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Learning walk or formal observation?

Discussion in 'Personal' started by TES_Rosaline, Oct 1, 2018.

  1. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member

    Is this a chance to observe best practice or an excuse to find fault with a member of staff? One teacher gives his views:

    ‘There are a multitude of reasons why a teacher would experience such a "learning walk": workplace bullying, professional distrust, a dip in results, complaints from pupils...

    While some reasons may sound well intentioned, there is not a single reason that justifies deception. If someone observes you for an extended period of time and then gives you written feedback, it is an observation, not a learning walk.’

    Omar Akbar is a teacher and author of The (Un)official Teacher’s Manual: What they don’t teach you in training

    What are your views about learning walks? Are they a positive experience? Have you ever stopped one? Have you experienced a learning walk that felt like a formal observation without being told this was actually the case? Is there still a case for learning walks to continue?

  2. lanokia

    lanokia Star commenter

    In my experience Learning Walk has always been code for ''SLT checking up on you''.

    They are a regular feature of every school I've worked in. I have never been on a ''Learning Walk''...
  3. Mangleworzle

    Mangleworzle Star commenter

    This, anything else is an excuse.

    I was informed that as head of subject I was expected to do them in my last term at school, I didn't bother as I saw no value in them.

    Learning walks are part of the rot in education.
  4. red_observer

    red_observer Star commenter

    Agree with both posters above.
    Education is just an insult to teachers today.
    grumpydogwoman and george1963 like this.
  5. digoryvenn

    digoryvenn Lead commenter

    I don't believe learning walks are of any benefit at all. Neither are formal observations. Monitoring should be all about the pupils.

    There are much better ways to monitor learning and teaching.
  6. Grandsire

    Grandsire Star commenter

    It’s a direct consequence of having too large an SLT.

    First, it’s assumed that only the SLT know how to teach properly - because any teacher ‘going places’ and ‘climbing the ladder’ obviously needs to start by telling everyone else how to do it their way. Anyone who lacks this drive to ‘share their vision’ clearly is just waiting to be told how to do their job.

    Second, they need to do something to justify their pay grade. It gives the SLT something to do in their non-contact time that makes them feel they’re being useful. Then they can spend another day or two writing up their findings, and have a meeting in which they tell us all what they found out.

    And - Bingo! - that’s why we have learning walks.

    Notice how offering to actually TEACH the class for me to show me how to do it properly is never an option. No, they watch and then they pronounce their judgement, as if we have the time to care what they think!
  7. red_observer

    red_observer Star commenter

    Lesson obs have ALWAYS been FALSE, pointless, stressful and tells very little about the classroom teacher other than you can put a show on. There is no easy answer but a number of factors ought to be taken into account not just one 30-50 minutes whatever it is once every two years.
    It’s a way for SLT to justify their vast salaries and for Heads if Dept/Faculty to patronise and feel important compared to the rest of their members.
  8. digoryvenn

    digoryvenn Lead commenter

    I used lesson study, which worked very well with the focus being on the pupils.
    patternandsurface and nomad like this.
  9. red_observer

    red_observer Star commenter

    That’s just a great post! Well said! I’ve always thought that too. If SLT are that good why don’t they tell us how to do it?
    grumpydogwoman, Grandsire and nomad like this.
  10. Duke of York

    Duke of York Star commenter

    I'm always suspicious of an activity with an ambiguous title. Who wants to succinctly explain to an educational layman what the term "Learning Walk" actually means?

    If I was interviewing an applicant for a proper job and asked what his previous job entailed; then was told that in between periods of b.ollock scratching, he went on learning walks, what might I make of that?

    I suspect that had this been the case, I'd probably imagine he was still being trained.
    woollani and FormosaRed like this.
  11. vannie

    vannie Star commenter

    We've had five so far, including a QA teaching and learning review day. Just started week 5. It's getting a tad wearing now.
  12. JohnJCazorla

    JohnJCazorla Star commenter

    In defence of learning walks................

    SLT are expected to know what the school is like and it's impossible to ascertain that from the safety of their office. So they have to get out and about. Considerate ones even focus on the kids when coming in to try to ease the stress on the paranoid teachers. Also no clipboards or feedback.

