January 13, 2015

Time for you to take a Learning Walk

Today I was invited to participate in a Learning Walk on campus.  If you’ve never been on a walk, it’s an opportunity for small groups of teachers to visit other classes and observe what the teachers and students are doing.  Instead of being evaluative, it offers a rare chance for busy teachers to see their colleagues in action (many of them teaching students that you also have in class) and then reflect on their own teaching practice.  If you’d like more information, check out the article from Instructional Leader, “Using Teacher Learning Walks to Improve Instruction” here: http://www.nassp.org/Content/158/pl_jan14_instructldr.pdf 


When our Lesson Design Specialist began implementing these walks three years ago, I honestly didn’t get it.  I felt it would be awkward to walk into other classes, and I wasn’t convinced that I’d gain anything from seeing lessons taught in other subject areas.  I did, however, consent to my own classroom being a learning lab for other walkers to visit.

As the years passed, and I had several groups of teachers visiting my room, I started to wonder more about the value to the walkers.  I realized that my initial skepticism was easing away and I was curious about the reflective process.  When our LDS invited me to participate, I knew it was something I needed to do.

So today, in a small group of four teachers, I walked around campus, visiting eight different classrooms, focused on eight different subjects with eight different teachers teaching with eight different styles.  And it was eye-opening!

First, I was so impressed by the quality of instruction and the engagement of the students.  But that’s not the point of the walk – it wasn’t about them, it was about me and my personal reflection on my practice.  After each 7-10 minute class visit, our small group met to discuss what we saw and then used “I Statements” to reflect on our own teaching.  This interaction forced up to hone in on what we could take away from each class to better improve our own teaching.  Seeing different ideas that I've read about or seen on Pinterest, now became tangible strategies that I could employ in my own classroom. I know that I offered “I would like to challenge myself to give students more control over their learning” and “I was reminded of the importance of calling on more students to participate, rather than falling back on the regulars that volunteer” among other contributions to the discussion. 

What I didn’t realize before heading out on this walk, though, was that watching other teachers would inspire me to be better.  I’m an English teacher who visited Finite Math, Physics, AP Chemistry, Business Accounting, Art, Woodshop, and Special Education, and from each class, I picked up on something valuable that I can add to my own teaching toolbox.

I am no longer a skeptic, but a devoted fan of the Leaning Walk!  I hope that if you haven't, you get the chance to take one, too.

And because I was inspired, I created this handout that teachers can use to reflect on their own teaching.  You can download it for free in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  Just click on the image.
   

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