Foster Instructional Best Practices: Add Learning Walks to Your School’s Evaluation Toolkit

As a team, the leaders and teachers understand that the student’s work is a mirror of the teacher’s work, the teacher’s work is a mirror of the principal’s work, and the principal’s work is a mirror of the superintendent’s work.

– Institute for Learning


The Learning Walk routine reflects the instructional core: how teachers teach, how students learn, and what gets taught to whom. The Learning Walk sits within existing instruction and typically centers on inquiries identified by teachers themselves.

The Routine works across different observational conditions:

  • Virtual classes in live-time
  • Short video segments of lessons uploaded by teachers
  • Live lessons inside the classroom

The Learning Walk is frequently used after professional development has been provided in order to identify effective practices. It helps schools and districts respond to questions like:

1. How are effective practices being implemented in a school or district?

2. What texts and tasks engage students?

3. How can instruction be used to support student voice and agency?

4. What does student talk sound like? How do teachers promote productive talk?

5. How are classrooms exhibiting equitable practice?

6. What professional development activities benefit teachers and students?

Preparing for the Learning Walk

  1. Determine schedule
  2. A lens, or focus, for the walk is determined by the administrators and teachers.
  3. See “Before Using the Routine” in the Tips section below.

Viewing Classrooms

  1. Walkers view the classrooms for 12-15 minutes.
  2. Walkers keep track of their observations and questions.

Observations should be recorded immediately. Each walker fills out the observation form that relates to the focus provided by the teachers. Walkers make observations that are not evaluative or for auditing. The notes should be rooted in the teacher’s focus and evidence from the classroom, and be void of praise or correction.

Debriefing and Planning Next Steps

  1. The team facilitates the sharing of observations garnered from the walkers.
  2. The group notes trends and commonalities across classrooms.
  3. Next steps are discussed.

Next steps apply to everyone up and down the line of educator stakeholders, from teacher to superintendent.

There is little to gain from classroom visits unless they are followed by coaching and professional development. The goal of the Learning Walk routine is to provide feedback to the teacher that will move their practice forward. This means the feedback provided should come from a coaching stance, the feedback process should be interactive, and the teacher should participate in designing the next steps.

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