Facebook
Edutopia on Facebook
Twitter
Edutopia on Twitter
Google+
Edutopia on Google+
Pinterest
Edutopia on Pinterest Follow Me on Pinterest
WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Learning Walks...More Than a Tour of the School

Learning Walks...More Than a Tour of the School

More Related Discussions
16 Replies 1276 Views

Somewhere in a Twitter conversation that I was in with Don Gately (@donald_gately) & others recently, the idea came up about “Learning Walks”. Our Twitter conversation led to a group Google Hangout today to discuss the idea in more depth.

What is a Learning Walk?

It is an invitation to parents to come to the school for a set period of time (an hour or two), to go on a guided tour of the school/classrooms during the school day. Not to look at the decor - but to learn more about the learning happening or explore other topics revolving around education and the school. Each tour/learning walk, would have a topic or theme to guide the discussion and help with selection of which classrooms to visit. The thought is more about giving parents an opportunity to witness what a “real” lesson looks like and not a “dog and pony show” lesson. These are also not about a parent sitting in on and observing THEIR child...but to learn more about a topic or the school through observing in them in action. Following the Learning Walk, the group would sit down to talk more in depth about what they've observed and answer questions.

Why host Learning Walks?

To create another opportunity to build, improve and strengthen home-school relations….creating true partners in education and another step in knocking down the wall that often exists between home and school.

What fears/concerns may exist?

In conversations with others in my children’s school about inviting parents in to observe a "real" lesson, I was told that teachers may feel inviting parents in opens the door to more criticism. This was also brought up in this case.

I can say as a parent who has witnessed a few “real” lessons this year (none in my own children’s classrooms); I am less critical and more proud. Seeing the teachers and students work through a lesson that doesn't go perfectly as planned is simply awesome. I honestly believe that those criticizing the teachers and/or school, are doing it already and regardless of witnessing a perfect, or imperfect, lesson. Although I already support our teachers efforts, witnessing their lessons garnered more support from me...and I believe that would be the case for most parents. As parents, most of us want to like and be proud of our child’s school and teachers. Teachers are doing some really great things in teaching our children and helping them succeed in a world that will most likely look very different from the world we grew up in. But how many parents know about those great things? Why not give parents experiences to brag about the teachers and school to their community? Jay Posick (@posickj) had mentioned that he uses “I noticed…” and “I wonder…” in his observations currently. I love this statement and think the format creates a setting for positive conversations.

Another concern was, not all parents have the ability to come into school during the day. Many children today live in households where everyone works. How do you make sure they don't feel excluded or feel they need to choose between supporting their children financially or at school.

Given that school isn't in session in the evenings or on weekends, the suggestion came up to share any discussions and resources to all families after. It was also suggested to create short videos that could be shared at an evening event or through email.

I’m curious….what are your thoughts on this outreach idea? Would you be willing to try it? What ideas would you add? What other fears or concerns do you have and how could they be addressed/resolved/prevented?

Following the GHO, a Google doc was set up to share ideas. Feel free to contribute or simply read some of what we discussed to learn more. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Ph69ilon_sk0Q34esrnzFnxMERUpasQUyxTt...

Comments (16 Replies)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal
Facilitator 2014

The School Reform Initiative has a protocol for doing a similar walk when school isn't in session. I think it's a really interesting way to look at a school through a targeted lens- particularly since it happens when no one is teaching. It's a slightly safer way of examining the unspoken culture and climate of a school. http://schoolreforminitiative.org/doc/ghost_walk.pdf

(1)
Corinn's picture
Corinn
4th Grade Reading/Language Arts & Social Studies Teacher

My district has an open door policy for parents. However, I must be honest, I initially was interested in this topic as we use learning walks in my school for teachers to observe other teachers. We preface the learning walk with the statement that this is not an "I got ya!" but a way to help teachers strengthen their craft. We also use the "I wonder...I noticed...I saw...I heard...." model.

I have never considered inviting parents on a learning walk. I will absolutely have to bring this suggestion up to my principal this school year. While I understand the trepidation other teachers may have, but parents could have concerns as well. They may feel as if they do not understand what is happening in a classroom and why. I do believe this is one way to help parents get a glimpse of what is going on in the entire school house, why certain decisions are made, and how policies and procedures work to enhance the school environment.

(2)
Gwen Pescatore's picture
Gwen Pescatore
President Home & School Assoc, #ParentCamp Organizer, Co-Moderator #PTchat

Corinn...I couldn't agree more - there's no better way show parents the what & why's. I hope you share any feedback you get and if you include parents.

(1)
Corinn's picture
Corinn
4th Grade Reading/Language Arts & Social Studies Teacher

Are there any guidelines that you have put into place to help parent with the observations? As I said before, my school has an open door policy, however we did have to create a list of expectations for parents to come in and observe. For example, parents are not allowed to interact or discipline students. They also must strictly observe and avoid commenting to students. The community around my school is extremely close. What can we do to ensure that the parent learning walks are utilized for positive growth in teachers, parents, and students instead of as a opportunity for parents to bash the school?

