Learning walks are a great tool for school improvement as they provide a snapshot of the strengths and weaknesses of a school. However, they can also be a source of anxiety for learners and staff. It is therefore important to make these learning walks as purposeful and calm as possible. And I believe the suggestions outlined below can help to make this a reality.
Share the reason for the learning walk with learners
SEND learners are often observed by a host of different agencies throughout their time in school. Therefore, when another adult enters the room, they might become nervous and uneasy because they feel that they are being watched. However, if the class teacher makes it clear that the observation is for senior leaders to see their skills and knowledge, this can help to put learners at ease. And when learners are at ease, they are free to learn and engage with the lesson being taught.
Share who will be doing the learning walk with learners
Working within a specialist autistic school, I have come to realise that one of the key ways to put learners at ease is to show them a picture of new visitors before they arrive. The use of a picture is helpful in creating a sense of familiarity with the visitor and so, students are more likely to have a positive reaction to their presence. Of course, the person conducting the walk is likely to be a member of the senior leadership team. In this case, simply sharing that these leaders are likely to visit the classroom could also help students to feel at ease when these changes occur in the lesson.
Share the structure of learning walks with staff
In the recent WomenEd Conference, Matthew Parker spoke about a clear structure that could be utilised when carrying out learning walks. I believe that if a model like this is used, teachers will view learning walks in a more positive and constructive way, which will in turn influence their learners’ feelings and behaviour when an observer comes into the classroom. A structure of this model can be found below:
So yes, learning walks are important and they can help schools to be more effective. However, schools must be clear with staff and learners about how they will work, the reason why they are happening and who will be doing them. If all these elements are clearly communicated, I am convinced that they can always be a positive and constructive experience for all involved.