CLASSROOM OBSERVATION GUIDANCE
Excessive classroom observation is a serious problem in many schools. The various
purposes for which observations may be required has meant that in some schools the
total number of observations has increased, and the context in which they are carried
out can be felt to be hostile and bullying, rather than supportive and developmental.
This can be tackled by agreement on the NUT Classroom Observation and Learning
Walk protocols, which are appended to this document. NUT school representatives
should seek to secure from the school management team an agreement on the total
amount of classroom observation for any purpose or purposes to which teachers can be
subjected within the academic year and on the procedures to be followed before, during
and after such observations. Support for such approaches may be sought from
representatives of other teachers’ organisations at the school.
If agreement with the school management team cannot be reached, NUT school
representatives should seek advice and support from their local division or association
Secretary, NUT regional office, or in Wales, NUT Cymru.
The NUT regional office, or in Wales, NUT Cymru, should be informed immediately if
members are required to participate in classroom observation practices or procedures
which are contrary to the NUT’s advice.
The first section of this document sets out the purposes for which classroom observation
may be required and provides more detailed guidance on those forms of observation.
The second section of the document contains the NUT’s guidelines on developing a
classroom observation protocol. Appendix 1 sets out the Union’s classroom observation
and drop in model policy and Appendix 2 the NUT’s learning walks protocol.
A shorter document, with the NUT’s model policy and information on the type and
purpose of classroom observations is entitled ‘Classroom Observation – Model Policy
and Commentary’ and is available on www.teachers.org.uk.
SECTION 1 - THE PURPOSES OF CLASSROOM OBSERVATION
Under the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document 2009, head teachers have a
statutory responsibility for “evaluating the standards of teaching and learning in the school,
and ensuring that proper standards of professional performance are established and
maintained” (paragraph 57.8). In addition, as part of their responsibilities for carrying out
the school performance management policies determined by governing bodies, head
teachers are required to ensure that classroom observation arrangements to support
teachers’ performance management are in place.
There is, however, a statutory limit on the amount of observation only in the case of
performance management. Nevertheless, it is good practice for the head teacher to
carry out observations in such a way as to achieve a range of objectives at the same
time, so there will usually be no need for classroom observation to be conducted
separately for different purposes. This applies in particular to observations for the
purpose of performance management and evaluation of standards of teaching and
Although there are a number of different kinds and purposes of classroom observation,
which are set out below, the NUT’s classroom observation protocol can be applied in
almost all cases.
Head teachers are required to ensure that classroom observation arrangements are in
place for performance management, under a classroom observation protocol which has
been developed after consultation with the recognised trade unions.
The Performance Management Regulations set out a maximum of three hours of
classroom observation per performance management cycle, unless there are concerns
about a teacher’s performance.
The NUT advises that classroom observation for the purposes of performance
management should be limited to one observation per year, of no more than one hour in
The NUT guidance on performance management, which includes a model classroom
observation checklist, is available to download from the NUT website
Evaluation of Standards of Teaching and Learning – External
Classroom observation may be part of a programme of support provided to a school as
part of improvement programmes such as the Primary and Secondary Strategies. In
addition, School Improvement Partners (SIPs) or local authority advisors may be
included in monitoring the quality of teaching in a particular school or across the
authority as part of local authorities’ statutory responsibilities for school improvement.
The SIP or advisor’s visit to a particular school may involve classroom observation.
The NUT advises that observations by personnel from outside the school should be
counted as part of the three hour overall limit on classroom observation and should
follow the same good practice procedures as set out in the NUT’s model protocol.
OFSTED and ESTYN Inspections
As part of an OFSTED or ESTYN inspection, classroom observation is used to gain
evidence to inform inspectors’ judgements on the quality of teaching and learning
provided by the school. This is a statutory requirement and such observations are
outside the scope of this protocol.
Classroom observations which fall within the protocol, however, should not be scheduled
to take place in the ten days after an OFSTED observation.
During an OFSTED inspection, the head teacher or members of the senior leadership
team will usually be invited to undertake at least two ‘joint observations’ with a member
of the inspection team. Teachers have the right to refuse to participate in joint
The NUT has provided detailed guidance for members on all aspects of the OFSTED or
ESTYN inspection process, including observation of teaching. The NUT guidance is
available to download from the NUT website: http://www.teachers.org.uk/node/11059
Use of OFSTED Grades
The NUT is opposed to the use of lesson grading in classroom observations. The use of
the OFSTED four point scale for classroom observation neither provides constructive
feedback nor supports teachers. There is nothing in the performance management
procedures or in the OFSTED self-evaluation documentation which says that such
lesson grading should be used.
