Setting The Stage For Learning Walks

We have been dabbling with a Walkthrough Protocol at Burlington High School called Look 2 Learning which I wrote about back in November. As we commit to a greater commitment to this model, I wanted to share a couple of conversations that have gone on recently which I think will help us ensure a higher level of success.

Why Is Teachers Visiting Other Classes Useful?

First off, we revisited the why –  as in why should teachers commit time to this initiative.

The rationale here is pretty straight forward.  Our schools are constantly judged by outsiders based on external source of data based on standards that we have little to no control over. Why would we want to miss out on an opportunity to create internal data based on standards that we predetermine?

In addition, in New England high school are visited every decade by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges which sends a team of educators into each school to determine how well the school is doing in adhering to the NEASC Standards. As a former NEASC Commission member and a Chair of evaluation teams, I can say without reservation that the highlight of the visit is shadowing students and visiting classrooms.  At the conclusion of the four-day visit, team members have a pretty good idea on teaching and learning a given school.

The sad part here  is that in most schools, the team has a better handle on teaching and learning at the school than the people that work there every day.  So as I answered the why with my staff, my answer was simple. We should be the experts on what goes on in the classrooms of our school.  We should not have to wait for an outside group of educators to come in to our school to tell us what Teaching and Learning looks like in our school.

What is my math teacher doing in the English Hall?

And Another Thing, Maybe We Should Tell The Students What We Are Doing?

I know this should be common sense, but we did not spend enough time educating the students as to what was going on and why all of a sudden groups of teachers were entering their classes for 3-5 minutes, talking to them and then leaving. Fortunately, one of my staff members was kind enough to point this out by having his students state what they thought of the “walkthroughs.”

Here are a few of the responses:

I think that evaluators did not do a good job. They were only in the room for 3 minutes.”

“Students and teachers act differently when other adults walk into the room.”

“I think that if it were to work it would have to be done more often.”

Needless to say, we will be meeting with all of our students right after mid-terms to explain to them the format and purpose of the walkthroughs.  Let’s face it, having other adults enter the room and ask them questions about what they are doing in a class and why is a little out of the ordinary in public education.  Almost as foreign as telling them what we are doing and why.

Who knows, maybe down the road they will join staff on the walks?


  1. erhsprincipal said:

    We to have been spending time with new protocols for walkthroughs. We do them on our handheld smartphones in which the teacher immediately receives feedback through their email. We have a couple of different protocols for direct interactive instruction and the SIOP model. The data collected is then shared weekly in admin meetings through graphs. We will start to share with entire staff around a common focus-rigor. We will then move to establish SMART goals in relation to data collected. I feel that we are off to a great start.

    January 4, 2011
    • rob said:

      what type of feedback do you give?

      January 4, 2011
      • erhsprincipal said:

        Sorry for the long post, but here I go:

        We were trained on direct interactive instruction (DII) at my last site. When I moved to my new site I showed my department leaders the feedback form and they were OK with it. We give feedback in relation to technology implementation, standard and objective covered. Interactions between teacher and student, student to teacher, and student to student. Feedback is another category- the type and how often, If instructional communication is predetermined or not based on the evidence seen in the classroom. The use of district adopted materials. I can go on but there are eight elements that we look for in DII. There are also eight elements for the SIOP.

        We initially started with Google docs as the program we used on the handhelds, but it was too combersome and I was not able to give feedback immediately. I am now using a website called Web Survey Master. I am working with them on creating a survey form specifically for walkthroughs. They have been very responsive. We are getting ready to unveil some great stuff if their software engineers can figure out what I would like them to. On our feedback form we are now able to embed hyperlinks in the area that we are giving feedback on. So for example if we had a link on how to cover objectives strategically and throughout the lesson, we would create a hyperlink on the form for the teacher to go to that would be a short video of how it is being done in another teacher’s classroom. So they get feedback and a living example of what it may look like in their classroom if followed through on. The teachers love it.

        We also created a monthly focus in relation to DII and the SIOP. The teachers really like this becuase we specifically outlined what they should be doing in relation to this element of DII or SIOP as well as what there students should be doing. Again, the teachers loved it. We are now working with them to refine these focuses and to have them visit each others classroom where they are giving each other feedback.. We are further along with the SIOP model then we are with the DII implementation at my new site. But we’ll get there.

        Again, the next steps would be to create SMART goals and to give schoolwide feedback in relation to the implementation of DII and the SIOP. When I share the data with people in bar charts and graphs it is dramatic. So people now receive immediate feedback before I leave their classroom, it’s quick, easy, they receive scholwide feedback, they see living examples of what it loks like and also information in what the expectations are. The results- No more complaints about a lack of focus, communication, or what it is important.


        January 4, 2011
      • Thanks for the comments. I am excited that this initiative will be led more by teachers and less by administrators. I have been in many school during accreditation visits where teachers talked about how they had significant discussions about teaching and learning “informally at lunch and in the teachers’ room.”

        I am excited that we have established formal time for teachers to take part in these walks so that they will be the ones gathering the data and not just administrators, I am also excited that 40 teachers have volunteered to take part in these walks. Data aside, just the fact that we will have so many of our teachers taking part in these walks and having time to discuss student learning will make a positive impact in our classrooms!

        January 4, 2011
      • We don’t give any teachers individual feedback. The process is meant to look at student learning, so we post the results of our walks for all staff as school-wide numbers that are owned by everyone.

        January 4, 2011
  2. Kathleen Zarubin said:

    Really interesting in this blog & post. Just for something light .. I assume you have seen the tounge in cheek video re the Focus Walk via XTRANORMAL

    Comments seem to indicate it is funny but sad .. because it seems to often be true. (Not your ‘learning walk’ I’m sure!)

    January 4, 2011
    • Thanks for the video Kathleen. The results reman to be seen. Hopefully, we will be different than what is portrayed in the video.

      January 4, 2011
  3. erhsprincipal said:

    My teachers are asking for the feedback. I think we have spent alot of time setting the stage. We have budgeted 8 release days to piggy back off of professional development from last year so they are more versed on what this looks like in the classroom. They spend this time sharing with each other strategies and are defining what the criteria is for the walkthrough.. This is going to be a journey without a destination.

    January 4, 2011
    • Having ongoing formal conversations about student learning is a destination that not too many schools can claim to have arrived at. Hope we both get there!

      January 4, 2011
  4. erhsprincipal said:

    All we want do is get better. I currently have 132 teachers and this process is going to take some time to see everthing go schoolwide with the implementation of these strategies. We started with a cohort of about 15 teachers for the release days. They then share with others during collaboration days and we try to model elements when we can in meetings.

    January 4, 2011

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