Classroom Observation Strategies: Learning Walks

In a Learning Walk, the walkers come together
for about an hour to go through the protocols – there’s very strong protocols about
how walkers proceed with the Learning Walks and visiting classrooms – and they have
the discussion around, “What is it going to look like when we go into these classrooms?
What are we looking for, connected to our focus?” The walkers visit the four classrooms,
they have a little bit of a debrief between each visit, collecting their evidence and
talking about perhaps a wondering that they could pose to that teacher. And then after
that they come together, put the documentation together for what they’ve seen in each classroom,
and then the teacher is invited for feedback. To minimise the disruption to a class, we
try and keep it pretty much as part of the everyday program that’s happening. In addressing
staff reaction to Learning Walks, it’s really just a matter of reassurance in the case of
some of the hosts, for example, to reassure that it’s more a snapshot of the learning
and teaching that’s happening, that it’s a non-threatening observation as such. Our
focus is really honing in on how students connect, collaborate and learn collectively,
and communicate using educational online spaces such as blogs. And we’re looking at how
the use of technology and online resources in our school engages, supports and enables
our learners to learn in different ways. Would you like to think of an area that you’d
like to focus on or just go back to them here? I might do the work samples, if that’s okay?
Student work samples. You want to have a look at work samples? Yeah. I’m happy to do the
walls and the learning environment. Okay. I’ll do the student talks. Student talk. The impact of the walkers on the actual classes is very minimal. There’s not much disruption to the class. They just have a look at what they need to see based on their particular focus. Occasionally they’ll speak to some of the students about what it is that they’re
doing. But the impact is very minimal. The observations are generally ten minutes per
classroom. And we’re getting a snapshot of the learning and teaching that’s happening
in that particular class at the time. After that ten minutes, five minutes are spent just
reflecting and bringing the group together to talk about what it is that we’ve just seen. Alright guys, so we’ve just been into Emma’s room, and we each had our focus areas, so just a quick… this is the time where we just have a quick report to each other about what we’ve seen. The children were explaining to me – we just had a bit of
talk – and they explained that they were using a blog to comment on their learning. They
were replying to children’s learning on there, so it became interactive. So my focus
was on student talk, and I sort of listened to them and enquired as to – a lot of them
were doing research in there, and then presenting it on PowerPoint – so I asked them, “Where
do you get your information from?” And they were able to elaborate and say, “We use
KidRex, Wikipedia, National Geographic for Kids.” I had a discussion with a couple
of students about where they like to work. And different to 5EC, who’d prefer to work
on the Ottomans and things, they prefer to work at tables because they found it a lot
easier to work, because they couldn’t hold their laptops properly – which I just thought
was very interesting. The next part of the Learning Walk, after visiting four classes in today’s case, is to have the teachers invited back to us to allow for them to put
the context of what we’ve just seen from their view. So they’re presenting context;
we may ask a clarifying question or two, and have a wondering as to what is possible, that a teacher may answer at that point of time, or may answer at a later date. One thing that really stood out to us is what you mentioned about them finding or creating their own little tips and giving advice. And all of those activities – the fish-market and the fund-raising game
– really promoted that. It’s effectively, would you say, a level of collaboration that’s
been really focused on in your class? Yeah, so they’re still working on that collaboration
and they still need support and assistance and reminders that we are using the blog to
collaborate, but they are becoming more independent in doing so. Learning Walks have helped me
personally, as a teacher, to be more reflective on my own practice through the times that
I have been a host teacher. The times that I haven’t been involved directly in a Learning
Walk as either a host or a walker, I’ve found that reading the feedback letters that
are provided are always really beneficial. They’re made available to all staff following
the Learning Walk, based on what has been observed. The feedback is non-judgemental,
but needs to be really focused. So it comes out as really observations that were seen
across the classrooms, not necessarily within individual classrooms. So it’s a fairly
generalised feedback, but also, the specific feedback is given to each individual teacher.
So that makes it more relevant to the particular person. But at a school level, we want to
see what improvement is happening over time for things that we’re focusing on, the areas
that we’re focusing on. Learning Walks are a way for us to get the big picture. In being
a group that’s walking in, we’ve got a structured way of looking at every aspect
of what enriches the learning, what engages the children, what enables and supports them.
And for the hosts, I suppose it’s about giving us a snapshot of everyday learning
and teaching that’s happening.

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