In addition, the NUT has received assurances from OFSTED that head teachers are not
required, and will not be expected, to use the OFSTED grades for the purposes of
Where lesson grading is proposed or introduced in schools, members should contact
their NUT division or regional office immediately.
Observations are an important part of the statutory induction process for newly qualified
teachers (NQTs). This protocol applies to newly qualified teachers’ induction with
respect to arrangements for the prevention of ‘bunching’ observations and to the need
for NQTs to be informed of the purpose of observations prior to them taking place.
Detailed NUT guidance on NQT induction is available to download from the NUT website
The number of teachers subject to capability procedures at any one time is very small
compared with the overall number of teachers. Head teachers should initiate such
procedures only as a last resort. Capability procedures are covered by a separate
national agreement and are therefore not part of the NUT’s classroom observation
In the event of a head teacher deciding to introduce capability procedures for a teacher,
classroom observation may be used as a means of providing evidence of a teacher’s
strengths and weaknesses. Further information on capability procedures is available to
download from the NUT website http://www.teachers.org.uk/node/10316
Head teachers may choose to do ‘drop-in’ observations as part of their statutory
responsibilities, under the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STCPD) for
keeping the work of the school under review and ensuring that proper standards of
performance are maintained (paragraph 56.8 of Part 9 of the STPCD).
NUT policy is that the classroom protocol should cover ‘drop-in’ observations. The
protocol should include provision for reasonable notification to staff in advance that a
drop-in observation may take place or that a regular pattern of drop-ins has been
established. Such activities must be proportionate, not ‘bunched’, provide feedback
where appropriate and take place with a supportive working and learning environment.
The protocol should be explicit that ‘drop-in’ observations are genuinely concerned with
information gathering and not connected in any way with either performance
management or capability procedures. (See Section 2 for further information)
‘Learning Walks’ are a series of organised and highly structured enquiry ‘walks’ through
the classrooms of a school in order to collect evidence about teaching and learning,
evidence of progress and areas for development. They are intended to be
developmental and constructive rather than judgemental. There should, therefore, be no
attempt to use this approach as part of capability procedures or for performance
Learning walks were originally launched by the National Strategies as part of its school
improvement programme and involved the head teacher and/or senior leaders from the
school. They have subsequently been adapted by the National College (previously
known as the National College for School Leadership) as ‘network learning walks’ and
may involve colleagues from teachers’ own or other schools.
NCSL has developed a useful protocol for ‘network learning walks’ which can be
downloaded from its website www.nationalcollege.org.uk and is reproduced in Appendix
3 of this document. The protocol emphasises the importance of involving all staff in the
planning for the learning walks, including dates and times, purpose or focus of the
learning walk and arrangements for sharing feedback.
Learning walks are not a statutory requirement, they have guidance status only.
Nevertheless, they should conform to the Union’s protocol for learning walks, which is
set out in Appendix 2 of this document.
Peer observation involves a teacher observing another teacher’s practice. It is
developmental. It involves teachers learning from each other. It offers first-hand
experience and direct evidence about what happens in other classrooms. It is a
practical and powerful way to support teachers’ practice and knowledge about teaching
Peer observation works best when colleagues choose to work together on a voluntary
basis, identifying and focusing on the issues they have agreed to address. It is a
professional development activity.
The NUT professional development guidance An A-Z of Peer Coaching is available to
download from http://www.teachers.org.uk/files/A-Z_PEER_COACHING.doc In addition,
the NUT and General Teaching Council for England (GTC(E)) have published jointly the
document The Teachers’ Professional Learning Framework: A Guidance to Peer
Observation. This is available to download from the GTC(E) website
Lesson Observation by Pupils
The NUT does not support the use of lesson observation by pupils as part of any
mechanism to assess the quality of teaching and learning or teacher performance. The
Union’s protocol on observation is clear that only qualified teachers should observe
The Union has been a strong advocate of the involvement of all stakeholders, including
pupils, in school self-evaluation. It believes, however, that the introduction of ‘high
stakes’ lesson observations by students has the potential for malicious intervention from
some pupils or for pupils to misrepresent themselves in the context of their own views of
what observations might consist. Pupils’ views in the context of focused school self-
evaluation exercises, conducted with the consent of teachers and other staff can,
however, provide valuable information which can be used to inform school planning and
If members have concerns that observations by pupils are to be introduced in their
school as a means of monitoring the quality of their teaching, they should contact their
Division or NUT Regional Office or, in Wales, NUT Cymru, for advice.
