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"Learning Walks"

Discussion in 'Secondary' started by nolu, Oct 12, 2011.

  1. Evening all,
    I found out today about a new policy of learning walks that my place is planning to implement, some of which is unclear and some of which I'm quite concerned about. I've been on my union's website & looked at DofE website but the docs on there don't fully answer my questions, so I'm hoping one of the fine bods on here can either answer my questions or point me in the right direction it would be gratefully received.
    Curriculum leaders have been instructed by SLT to carry out learning walks within their depts as part of standards etc. In my dept there's 2 curriculum leaders: one of them has told us which lesson this will be and it came across as though they meant a one off observation. However the other CL sees it rather differently and won't tell us when. In an email today we were also told that 1) these would "occur regularly" (no actual time frame specified), and 2) amongst other things, one of the focuses would be how far along with the SOW staff are.
    From what I've read, learning walks should not be about the performance of an individual teacher, which would suggest that using LWs to check how far along the SOW the teacher is, is not appropriate use as this is monitoring and could be easily done another way. It also appears that staff should know when LWs are taking place. I am also concerned about the term "regular" - it could after all mean every day, once a week, once a term or once a year... The final concern is that there is a big discrepancy in how these are being handled within my dept - the least they could do is come up with a consistent intradepartmental protocal!
    Any advise/suggestions/links to relevant websites gratefully appreciated. [​IMG]
  2. I am a CL in my school and I have been doing regular 'learning walks' (how I hate the name!!) now for well over a year. Last year I had a much lighter timetable and was able to get out and about a lot more than is the case this year. My timetable is in my office and on the outside of my classroom door so my team can see when I'm not teaching and, therefore, when I'm likely to be on tour, so to speak. They know that I may pop into any lesson and that I don't stay long. I may look at a few exercise books, partly to look at marking and feedback and partly to check on presentation, as well as at student planners to ensure that SNS are being recorded in there. They don't have an issue with this. It is also useful to look at student participation in lessons. In some cases, where a class has a few less pleasant characters, they know I will give them my full support and deal with any recalcitrent behaviour if they want me to. I keep a 'Learning Walk Log', giving details of the date, lesson and colleague(s) I have seen and a brief report of what I saw in the lesson, as well as any follow-up. As well as proving to SLT that I am doing my job, this also allows me to ensure that I am fairly even-handed in how often I visit each colleague. Sometimes I will take note of good ieas that I have seen and then share these at the next Curriculum Area meeting.
    It might not be as sinister as you appear to think - give your CLs a chance and if things don't go well, take it up with your union if you feel you are being treated unfairly.
  3. bigpedro

    bigpedro New commenter

    They've started this in our school, its done by SLT and we've dubbed them "spying strolls"
    Many of us are logging the time spent in lessons by slt as legally (I believe) you can only be observed for 180 minutes in an academic year. Also the union bod rekons that the only person who can pop into lessons unannounced is the HT so if learning walks are taking place by others then staff should be notified of when.
    As far as I know the above is correct, but i'm sure someone will correct me if i'm wrong.
    Also, rules are likely to be slightly different for academies.
  4. We have been doing this for a while too and see it is a quite a positive thing. The way we manage it is that the criteria are agreed before hand (we have a tick sheet) and that it is anonymous accross the dept. We all participate .. CL and classroom teachers so we are all used to the comings and goings. Also, we agree that we are looking for positives, so if things are tricky or not going well we walk away. The learning walks are supposed to be an opportunity to start conversations in the department about what works well and what we are seeing that is good to reinforce this kind of practise.

    Because the ground rules/ criteria/ purpose is clear it doesn't feel like a threat, (I don't think), it is more an extension of collaborative working. If these things are not in place ... I would suggest that it is worth returning to SLT and seeing if it can be re negotiated/ presented to be a more positive thing.

    We are all monitored and judged within an inch of our lives ... I really don't think more of this approach does anyone any good. But ... we should feel confident to see/ be seen and talk about our professional practise. This is the bit of my job I real enjoy after all!!
    I really dispair sometimes ... it doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand the psychology of these things. It amazes me that we rarely put in the kind of thought we would for students when dealing with adult professionals.

    Own it!

  5. YesMrBronson

    YesMrBronson New commenter

    Then these are formal observations and they should be labelled and treated as such by your school.
    Please could you explain more about this? Thank you.

  6. The SLT started doing this at my school two years ago when a new management team took over. Their objective was simple: get rid of older, expensive members of staff. Learning walks provided them with 'evidence' of "poor" teaching. A number of well established, good teachers were forced to leave because of it. These were replaced (mostly) by NQTs.
    There is another name for it I believe: bullying.
  7. Do you actually teach or are you one of these retired know-alls who has little else to do with their time?
    Fact - my notes do not refer to the teacher - they refer to what the students were doing / activities being undertaken. Often I make a note of good work I see and this is then shared at CAT meetings - this, I believe, is known in the profession as 'sharing good practice'. You should comment on fact, not fiction. For your information all members of my team are happy that I pop in to lessons - this was discussed as a team BEFORE I started to visit lessons. Again, good practice to discuss as a team and air views. All CLs in my school do likewise and in a supportive, not threatening manner, and the unions are aware. Thankfully, you are not at my school.
    Presentation - funnily enough, I look at presentation in books as there is a push on improving the state of books in school. Where appropriate, students are praised for good work by me, as head of faculty, and where things are not so good, I usually have a chat with the student to see how things can be improved. This backs up and supports colleagues who are trying their best to improve standards.
    For information, our SLT pop into far more lessons than I do and often stay for much longer. I do not have a problem with that.
    Perhaps you should seek help for your cynicism, which may be well justified if you have worked in a school with a culture of bullying, but please, with all due respect, don't tar everyone with the same brush.
  8. YesMrBronson

    YesMrBronson New commenter

    Lol. I am indeed a full time teacher. My avatar is not a picture of me: http://www.grangehillfans.co.uk/schoolreport/mrbronson.php
    In post 2 you wrote
    Which is why I wrote "I was under the impression that you were keeping records of some of the
    things that happened in lessons and that these records referred to
    teachers. If so"
    As you can see, my post does not assume, it states that you had given me that impression and by writing "if so" I left it open that perhaps you needed to be clearer (my post is also fairly polite in contrast to yours I might add).

