"Learning walks let us get to know classroom teaching practices in a systematic and holistic way, and allows us to use that awareness to help the school get even better than it already is."
— Janice Gladstone, Principal
Principal Janice Gladstone and Head of Academic Advising Tara Silver recently attended a fantastic workshop by the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at University of Toronto (OISE/UT) on “Teaching and Learning Walks (TLW): Making Leadership Visible.” TLW is one of numerous methods in the world to build capacity in organizations by walking through key areas and observing, in focused ways, what is going on. This method was created by Dr. Bev Freedman, a world-renowned educator, who also taught the course. Janice and Tara spent a day learning about and discussing the theory behind the TLW model. This was followed by a wonderful two days of practical learning in which they walked through many classrooms at University of Toronto Schools (UTS), analyzed the results, and learned about effective methods to give productive feedback.
TLW is a non-evaluative process designed to improve instruction. It is a way to get a complete overview of what is happening in the school so that we can make better decisions about what professional support needs to be provided, what equipment to purchase, what partnerships to foster among staff and more.
The TLW method occurs in three basic steps:
- Spending a short time visiting classes (three-10 minutes per class) using a framework to make notes on what is seen and heard.
- Analyzing the data collected, and looking for patterns, trends, and highlights to share.
- Meeting with staff to reflect on observations and making plans together as ideas arise.
The framework for these activities uses the acronym TIDE:
- Task: what the teacher and students are working on learning; including both the curricular learning goals and non-curricular skills.
- Instruction: everything the teacher does with the students to facilitate their learning. This could include lecturing; verbal, whole-class questioning (Socratic Instruction); group discussion; building or creating alone or with others; using media in the form of video, research tools, games or social media; or a host of other ways students can learn.
- Design which refers to the physical set-up of the class, including how teachers group students together and what kinds of equipment they use.
- Through the Eyes of the student (or the student's experience or engagement). One can observe and speak to students as they work to find out what they are thinking about their learning. The following questions could be asked: "Do you know what the Learning Goals are for this class?", "Do you think knowing the Learning Goals helps you learn better?" or "Do you enjoy this type of learning?"
Teaching and learning walks also provide opportunities for teachers to visit one another’s classrooms and promotes sharing of best practices across the school. It is one of a variety of instructional strategies which that is used at Linden to support our excellent teaching practices and promote the work of our talented faculty in a supportive way.