Governor visits are different from informal and formal observations of lessons, as they
are not statutorily required or professionally generated, therefore they do not fall within
this classroom observation protocol.
Individual governors may wish to visit classrooms to become familiar with the school or
to observe specific aspects of the curriculum. Such visits should always be by prior
arrangement and follow procedures agreed and specified by the head teacher and the
governing body following consultation with the teaching staff. Such procedures should
specify that governor visits are not observations but visits. Governors should not
evaluate the work of teachers. No report by a governor evaluating the work of a teacher
or teachers should be presented to the governing body. Please contact your Division/
Association or NUT Regional Office or, in Wales, NUT Cymru, for support if this is
SECTION 2 – APPLICATION OF THE NUT GUIDELINES ON SCHOOL CLASSROOM
In each school, the head teacher is required to consult all teachers and to seek to agree
the formulation of a classroom observation protocol with the recognised trade unions,
having regard to the results of those consultations. The NUT expects the head teacher
to agree with the NUT representative and NUT members within the school, the
NUT’s guidelines on the establishment of the classroom observation protocol.
The NUT’s guidelines apply to classroom observation arising from performance
management regulation requirements, to the statutory responsibilities of head teachers
to evaluate teaching and learning, and to other forms of classroom observation. The
guidelines apply to all qualified teachers who teach within schools.
The Arrangements for Classroom Observation
Classroom observation of qualified teachers should be conducted by other qualified
teachers. All those who act as observers for classroom observation purposes should
have adequate preparation and the appropriate skills to undertake observation and to
provide constructive feedback and support.
Sufficient timetabled release time should be provided to enable the reviewer or observer
to give proper time to the task and to enable verbal feedback to be provided as soon as
possible. Verbal feedback by the reviewer should be given immediately and in any case
no later than the end of the next school day. Planning, Preparation and Assessment time
should not be used for this purpose.
The reviewer should complete a short written record of the observation, feedback and
any subsequent follow up work. The observation record should be sufficient to meet the
needs of each teacher and the school. It should summarise the focus, what was learned
from the observation, the feedback given and any subsequent actions or other follow up.
The record should not lead to unnecessary workload for either the reviewer or reviewee.
The record of the observation should be made available to the reviewee within five
working days of the observation. The reviewee should make, and where necessary,
record any comments he or she may have on the record of the observation.
The Expectations and Time Allocations for Classroom Observations
Classroom observation can be conducted in such a way as to achieve a range of
objectives at the same time. Often there is no need for classroom observation to
be conducted separately for different purposes. In particular, both classroom
observation for the purposes of fulfilling performance management requirements
and the requirements on the head teacher to ensure that teaching and learning is
evaluated, can be the same observation.
Local authority advisers, inspectors School Improvement Partners (SIPs) and
consultants may be invited into schools to conduct classroom observations. The
purpose of these observations should be made clear to the teachers who are
being observed and agreement sought with the teachers on when and whether
they should take place. If they are invited in to provide information to head
teachers on the quality of teaching and learning then such observations are
covered by the protocol’s time limits set out below.
Classroom observations should be multi-purpose. Therefore classroom
observation for the purposes of performance management and evaluating the
standards of teaching and learning should not exceed a total of three hours within
each performance management cycle.
Classroom observation for the purposes of performance management should be
limited to one observation of a maximum of 60 minutes in length per performance
management cycle, subject to the reviewee choosing to request a further
observation within the three-hour maximum.
Classroom observation conducted by head teachers or delegated to other staff
for the purposes of carrying out the statutory duties of head teachers to evaluate
standards of teaching and learning, should be limited to a maximum of two
additional observations per year. The maximum number of times each teacher
experiences classroom observation for the purposes of performance
management and the evaluation of standards of teaching and learning should be
three per performance management cycle.
The performance management regulations indicate that if concerns arise during
the review cycle or the circumstances of the reviewee change, then the amount
of classroom observation agreed at the beginning of the cycle can be revisited.
Any additional classroom observation should be agreed between the reviewer
and reviewee. It should be recorded in a written addition to the review statement.
Classroom observation for performance management purposes should not
exceed a total of three hours in any event. The amount of classroom observation
for evaluating the standards of teaching and learning would be reduced to fit
within the three-hour maximum in these circumstances.
Those who undergo classroom observations for the purposes of performance
management and evaluation of standards of teaching and learning should have
at least five working days’ notice before the observations take place. Teachers in
part-time employment should be given notice of their planning and review
meetings which is both reasonable and conforms to the intention of the advice for
teachers in full-time employment. Unannounced drop-ins for the purposes of
performance management are unacceptable.