    When in enquired about presentation earlier I wrote "Please could you explain more about this? Thank you."Your post above is peppered with phrases like...
    Not much "respect" shown there. Perhaps it is YOU who needs to "seek help".
    Physician, heal thyself.

  9. oldskool71

    oldskool71 New commenter

    Some of these posts show precisely why teachers have lost of lot of respect amongst the rest of the working population. In any other job (and I worked in business for ten years before teaching) it would be absolutely expected for managers to regularly inspect the quality of work done by members of staff gy observing their work. Indeed it would be seen as a key way to improve the quakity of their work. Customers of such companies would demand that such qaulaity assurance takes place.
    What upsets non teachers is those of us who seem to think that our classroom is some sort of impenetrable box where non-one else should enter. Managers in teaching have every right to regularly assess the quality of work going on by observing lessons, whether formally or informally. Your classroom is a space built and owned by the local authority (or academy chain) and therefore managers employed by the LA or Academy have a perfect right to enter it to do this quality assurance.
    As a parent, in common with other parents, I would fully expect that this kind of learning walks policy was going on in every school to ensure that any poor teaching was challenged.
    In short, get with the real world.
  10. YesMrBronson

    YesMrBronson New commenter

    I too had a non-teaching job (for 6 years) before quitting to become a teacher. We did indeed have performance management and the boss occasionally had a look at what I was doing. However, the standards by which I was measured were sensible, realistic and helpful. Those are definitely NOT words I'd associate with OFSTED gradings or the "expectations" of managers in many schools. In my non-teaching job my boss didn't blame me if a customer was rude or unreasonable. I wasn't given a ridiculous "grading" of 1-4 based on their observations. If one of our suppliers was late my manager did not hold me as responsible for their actions (as long as I'd done my utmost to chase it). Again, compare this to requirements in schools e.g. "two kids mucked about, so although you dealt with it well and followed the school's discipline policy, I'll have to downgrade your lesson". Ludicrous.
    I haven't expressed this and, looking back over this thread, I don't think anyone else has. You're exaggerating for dramatic effect. All teachers expect to be observed, they just don't want to have someone looking over their shoulder virtually ALL the time (which is the way things appear to be heading in some schools).
    That's true. However there are rules about this. They've been hard fought for and are clearly set out in the STPCD. Attempts by schools/Heads to unilaterally tear up the burgundy book and impose their own conditions should be resisted.
    I too am a parent (he's 16) and whilst I'd certainly expect schools to have effective performance management systems, I'd also expect that they'd allow teachers to get on with the job without unnecessary interference. I'd also question whether it was good value for money for the most expensive employees (i.e. managers) to be spending so much of their working week doing "learning walks".
    I disagree with your assessment of the non-teaching public's perception of teachers and I'm not sure what you think empowers you to speak for all parents.
    That kind of attitude is one of the reasons that some of us have a problem with all of this.
  11. ard


    I agree with you, Oldskool. I'm happy for anyone to come into my classroom and see what's going on. What does it say about my teaching if I'm not happy to show what I am my students are doing????? I spent 13 yrs in industry, though, so I've actually seen the real world, too, where we worked 70 hours a week (for no extra pay) and could be scrutinised at any time.
  12. YesMrBronson

    YesMrBronson New commenter

    As I said, I also had a job before leaving, taking a salary cut and becoming a teacher. Performance management was much more sensible than it is in my teaching job.
  13. I am no fan of SLT but surely we want them in our lessons?
    How else will they be able to see how it really is and support us with poor behaviour?
    Would you rather they sat in their offices and simply sent emails out?
  14. YesMrBronson

    YesMrBronson New commenter

    I understand what you mean but the problem is that frequently what is termed "support" is actually the opposite.
  15. So, the problem isn't that senior teachers are regularly coming in your classroom.
    The problem seems to be the quality of the educator and the support they offer.
    That seems a tougher nut to crack....
  16. scienceteacher11

    scienceteacher11 New commenter

    Totally agree with this, I'm new to the teaching profession. I work in a school where learning walks take place every lesson so I don't know any different and I am used to SLT popping into lessons. They don't stay for long it doesn't feel intrusive and the feedback is useful not offensive. Having watched the film 'waiting for superman' which highlighted the fact that it is ridiculously hard to sack teachers not doing their job properly I'm not surprised the respect for the profession is going down the drain. Just like in the private sector teachers should be able to be scrutinised and if they aren't good enough they should be got rid of! Teaching is a privilege not a right and a lot of students deserve better than the teaching they receive. If you are doing your job properly why does it matter that SLT pop in to check you are now and again?
  17. I was sceptical about this when I first started at a previous school who regular conducted drop ins-this could be the HOF or SMT. When SMT dropped in they would offer feedback; both good and bad. I felt very threatened by this in the first place but in actual fact I found it a very positive experience. The focus was mostly on learning and on occasion good practise was shared elsewhere.

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