Key Components of Learning Walks

Five Steps for Implementing High-Quality Learning Walks in Schools

School Leadership teams have a lot on their plate throughout the school year, and it’s important that high-quality instruction isn’t put on the back burner. Learning Walks are a great way to build internal capacity and monitor how well teachers are implementing instructional expectations.

The purpose of a Learning Walk (LW) is to collect trend data through observations of multiple teachers. These observations could be across the entire school, a grade-level or content area, or an identified group of teachers (such as first-year teachers). After observations are conducted, data is analyzed to determine priorities and next steps for teacher support. We’ll walk you through five Key Components of Learning Walks, share a few examples and suggestions, and answer some frequently asked questions.

1. Define an Area of Focus and Codify Your Observation Tool
The first step in this process is to identify what you want your team to look for during the observations. Typically, this should be aligned to your school’s instructional priority (or priorities) for the year. You will also want to create an observation tool aligned to your area of focus. We recommend your tool has a clear rating scale with defined examples or look-fors. The more specific, the more accurate the data!

2. Determine Your LW Team and Establish Norms
The LW team should include members of School Leadership and/or the Instructional Leadership team. You can also include teachers and even students if you want! Once your team is identified, be sure to establish, and agree on, norms for your time together. If you already have working norms, you can use those or you can create norms as a group. A best practice is always to align your norms with school/district/network core values.
Here are a few examples if you need a place to start:

  • Open and Honest: Asking questions and having open dialogue will be how we grow as a team. We want everyone to feel comfortable asking questions and/or disagreeing with others.
  • Respectfully Disagree: There will be disagreements during this process — let’s handle those respectfully.
  • Fully Present and Engaged: Put your “to do” list to the side and leave your phone on silent. Being present and engaged will help ensure you can accomplish your objectives for the LW.
  • Enough Let’s Move On (ELMO): It’s easy to go down a rabbit hole when discussing instruction and that’s okay! However, it’s important to remember the big picture of developing a plan to move instruction forward so you may have to table some conversations for later. You can always utilize a ‘Parking Lot’ for topics that need additional discussion at a later time.

3. Develop a Schedule
Best practice is to block off around 4 hours to conduct a Learning Walk. This can vary based on the school’s schedule and your area of focus. Here is a sample schedule:

  • 30 minutes: Welcome, Agree on Norms, Review LW Objectives and Area of Focus
  • 2.5 hours of observations:
    • Observations are typically completed in pairs or small groups.
    • Each observation is 15-20 minutes with a 10-15 minute block to allow pairs (or teams) to debrief each observation
  • 1 hour: debrief and action planning

4. Debrief and Action Plan
This is often the most important part of the process because your team will be able to analyze the data that has been collected, celebrate strengths, and then determine next steps.
Here is a sample agenda:

  • Review norms.
  • Input data into a central tool that will showcase the overall data collected. This is why it’s important to have a clear rating scale, if possible. That way your team can easily see the data across all observations. For instance, if your tool has a 4-point scale, you can determine what percentage of classes were rated a 1, 2, 3, and 4.
  • Identify strengths.
  • Identify areas of growth.
  • Develop an action plan. A high-quality action plan should include the following:
    • SMART goal (during our next Learning Walk on {insert date}, X% of classrooms will be rated a 4 on the LW tool).
    • Action steps that have defined timelines and champions.


5. Share Trends with Staff and Stakeholders
We encourage teams to share LW data and next steps. It is important to share LW data and next steps with staff and any other key stakeholders so that everyone is on the same page about the school’s priorities and next steps. Clear, transparent communication will help ensure alignment on instructional expectations. This information can be shared via email, via your weekly update/newsletter, or in-person. Some schools also choose to share this data with their board, parent-organization, and/or school committee.
Below are a few best practices to consider:

  • Ensure the shared data is presented at the trend level and that it does not identify teachers in any way.
  • Celebrate strengths!
  • Communicate area(s) of growth and next steps (you can share your entire action plan if you’d like).

Frequently Asked Questions
Here are a few questions that often come up when SchoolWorks conducts Learning Walks with our partner schools.

  • Should we tell our teachers/staff about the LW?
    It’s really up to you and your team. Some Leadership Teams conduct LW unannounced because they want the most authentic data. Other teams want (or need) teachers and staff to know in advance. Do what you feel is best for your school.
  • Should we share individual feedback with teachers?
    You can if you’d like! We have worked with some schools who want a clear difference in their observation systems. They will use LW to collect trend data and prefer to give teacher feedback during other observations. We have also worked with leadership teams who prefer to give feedback every time they observe a teacher regardless of why (even if it’s just a quick note or email).
  • How often should schools conduct Learning Walks?
    We’d recommend conducting LWs at least quarterly, but you can definitely conduct them more frequently.



Let’s keep learning together!

If you’re interested in additional support or training on conducting high-quality Learning Walks, please reach out to us anytime at


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