Learning Walks on improved relationships and engagement.

Near the end of February my Assistant Principal and I went on a series of learning walks or walkthroughs with a focus on classroom rules and norms of working. We spent a short time in each classroom listening to students and teachers talking, we looked around the room for anchor charts teachers and students had constructed to see if school values had been unpacked with students and some goals identified and finally asked some students questions on the expectations they had of each other when working. These photos taken on one of the walks clearly show the consistency between classrooms.

This year with Kath Murdoch’s guidance we planned a whole school unit on learning to learn. These units gave us a second starting point, the first being our school values, for working on our agreed norms or rules. The senior school looked at the way the brain works whilst the junior school focused on preferred ways and conditions for learning. The photos below school samples from the junior school:

Our aim is to set up the conditions necessary for learning in each classroom. 

However is this enough?

We suspected our senior students were saying no – its not! Student surveys completed by our seniors over the years had indicated students felt safe and connected to their peers but not fully engaged with teachers or the learning environment. Sure our overall academic results were well above state and national benchmarks but something was blocking significant improvement.

So we have brought in Margaret Armstrong,  a fellow of the Winston Churchhill Memorial Trust to use restorative justice practices so that children learnt to verbalise and use their emotional intelligence so that they could more fully engage with learning. I participated in one of Marg’s sessions with the students joining their circle and hearing their stories.

I was particularly taken with one of Margaret’s strategies where she got students to write what was blocking them [other students putting them down, some group exclusion however subtle, not really knowing their peers] which she read out [no names]. She then rolled the paper up and tied it with elastic bands and this became the “talking stick” which, when passed around the circle, gave students permission to say what’s

on their minds. The stick passed around the circle a few times as students answered some questions about themselves and their peers. At the end of the session the students made some commitments to each other which was to be followed up next week Then came a cathartic exercise as students ripped the sheets of blockers [talking stick] to pieces symbolising the end of that behaviour.  

I’m looking forward to next weeks session to see what has changed.    


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4 Responses to Learning Walks on improved relationships and engagement.

  1. Dave Sherman says:

    We are looking specifically for thoughtful reading, writing and discussion taking place in classrooms where the teachers are not necessarily playing the role of expert. We also are looking for examples of self-directed learning among the students, high level questioning (Bloom’s taxonomy), and authentic learning activities. These are some of the tenets of 21st century skills.

  2. mwalker says:

    It’s good to hear about your instructional leadership practices [classroom walkthrough] and the power of conversation about the focused observations and feedback to teachers. I’d be interested to hear about what you looked for in higher order thinking. When we began to explore embedding thinking skills in learning there was a real temptation for some teachers to set up separate “thinking” lessons as they were coming from a different set of beliefs about teaching and learning [more of a direct instruction orientation] which was different from my more constructivist viewpoint. The feedback really started to stimulate some interesting dialogue … time beat us… but we do need to go back to that. Good luck and good to hear from you.

  3. Dave Sherman says:

    This is my first time visiting, and I really like your blog. I found this post particularly interesting because my assistant principal and I do similar classroom walk-through observations together. This year, we have been focusing on student engagement and higher order thinking. We have been collecting data and sharing it (anonymously) with the entire staff at faculty meetings. I think it has been very positive for both of us to observe together and then discuss what we saw. It’s amazing to learn that we each see some of the same things and but we also make different observations during the same lesson.

  4. AnnaHopn says:

    Hi there,
    Ugh, I liked! So clear and positively.


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