Gwen Pescatore's picture
Gwen Pescatore
President Home & School Assoc, #ParentCamp Organizer, Co-Moderator #PTchat

Laura...Interesting share. This I guess is a way for a school to make it appear as if they are interested in real feedback??

And #5...wow!
(Host responds to anything that challenged, pushed, and/or added to his/her thinking. The host does not respond to everything heard. There is no need to explain the school or classroom to the visitors.) There is no need to explain the school or classroom to the visitors? Really??? I hate to think schools have this mindset, and really hate that one would put it in writing. A school is part of a community. If you want the support (both physically and financially) of the community, you need to have a level of transparency, be ready to listen to good and bad feedback, and explain why things are done the way they are.

Gwen Pescatore's picture
Gwen Pescatore
President Home & School Assoc, #ParentCamp Organizer, Co-Moderator #PTchat

Corinn...I haven't found anything more to share as far as an outline. But believe it is important to lead each walk with a purpose. A sense of direction to help keep the conversation on the topic of discussion. I like the idea of presenting a few questions up front, and I think it is extremely important to gather after the walk for a Q&A pow wow. If schools follow the policy of the document Laura shared of not explaining everything, or they simply host walks without providing time to discuss or answer questions...I think they open the door for misunderstandings to be spread as facts.

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal
Facilitator 2014

I didn't do a good job of framing that up so t think you're misinterpreting the spirit of the activity. It's actually for schools who *are* interested in real feedback, but by explicitly releasing the host from the responsibility for defending/ explaining, the protocol allows the visitor to share what they saw and the host to hear it and make sense of it. It's also typically used with outside (not part of the community) visitors who can really see with different eyes, as opposed to members of the community who see through their own experiences with the school. It also is used in a very well established spirit of assuming positive intent and goodwill with a carefully constructed set of norms. The School Reform Initiative does amazing work with creating communities of trust, caring, and equity. (http://schoolreforminitiative.org)

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal
Facilitator 2014

I agree- it's important to have clarity about the purpose of the walk before you try to create an outline, process or protocol. Is it about educating the community about a specific change in curriculum? A new program? Is it an orientation for new members of the community or teachers from the other schools in the district? Is it about sharing information with colleagues from other schools? Is it about providing information to the school itself- different perspectives on what they're trying to do?

Once you have clarity about what your trying to achieve, I think the process would come pretty logically from there.

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal
Facilitator 2014

I googled Site Visit Protocol and came up with a whole bunch of good links for different processes. It's worth a look!

Corinn's picture
Corinn
4th Grade Reading/Language Arts & Social Studies Teacher

Laura,

I took your suggestion and googled Site Visit Protocol. I plan to sit down with my principal and Parent Involvement Team in order to enhance the current protocols already in place so that parents may participate in future learning walks.

Gwen Pescatore's picture
Gwen Pescatore
President Home & School Assoc, #ParentCamp Organizer, Co-Moderator #PTchat

Corinn...I couldn't agree more - there's no better way show parents the what & why's. I hope you share any feedback you get and if you include parents.

(1)
Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal
Facilitator 2014

The School Reform Initiative has a protocol for doing a similar walk when school isn't in session. I think it's a really interesting way to look at a school through a targeted lens- particularly since it happens when no one is teaching. It's a slightly safer way of examining the unspoken culture and climate of a school. http://schoolreforminitiative.org/doc/ghost_walk.pdf

(1)
Gwen Pescatore's picture
Gwen Pescatore
President Home & School Assoc, #ParentCamp Organizer, Co-Moderator #PTchat

Gaetan...I always feel it's a shame when a teacher/school invite to learn more goes unanswered. Have you asked parents what prevents them from coming? I'm always curious, is it that they're uncomfortable (unusual invite in your school), unavailable (all in house work during school) or not interested in what's being shared (Jay Posick mentioned in our GHO, he asks families at their open house what they're interested in knowing more about as he has over 90% of his families there that night). And who knows - maybe changing what you call the invite will make a difference.

Regardless...bravo to you for welcoming families to be part of the learning & your classroom. I hope that more teachers see the value & open their doors to parents.

Thank you!!

(1)
Corinn's picture
Corinn
4th Grade Reading/Language Arts & Social Studies Teacher

My district has an open door policy for parents. However, I must be honest, I initially was interested in this topic as we use learning walks in my school for teachers to observe other teachers. We preface the learning walk with the statement that this is not an "I got ya!" but a way to help teachers strengthen their craft. We also use the "I wonder...I noticed...I saw...I heard...." model.

I have never considered inviting parents on a learning walk. I will absolutely have to bring this suggestion up to my principal this school year. While I understand the trepidation other teachers may have, but parents could have concerns as well. They may feel as if they do not understand what is happening in a classroom and why. I do believe this is one way to help parents get a glimpse of what is going on in the entire school house, why certain decisions are made, and how policies and procedures work to enhance the school environment.

(2)

Sign in and Join the Discussion! Not a member? Register to join the discussion.