Teachers carrying out classroom observations for the purposes of performance
management should carry out one lesson observation only per year for each
member of staff within the area of their responsibility.
Teachers and head teachers who have been given the responsibility for carrying
out classroom observations for the purposes of performance management should
receive sufficient and appropriate training before carrying out those
There should be a reasonable amount of time between classroom observations
irrespective of the purpose of those observations. Classroom observations
generated by requirements on the school should not take place immediately after
an inspection conducted by Ofsted, for example. A bunching of classroom
observations, albeit for different purposes, is unacceptable. The primary
purposes of each classroom observation should be specified as should any
specific aspects of the teaching performance of the reviewee that should be
evaluated during each observation.
The head teacher should consult on the pattern of classroom observations which
teachers can expect annually. Agreement should be sought by head teachers
with their teaching staffs and their recognised organisations on these
Teachers should be observed on an equitable basis. In any one school, the
number of classroom observations per year within each performance cycle
should be the same for every teacher.
The Conduct of Classroom Observations
Teachers should be made aware of the purpose or purposes of any proposed
observation before it takes place. Observations should not take place in a negative
atmosphere. They should be conducted in a supportive and professional manner and
should be neither intrusive nor threatening.
should be undertaken with professionalism, integrity and courtesy;
should involve objective evaluation;
should be reported honesty and fairly;
should involve accurate communication about its purpose and outcome;
should be conducted in the best interests of the pupils at the school; and
should ensure that information gained through the observation is confidential to
the reviewer and the reviewee.
Before the Observation
The purpose or purposes of any observation should be made clear before it takes place.
The reviewer or the observer conducting the observation should respond positively to
any reasonable request from the reviewee/observed teacher on when the observation
should take place. Sufficient time should be allocated within the school day to enable the
participants in the classroom observation to discuss and agree the arrangements for the
observation. The information and arrangements should be available to and accepted by
both the observer and the observed beforehand. The information and arrangements
the reasons why the observation is taking place;
the procedures to be followed;
an agreement about the recording of any evaluation outcomes made and their
a discussion about the aims and objectives of the lesson; and
where relevant the identity of the person or persons from who further information
may be obtained if required.
All teachers should be given at least five days’ notice of the observation of any lesson.
The checklist below should be used for discussions between the observer/reviewer and
Has the purpose of the observation been made clear?
What is the focus of the observation?
Which lesson or parts of lessons are going to be observed?
Has there been an opportunity for the teacher being observed to describe the
context of the lesson?
What level of involvement should the observer/reviewer have in the observed
Has a format for recording the observation been agreed with the
When and how should feedback be given?
What use should be made of any information arising from the observation?
During the Observation
During the lesson or lessons, the observer or reviewer should respond positively to any
reasonable request from the teacher being observed. The observer should act in an
unobtrusive, sensitive and in as professional a manner as possible.
Reviewers or observers should indicate what is required including where they wish to sit
and the copy of any lesson plans.
The first few minutes of any lesson are always the most unsettled. The lesson
observation should, therefore, involve a substantial part of the lesson, not just the first
Each observed teacher should receive verbal feedback followed by written feedback.
During the verbal feedback, the teacher who has been observed should be given the
opportunity to correct any factual errors on the part of the observer. These should be
taken into account when the final plan or statement is agreed. The written feedback
should be an accurate reflection of the agreed verbal feedback.
Feedback should include all the positive aspects of the lesson and practical advice for
Teachers should have access to all written accounts of the observation after their
After the Observation
The feedback following the observation should be well balanced and constructive.
Where possible, feedback should be given at the time and in the manner agreed during
Feedback may take a number of forms. In the case of classroom observation which falls
outside the requirements of performance management, a brief discussion after the class
has been dismissed should be sufficient. In the case of classroom observation for the
purposes of performance management, feedback should take place within the normal
school day, and in an appropriate environment which ensures confidentiality. Timetabled
release time should be provided as soon as possible to enable the reviewer and
reviewee to organise time for a discussion on the outcomes of classroom observation. In
addition, the reviewer should be given sufficient time within the school day to put in
written form the conclusions agreed with the reviewee on the outcomes of the classroom
observation. Time for preparation and feedback for classroom observation for
performance management purposes should be made available in addition to, and not as
part of, PPA time.
Teachers should be allowed to read any notes arising from the observation before any
discussion takes place. They should have the opportunity to record their own comments
if they wish.
