WalkThru: How to carry out a learning walk

This WalkThru of a Learning Walk has been adapted from Wholesome Leadership, by Oliver Caviglioli as a free downloadable resource.

The purpose of these WalkThrus is to try and ‘demystify’ the things school leaders do by making visible some of the common routines and processes they carry out. I have found, through working with Oliver, that these visual aids can help to simplify otherwise complex processes.

You can download this WalkThru here as an A3 poster or visit Oliver Caviglioli’s awesome website where there’s a collection of other school improvement processes including Appraisal Meetings, Review Mornings and Progress Meetings (CAP Meetings).

Feel free to use, adapt around your own school, subject and context.

Learning Walks

Learning walks are more focused than just managing by walking around making unplanned classroom visits , but should still have a relatively informal feel. They should have one or two areas of specific focus, such as classroom behaviour routines, quality of classroom talk/language or effective direction of support staff. These could either be a follow-up from previous development work or be identified through other monitoring or data analysis.

  • Identify an area of focus and communicate a few days in advance, either by email or at a briefing, that you will carry out a learning walk to focus on one or two specific areas.
  • Don’t intrude too much on the learning – try to be an invisible observer. When the situation allows it, engage in conversation with teachers and children to find out more about what is going on.
  • Adopt a curious mindset and avoid jumping to hasty conclusions based on first impressions of what you see. Stay long enough in each area to get a good feel for things and don’t rush it, even though you are likely to have time pressure to finish quickly.
  • If you are working alongside someone else, make sure you spend time looking from different angles and in different places, and then comparing what you noticed – it is interesting how similar and different two opinions can be.
  • Recognise any of your biases that might have crept in. Are some of the things you notice ‘pet peeves’ or ‘the way you would have done it’, rather than things that evidence suggests are the most important to focus on? Or are you looking at the impact of initiative that you had a hand in planning? In which case you may well be subject to confirmation bias where you think the initiative is more successful than someone else would who is less involved.
  • Follow-up with whole-school feedback, sharing successful things you saw and any areas you need to follow up on.
  • Follow-up individually with any support or coaching conversations where help might be needed, but keep it light. If learning walks become perceived as a ‘compliance walk’ or start to encourage others to put on a show, you will stop seeing what is typical in a classroom and only get polished versions instead.