CLASSROOM OBSERVATION GUIDANCE OCTOBER 2010 INTRODUCTION 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 learning. 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. Performance Management 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 duration. The NUT guidance on performance management, which includes a model classroom observation checklist, is available to download from the NUT website http://www.teachers.org.uk/node/11063 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 observations. 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 classroom observation. Where lesson grading is proposed or introduced in schools, members should contact their NUT division or regional office immediately. Induction 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 http://www.teachers.org.uk/taxonomy/term/1649 Capability Procedures 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 protocol. 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 Drop-In Observations 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 ‘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 management. 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 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 and learning. 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 http://www.gtce.org.uk/documents/publicationpdfs/tplf_pperobs_ptp020906.pdf 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 other teachers. 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 development work. 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 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 proposed. SECTION 2 – APPLICATION OF THE NUT GUIDELINES ON SCHOOL CLASSROOM OBSERVATION Introduction 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 responsibilities. 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 arrangements. 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. Classroom observations: 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 should include: 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 reporting; 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 the observed/reviewee. 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 reviewee lesson? Has a format for recording the observation been agreed with the observer/reviewee? 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 few minutes. 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 realistic improvements. Teachers should have access to all written accounts of the observation after their lessons. 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 pre-observation discussions. 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 head teacher. 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 reviewee 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. NUT Advice 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. APPENDIX 1 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; evaluate objectively; 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 purposes. 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 hour maximum. 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 mutual agreement. 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 assessed; 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. PROVIDING FEEDBACK 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 observation. 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. APPENDIX 2 ‘LEARNING WALKS’ MODEL PROTOCOL 1. All staff should understand that learning walks are a whole-school improvement activity. 2. All staff should understand the purpose or focus of the learning walk, prior to its commencement. 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 pupils. 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 walks. 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 representative. APPENDIX 3 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 ensure that: 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 enquiry. 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 Walks 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 tags. 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 skills. Looking at pupil work (whether as a display or in portfolios or exercise books). 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 and norms; 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 learning focus; 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 several factors. 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 activities: 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 activities. 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 meeting. 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 country. 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 learning. 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 up later. If you do have an opportunity to talk to the teacher, what might you ask? For example: - 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 understand: 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 (2004). The first step in the de-brief session is for each person to review his or her notes. 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 colleagues below). 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.
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