Feedback should identify the positive points arising from the lesson and constructive
advice on any areas for improvement.
Discussion of the professional needs of each teacher should be built into any feedback
and used to identify opportunities for support and continuing professional development.
Plans or statements arising from observation should be kept in a secure place and
remain confidential to the reviewer or observer, the reviewee or the observed and the
Reports of classroom observation can be retained for up to six years. The decision on
whether to make such observation reports available more widely should rest with the
Responsibility for Observations
With the exception of peer-observations, only SMT and Heads of Departments should be
required to observe teaching sessions, and then only if they have received sufficient
training so to do. Primary sector phase co-ordinators in receipt of TLR payments should
not normally be directed to observe staff within their phase – this should be undertaken
by their Head or Deputy.
If the school does not have an agreed policy or protocol on classroom
observation, the NUT school representative should request that consultation
should begin on its development as a matter of urgency
If the school does have an agreed policy or protocol on classroom observation,
all staff should have the opportunity to contribute to its monitoring or review
arrangements. It could be useful for NUT members within the school to meet to
discuss concerns and for the NUT school representative to feed these back to the
head teacher or appropriate member of the SLT.
Where the head teacher refuses to agree a policy or protocol on classroom
observation based on the NUT guidelines, or where members are denied the
opportunity to the development or review of such policies or protocols, advice
should be sought from the NUT Regional Office or, in Wales, NUT Cymru.
CLASSROOM OBSERVATION AND DROP-IN POLICY
The governing body is committed to ensuring that classroom observation is
developmental and supportive and that those involved in the process will:
carry out the role with professionalism, integrity and courtesy;
report accurately and fairly; and
respect the confidentiality of the information gained.
The Governing body recognises that classroom observation will take place for the
purposes of performance management and the evaluation of teaching and learning.
Classroom observation for the statutory purposes of performance management and
evaluating the standards of teaching and learning will not exceed a total of three hours
for each reviewee within each performance management cycle. The governing body
recognises that classroom observation within this maximum limit can fulfil both statutory
Classroom observation for the purposes of performance management will be limited to
one observation of a maximum of 60 minutes in length per performance management
cycle, subject to the reviewee choosing to request a further observation within a three
The maximum number of times each teacher experiences classroom observation for the
purposes of performance management and the evaluation of standards of teaching and
learning will be three per performance management cycle.
There is no requirement to use all the three hours. The amount of observation for each
teacher will reflect, and be proportionate to, the needs of the individual. If any concerns
are raised about a teacher’s performance, this maximum may be extended but only by
There will be a reasonable amount of time between classroom observations, irrespective
of the purpose of those observations.
The arrangement for classroom observation will be included in the planning and review
statement and will:
include the amount of observations;
specify its primary purposes;
specify any particular aspects of the teacher’s performance which will be
specify the duration of the observation;
specify when the observation will take place; and
specify who will conduct the observation.
In keeping with the school governing body’s commitment to supportive and development
classroom observation, those being observed will be notified of the date and time of their
observation conducted for the purposes of performance management or for the
evaluation standards of teaching and learning (or for both purposes), at least five
working days in advance.
The head teacher of the school will consult staff on the pattern of classroom observation
which teachers can expect annually. The head teacher will seek agreement with the
teachers and their recognised organisations on these arrangements.
WHO CAN CARRY OUT OBSERVATIONS?
Classroom observation will be undertaken solely by persons with qualified teacher
status. In addition, in the school, classroom observation will only be undertaken by
those who have the appropriate professional skills, who will be able to undertake
observation and who can provide constructive oral and written feedback and support to
reviewees. Pupils should not undertake observations for the purposes of performance
management and/or evaluation of teaching and learning. Observations will not be
undertaken by Governors.
Oral feedback from classroom observation for the purposes of performance
management will be given as soon as possible after the observation and no later than
the end of the following working day. Sufficient time will be allocated within the school
day to enable participants in classroom observations to discuss and agree the
arrangements for the observations. In addition, release time within the school day will
be provided, as soon as possible, to enable the reviewer and reviewee to organise time
for discussion on the outcomes of classroom observation. Time for preparation and
feedback for classroom observation for performance management purposes will be
made available in addition to PPA time.
Written feedback will be provided within five working days of the observation taking
place. The reviewer will be given sufficient time within the school day to put in written
form the conclusions agreed with the reviewee on the outcomes of the classroom
The written record of feedback will include the date on which the observation took place,
the lesson observed and the length of the observation. The reviewee will be able to
append written comments to the feedback document. No written notes in addition to the
written feedback will be kept.
