then the follow-up includes a summary of data collected, evidence, and questions posed to the entire faculty.

Faculty learning walks are really important because, oftentimes, we teach in our own little bubbles, and we don't get to go outside of the classroom and see what is going on in other people's rooms. And this can be a really great way to have collaboration. You can see a lot of really cool ideas. And this isn't just as simple as sitting in on one other teacher's classroom. Or you're an English teacher, so you're going to go observe another English teacher.

This is a learning walk where you're going from room to room. You're observing veteran teachers. You're observing new teachers. You're observing teachers from all different grade levels and all different disciplines.

So what role do learning walks play in collaboration and professional learning communities? Well, they definitely allow for peer-to-peer learning and sharing, which should be aimed at continuous improvement. This is especially true for the ghost walks where faculty members get to participate and for the faculty learning walks.

It's also important because it includes all faculty. All faculty are always included in the debriefs and when we go over the collection of data and we talk about the questions. And these are actually really beneficial because they're not evaluative, and that just means these are not observations that go towards an evaluation on your teacher record. These are just brief pop-ins where we're collecting data and looking at how that data can influence the school as a whole.

We talk a lot about living and teaching our students 21st century technology skills. So we want to look at how we can use technology to support learning walks. Let's pretend that you're a teacher on your planning period and you've been asked to do a walk-through. You log onto the Google Form that everybody has access to. You read over the "look fors." Maybe you print them out.

As you are walking through, you're using your iPad. You're collecting evidence on the form. And then your data along with everybody else is summarized using the Sheets tool to analyze that. Then we can bring this back to create goals, such as a SMART goal as our professional learning community because we have hard evidence. We have data that we've collected to create these goals.

Let's reflect for just a moment. Do you think learning walks would be helpful at your school? Why or why not? And which type of learning walk are you most interested in? Why?

Let's review. Today, we addressed what are the types of learning walks? What is the purpose of learning walks? How can learning walk support collaboration? And how can I use technology with learning walks?

To dive a little deeper and learn how to apply this information, be sure to check out the additional resources section associated with this video. This is where you'll find links targeted towards helping you discover more ways to apply this course material. Thank you for joining me, and happy teaching.

Notes on “Learning Walks as a Collaborative Tool”


(00:00-00:20) Introduction

(00:21-01:12) Learning Walk Overview

(01:13-04:18) Types of Learning Walks

(04:19-05:04) Learning Walks and Collaboration and PLCs

(05:05-05:48) Using technology to Support Learning Walks

(05:49-06:11) Reflection

(06:12-06:43) Conclusion

Additional Resources

The Learning Walk

The 2014 National Teacher of the Year finalist demonstrates how and why to use a learning walk to improve instruction. This video highlights the importance of having a focus when conducting a learning walk.