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What is the Future Learning Walk?

A learning walk is a focused visit through learning areas, followed by feedback and reflection. But more than this - it is about the 'so what?' What will happen with the data that will improve student learning. This is about the next steps in improving practice, developing school wide focus and also about thinking about education for the future. Is what you are seeing in learning areas really pushing where you think schooling should head, or merely reinforcing the status quo?

There are six stages to developing a learning walk - Form - Focus - Footwork - Follow up - Future. The FLEW process used for learning walks, as seen here, can be downloaded from the bottom of the home page - scroll down to the attachment called FLEW diagram.
Details of the learning walk process can be read in the ebook available here. Further ebooks outlining the detail of each part of the process will soon follow.

Future Learning Walk Process 2009

I have deliberately steered away from using the word 'classroom' in the learning walk process. Learning can take place anywhere and we should not be constrained by the classroom setting. Hence also for the focus on the future. In determining the 'so what' of a learning walk there are the immediate considerations about what can be changed to improve student achievement, but don't forget the ultimate vision. What values, skills and attributes are you trying to develop? How are you stretching to achieve 21st century learning. Move beyond status quo and stretch yourselves!

There are many models of learning walks and classroom walkthroughs. If you click onto the Links to Resources you will find some of the readings that I consider to be the most useful. There is no one best way of undertaking a walk - it depends where your school is at on its journey. If you have not yet developed a professional learning community then you need to work on this before even considering learning walks. The Bigger Picture provides some information about the development of PLCs.

The underlying principles of learning walks are what should be focussed on, not whether to use this model or that. Or whether to use quality learning circles, peer coaching, lesson study. To me that is not the issue. Any of these can be successful if they:
  • focus on deprivatising practice;
  • are regular rather than one-off visits;
  • are supported by systems of growth not a focus on failure;
  • are underpinned by strong professional learning communities of support, challenge, relationships and a focus on learning;
  • develop the learning conversations of teachers;
  • have leaders who get into classrooms and act as pedagogical or instructional leader


What body of literature supports learning walks?
Lauren Resnick from the Institute for Learning, at the University of Pittsburgh is a leading expert in the cognitive scence of learning and instruction learning walks. She conducted research over a period of twenty years into LearningWalks. Carolyn J. Downey is professor emeritus of educational leadership at the College of Education at San Diego State University. Her book The Three Minute Classroom Walk Through is a useful resource based on sound research. Go to www.thinkbeyond.co.nz for a link to wiki resources that provide more information and literature on learning walks and the principles that underpin them.

Do learning walks work in high schools?
Each context is different. In “Secondary School Change,” Tony Wagner introduces the idea of the new “three R’s” of rigor, relevance, and respectful relationships ("Secondary School Change," Nov. 27, 2002.).

In some places learning walks or classroom walkthroughs have a bad reputation. Why is this?
Because it has been mandated, done to and connected with teacher appraisal – rather than developed though professional learning communities and relational trust. Learning walks should focus on continual professional learning not on appraisal or compliance.

How do we get started?
Familiarise yourself with the literature on learning walks and underpinning ideas. Check out some of the information on the wiki and decide which of these will be useful in your context.
Build on support by challenging staff. This can be achieved by extending learning talk and beginning to deprivatise practice.

Should learning walks be voluntary?
Focus on engaging teachers in the learning process rather than being concerned about whether they volunteered or not. If the forming stage of the process indicates there is readiness for learning walks you may start with some initial volunteers or mandate but build protocols together and provide support.

Cheryl Doig Think Beyond Ltd

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