Teachers will have access to all written accounts of the observation after their lessons.
Visits to classrooms by head teachers or senior staff in order to support teachers or talk
to pupils are separate from this classroom observation protocol.
The purpose of visits by head teachers and senior staff to classrooms should be made
clear before they occur.
The governing body recognises, for the purpose of this protocol, that unannounced
‘drop-ins’ to fulfil the statutory duties of evaluating teaching and learning and
performance management will not take place. The governing body recognises that the
number of visits to classrooms to fulfil both these statutory purposes will be limited to
three per teacher in each performance management cycle.
‘LEARNING WALKS’ MODEL PROTOCOL
1. All staff should understand that learning walks are a whole-school improvement
2. All staff should understand the purpose or focus of the learning walk, prior to its
3. All staff should understand that the performance of an individual will never be the
focus of a learning walk.
4. A programme of learning walks should be agreed with teachers so that they know
the date, time and focus of the learning walk and who will be conducting it, so
that they can organise their classes accordingly.
5. Learning walks should be conducted with minimum disruption to teachers and
6. Learning walks should be undertaken in a supportive and professional manner.
7. Learning walks should not be used for the purposes of capability procedures.
8. A maximum of two colleagues should be involved in learning walks at any time.
9. Pupils should not be asked for their views of an individual teacher during learning
10. Observed teachers should be given the opportunity to see any written records
which have been made during the learning walk.
11. No written feedback on or evaluation of an individual teacher derived from
learning walks shall be kept.
12. Regular reviews of the operation of learning walks will be held with all staff. Any
concerns should be raised initially with management. If concerns are not dealt
with, matters should be progressed collectively with the NUT school
NATIONAL COLLEGE FOR SCHOOL LEADERSHIP
The Networked Learning Walk Protocol
1. Preparing People for the Networked Learning Walk
Before the first NLW occurs in any school there is a great deal of preparation to
be done in order for the NLW to be an eventual success. Preparation must
everyone, whether directly or indirectly involved in the enquiry,
understands the methodology and specific focus of the current NLW;
NLWs are understood as a whole-school learning journey, not just for the
main participants of the head teacher;
everyone understands they are learning from, with and on behalf of others
in the network and that they have a responsibility to engage in shaping the
It should also be made clear that no one individual is under scrutiny during the
process. Classrooms are investigated for what they show about a school or
network as a whole.
By the time a NLW takes place, individuals within a host school or department
should be familiar with the following.
Date and time of learning walk.
Focus of the learning walk.
Name of the team members of walkers.
Reminder that walkers will be conversing with pupils.
Reminder that walkers will be taking notes to supplement their memory
and for their own learning but not for evaluation purposes.
At this time, if teachers have not seen them before, they should be shown
copies of the note-taking forms that will be distributed to walkers.
Reminder that collective feedback will be given.
2. Preparing the Networked Learning Walk Team or Walkers
In order for the NLW to be successful, a climate of trust, openness and
confidentiality must be encouraged. This starts with a sense of common courtesy
but incorporates an understanding of the protocols and parameters of the NLW
process. Such shared behavioural norms or common expectations can
guarantee the integrity of the Networked Learning Walk.
Success @ NLC developed the follow ‘behavioural norm’ for its Learning
Walkers must refrain from making judgemental comments, whether
disparaging or complimentary about the school, the head teacher, the
teachers, classroom, or pupils.
Walkers should disrupt learning as little as possible.
If the walkers are not acquainted with the teachers, they should wear name
Walkers should respect the learning community of the school they are
visiting. They should:
- stick to the agreed focus of the walk;
- refrain from comparing the school they are visiting to other schools
or commenting about other schools.
The benefits of a Learning Walk are only as rich as the knowledge and skills of
the walkers. At a minimum, walkers should study and practice the following
Looking at pupil work (whether as a display or in portfolios or exercise
Talking with pupils and posing open questions to them in order to
understand their learning.
Distinguishing between citing evidence observed in classrooms and
making unwarranted judgements or assumptions.
Crafting questions based on observations.
3. Development Walks
The first walks to occur in a network school might be thought of as ‘development
walks’. Development walks concentrate on teaching the walkers about the NLW
process. Over time, walkers use the knowledge gained on these development
walks to participate in actual Networked Learning Walks.
