Learning walks: how often can they occur?


Learning walks might be a common occurrence at your school. Even though they might be more informal than standard lesson observations you might feel anxious about the type and frequency of learning walks. 

Similar to lesson observations, the Education (School Teacher’s Appraisal) (England) Regulations 2012 does not stipulate a limit on the total amount of learning walks which can take place during a term or academic year.

You might have an open door policy at your school and are comfortable with the concept, however, some teachers might feel learning walks are overly intrusive especially if the objectives are not communicated to staff in advance.

In this article, we look at how learning walks are defined and examples of different approaches in schools throughout the country.

What are learning walks?

There is no set definition of what a learning walk is and each school will have different procedures.

Broadly they can be used to capture a specific snapshot of teaching and learning and allows senior leaders to visit many classrooms within a morning/afternoon. They can have strategic focus on school improvement such as literacy, feedback, marking in books or even include pupils conducting  themselves. 

You will want to read your school’s teaching and learning policy to understand how they will operate in your setting.

Learning walks: examples from schools

Learning walks guidelines

Pitcheroak School in Worcestershire has a learning walks guidelines policy. It explains:

“Learning walks may take place in order to collect evidence about teaching and learning, evidence of progress and areas for school development. They are intended to be developmental and constructive rather than judgemental and are a whole-school improvement activity. There should, therefore, be no attempt to use this approach as part of capability procedures or for appraisal”

The policy notes:

  • A maximum of two colleagues will be involved in learning walks at any time
  • Pupils will not be asked for their views of an individual teacher
  • Those teachers whose classes are visited will be given the opportunity to see any written records which have been made

Spiritual learning walks

Bolsover Church of England Junior School in Derbyshire conducts spiritual learning walks.

They are led by the school’s church link governors and take place termly. They are part of a focused journey around school looking at the development of a sense of identity, self-worth, personal insight, meaning and purpose.

Learning walks linked to the SEF

Bishopton PRU secondary school has a classroom observation policy. It explains a programme of learning walks is clearly outlined on the SEF teaching and learning calendar showing the window for walks to occur in, the focus of the walk and who will be conducting it. 

The purpose will be explained to all relevant staff prior to its commencement and will also be included in the SEF Teaching and Learning calendar. That purpose or focus will not relate to the performance of an individual.

Learning walks policy

St Leonard’s RC Primary School in Sunderland has a learning walks policy. It explains that unlike a classroom observation which provides a view of a single classroom, a walk creates a school-wide picture made up of many small snapshots.

 The policy sets out the following procedure:

  • The senior leadership team will decide on a focus e.g looking at lesson starters, Connect Phase, establishing a calm climate, pupil engagement, review of learning, plenary, group work, observing initiatives such as questioning
  • The purpose and the focus will be shared with the whole staff team including support staff in the week before
  • A timetable will be displayed which will identify those who will be carrying it out eg teams of teachers, middle and senior leaders
  • Learning walks will take place at least twice each term (total 6 walks per year) and will be carried out over a whole week on each occasion
  • Each classroom will be visited by identified members of staff who will spend approximately 10 – 15 minutes visiting lessons
  • The observers will visit lessons individually and or in pairs – this will be decided by the observers prior. Observers will be reminded by the leadership team when the focus is announced in the week before the walks take place
  • Each classroom will only be visited once by only one team (pair of observers) during the week
  • The observers will decide between themselves the day and time (lesson)
  • Feedback will be recorded on a feedback form, passed to and analysed by a member of the leadership team and shared with the whole staff team including support staff to share good practice, positive news and to celebrate what we do well

What should I do if I have concerns?

You will want to raise any initial concerns with your line manager if you are concerned with the impact that learning walks are having on your wellbeing. We have written another support which outlines how you could raise a concern with your line manager effectively.

We have produced another article looking at the appraisal process in schools. In addition, we have published another article on capability procedures.

If you have any concerns you can always contact us for advice and support.

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