    I've also got no time for SLT who never venture out.
    patternandsurface likes this.
  13. FormosaRed

    FormosaRed Occasional commenter

    I've had three so far this term. I ham it up especially now and put on a bit of a show. The students play along as well. A retired colleague objected to LWs strongly and as soon as an SLT suit appeared in his lesson would stop talking and wait for them to leave. Wish i had the nerve.
    woollani likes this.
  14. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    I hate learning walks, although possibly it's more about how they are done than the fact of them,which theoretically ought to useful in someway.
    But that potential is ruined, isn't it? Pompous jumped up bobbies on a made up beat, viewing teaching staff in exactly the same way as you would view a criminal line up, just waiting for one to step out of line. It's degrading.
    If ever I am chosen to be subject of a learning walk,the first thing I do is I hand over the board rubber, and say "Ah, glad you came. Would you mind?...cheers!"
    They never stay long, a bit like if somebody sends you a shirty email, all you need to do is go and stand next to them saying nothing, and smile broadly. Aaaaaand...they're off.
    Learning Walks are conducted by people who do not know how to communicate, and that is why they are chosen to do the Learning Walks. Closet ClipBoarders with zero social skills who get a kick out of making others worried.
    The thing that bothers me most about those who conduct Learning Walks is that they do not disagree with those Learning Walks.
    woollani likes this.
  15. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    Sounds like you'll have some "disappeared" , possibly at Christmas, definitely by Easter.
  16. vannie

    vannie Star commenter

    Eek! I’ll let you know!
  17. EmanuelShadrack

    EmanuelShadrack Star commenter

    Learning walks have been around for quite a while. Here's an early example, with the relevant excerpt from 10:56

  18. patternandsurface

    patternandsurface Occasional commenter

    I once asked for a learning walk so I could get some feedback on how to manage a particular unruly class. It worked to my advantage. So in some cases for me, I have had positive experiances with them. I have had negative experiances too, but mostly I have had positives.

    I wonder if learning walks are required more in schools where behaviour is challenging? Senior teachers can ensure they get to see students working, can speak to individuals about their work if they wish and check on whole class behaviours.

    Additionally how a learning walk is conducted is dependant upon the attitude and character of the teacher/SLT who conducts it right? If your made to feel they are there to keep an eye on you..then staff morale is low, or SLT haven't got the trust and respect of their team.
  19. Grandsire

    Grandsire Star commenter

    If “knowing what the school was like” was the real reason, they’d surely let everyone take part, and we’d all be able to watch each other and share good practice. Imagine the power of a young, inexperienced teacher being able to drift in and out of lessons taught by all the SLT - what a great way to demonstrate to new staff the standards expected! Far better than watching the newbie and saying, “No, that wasn’t right... we’d prefer you to do it differently... Change what you do, please, and we’ll come back and watch you again next week to check up on you again...”

    The fact that, where I work, it’s only ever the SLT who get to visit, and only ever the non-SLT who get visited, tells me everything. Our SLT do seem very reluctant to show us their teaching!

    Actually, that’s a very useful thing to know - ever since I demanded the right to a return visit to anyone conducting a learning walk in my classroom, the number of visitors has declined sharply!

    (Oh, one more thing - we ‘paranoid’ teachers might just be the ones nervous of being put on capability as a result of the endless cycle of learning walks, because we know the school has so many people on the leadership pay scale that they can no longer afford or even want to employ expensive, experienced and free-thinking teachers, particularly those who refuse to jump on bandwagons and who know educational snake-oil when they see it. I know full well they could get two nice, quiet and compliant NQTs for the price they pay me, or - more likely - one NQT and a big fat pay rise for them. I’m not daft.)
  20. Jolly_Roger15

    Jolly_Roger15 Star commenter

    Spot on, @Grandsire and @sbkrobson!

    Observer: "You need to improve, rapidly!"

    Observed: "How?"

    Observer: "If you don't know, I'm not about to tell you! That's part of your improvement process"

    It would be lovely to see our observers teach! In my last school, that would have been difficult as nearly all of them no longer taught, or had never done so!

    A strange job, teaching. In other jobs, you learn by observing, and working with, more experienced people; never in teaching, though. The last time I observed someone teach was before my first teaching practise, on my PGCE.
    red_observer likes this.

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