A skilled NLW practitioner leads a development walk. During the walk, the
emphasis needs to be placed on learning about the Networked Learning Walk as
an enquiry tool. It has been found useful to focus upon:
what can and cannot be learned from a Networked Learning Walk;
how to behave on a Networked Learning Walk – Learning Walk practices
how to apply Networked Learning Walk skills.
The primary focus of a development walk is to learn how to use the process to
describe teaching and learning and how to keep observations and questions
positive and framed so as to feel as non-judgemental as possible. Development
walks can serve, as well, to build social capital between network colleagues and
to collect baseline information about the application of knowledge, skills and
understanding following professional development.
4. The Pre-Walk Briefing for the Team
On the day of the NLW, immediately before the walk begins, all the walkers
should meet in a quiet location, such as the head’s office or library, to discuss the
focus of the walk.
At a minimum, the orientation of walkers should include a discussion of:
any additional information about the school that the host wants to present
to the walkers;
data – formal or informal about the pupils;
discussion of what it would be reasonable to expect to see in classrooms,
based on recent professional development and the network’s pupil
discussion of strategy for questioning pupils to correspond with the focus
of the walk.
During the meeting, templates for taking notes and gathering data are distributed
to the walkers.
The briefing for the Networked Learning Walk team may vary depending on
The walkers’ familiarity with the Networked Learning Walk process.
Walkers who are novices may need protocol reminders and coaching
during the process.
Walkers’ familiarity with the school. Obviously, the less familiar walkers
are with a particular school, the more information they will need before the
walk. For a team that has been conducting monthly learning walks in the
network’s schools, the orientation may be a continuation of an ongoing
conversation and, hence, abbreviated.
The walkers’ familiarity with the learning focus, their colleagues’
professional development and with the subjects they will see being taught
and learned. The former should be more straightforward as the focus is
shared across the network. The latter may vary depending upon the
experience of the individual team members. It is helpful to construct a
team which has experience of, and some expertise in, teaching the range
of curriculum subjects and pupil ages likely to be encountered on the walk.
5. Classroom Visits
Walkers visit several classrooms for 5-10 minutes (initially no more than four-five
classrooms). Walkers may engage in any of the following evidence-gathering
discussion with the teacher
examination of displays
discussions with pupils
examination of the arrangement of the classrooms
examination of classroom resources
study of pupils’ work
A classroom full of pupils, their teacher, and their work, provides walkers with
many possibilities for observation. Considering the short duration of a Networked
Learning Walk, there is a limit to what any one observer can absorb. And no
matter how quietly walkers speak when they converse with pupils, only a limited
number of conversations can be held at one time without disrupting classroom
A good strategy is for walkers to designate who will talk to pupils or teachers
before they enter each classroom. Most walkers take notes about what they
observe. Taking notes help walkers remember what they observed with
specificity. It also avoids confusion about what was observed in each room.
During the introduction to the Networked Learning Walk, teachers should be told
about the note-taking. They should be reminded of this again during the briefing
6. Talking With Teachers
Colleagues from Pittsburgh Institute of Learning (2004) have developed protocols
which are drawn upon extensively in providing the following guidance. They have
also proved to be important in the conduct of Networked Learning Walks in this
Walkers need not always talk to teachers when they visit a classroom. If they do,
conservation may be confined to a brief greeting and introduction by the leader of
the Networked Learning Walk. When it comes to talking with teachers, there are
several considerations in deciding whether to engage in conversation and what to
ask. They include the following.
One of the norms of Networked Learning Walks is to avoid interrupting
direct teaching. Although obvious, it nevertheless should be stated that
walkers never interrupt direct instruction to talk to either pupils or teachers.
Before starting a conversation with a teacher, ask if s/he is able to talk –
even when activities other than direct instruction are going on, a teacher
may feel that s/he needs to devote all of the time to the support student
A teacher may prefer not to talk.
A teacher may be eager to talk about how s/he has been translating
professional development into practice and how it has transformed pupils’
learning – but you have limited time. You need to pick this conversation
If you do have an opportunity to talk to the teacher, what might you ask?
- where does this snapshot fit into the bigger picture of the work in
this class? What preceded it and what will follow it?
- how are you assessing your pupils during this lesson?
- what will you see or hear from pupils that lets you know pupils
understand content ideas?
7. Talking with pupils
A distinguishing feature of the Networked Learning Walk is its emphasis on
conversations with pupils. While most traditional classroom visits tend to
concentrate on what the teacher is teaching, the NLW also studies what and how
pupils are learning. Student work is one part of the story – how they produce the
work, what kind of scaffolding they are given, is another part. Their
understanding of how to improve their work is another important element.
Additionally, the whole of what pupils know in terms of content or strategy is not
necessarily reflected in written or other products of learning such as models,
designs, artwork etc. Neither may they necessarily reveal the hard work a
student may have devoted to creating the outcome.
When walkers question pupils, they explore how well the pupils know and
what they are learning;
where they can go for help in their learning;
why they need to know what they are learning;
how to judge the quality of their work;
how to make their own work better;
how to talk about what they are learning.
How to choose which pupils to talk to?
Sometimes the choice is easy because it is dictated by the layout of the
classroom. Perhaps the walker can reach only a few pupils without disrupting the
class. Walkers may choose pupils in a variety of ways. Some walkers try to
select a cross-section of pupils by gender, ethnicity, level of engagement, or
other relevant criteria.
Who a walker choose to talk to is less important than remembering that each
student is one individual and not representative of the classroom as a whole. It
would be inaccurate to extrapolate from the experience of one student an
assumption about the entire class. On the other hand, if a number of pupils seem
to have the same experience and a pattern seems to be emerging, these
responses may inspire the walker to raise relevant and/or thought-provoking
questions in the corridor talk.
8. Corridor Talk
After each 5-10 minute classroom visit, the team gathers in the corridor or some
nearby quiet place to discuss the evidence they have just gathered. They
discuss what they observed and only what they observed.
This may be observation of what pupils are learning, how the teacher was
observed to assist that learning, what other resources pupils perceive as
available to assist their learning, what the pupils said in response to questions,
what student work was observed.
A 5-10 minute visit to the classroom gives the walkers only a snapshot of the life
of the class, so members of the team may suggest questions they might ask the
teacher in order to learn more about what was going on during the lesson, or
more about the student work that was observed. The purpose of these questions
is to stimulate thinking that will move teachers to the next level of practice.
9. Leading and Managing the Corridor Talk
Managing these discussions is critical to the success of the Networked Learning
Walk. Experience both in the USA and in the UK has shown that one
experienced member of the group should take the lead in ensuring protocols are
adhered to during these discussions team members share what they have
observed in relation to the focus of the walk. It is human nature to focus upon
what was missing or could have been done differently or better. But if possible
participants should avoid making judgements based on prejudice and opinion.
Rather, they should phrase their comments in a way that will support teacher
learning and promote active engagement with, and learning from, these
outcomes by the professionals in the school.
10. Gathering and Analysing Evidence from Classrooms
It is normal to feel that you are not gathering everything you could be on your first
walk. Classrooms are very busy places. Remember that the power of a
Networked Learning Walk is that the many perspectives on the classroom mean
it is possible to gather just enough data to get the gist of what is working and
what is in need of further development in relation to the identified focus. You do
not need to have gathered all that as an individual. You may only have on piece
of the puzzle but collectively you will probably have enough of the picture.
11. Final De-brief
After all the classrooms have been visited, the walkers meet for a de-briefing
session. They review the evidence and thought-provoking questions raised
during the corridor talk. They look through their observations for any patterns
that may have emerged in a number of classrooms. They consider these
observations in the light of other information and discuss professional and
leadership development needs of the teachers.
The following steps are recommended by the Pittsburgh’s Institute for Learning
The first step in the de-brief session is for each person to review his or her
Usually there are a few moments of quiet in which to work.
Each walker prepares observations and a list of evidence of teaching and
learning that s/he observed during the walk.
Each walker prepares one or more thought-provoking questions designed
to guide, encourage, and even inspire the colleagues in the host school to
take learning in the school up another notch.
A ‘sweep’ is used – first hear the observations and evidence and then the
questions. Usually a pattern begins to appear (see feedback to
The de-brief is also a time in which the walkers may consider how the learning
network can best support the next steps for the school.
12. Feedback to Colleagues
A Networked Learning Walk must not feel like performance management or
inspection as this could damage the disposition to learning. It is vital to ‘stop the
clock’ with just enough evidence-patterns and questions to move things forward
in the right direction. So it is crucial that colleagues receive feedback about the
teaching and learning observed during the NLW. The piloting of the Networked
Learning Walk has suggested feedback should be received no later than five
days after the walk.
This might be done during the formal or informal meeting, or as an alternative
through a ‘thank you’ letter. In either case, careful planning is required. Sharing
your wondering with colleagues can be very productive: “We observed such and
such a pattern in several classrooms and we were wondering whether this could
be widened across the whole school?”. In this way, feedback to colleagues may
present an immediate opportunity for them to participate in the focus and
planning of the next Networked Learning Walk.