Throughout the course of the 2019-20 school year, dozens of GCPS team members participated in what we called learning walks. Learning walks are the next step in our seven-year commitment to the instructional rounds methodology: a model borrowed from the medical profession aimed at better connecting division leadership to the important work taking place in our classrooms every day. The backdrop for our original efforts in 2012 was Elizabeth City’s book entitled Instructional Rounds in Education.
While our rounds approach to date has been designed primarily for division administrators, we transitioned this year’s model to one focused on teachers visiting other teachers. It seems like common sense, but the reality is the education profession is not naturally conducive to peer-to-peer learning during the vast majority of the instructional year. Simply, teachers are busy doing great work with students and have little to no time to see their peers in action. Our learning walks provided the structure and support necessary to make these opportunities possible.
Each set of walks was followed immediately by a team reflection, which was facilitated by our instructional coaches. It’s during this portion of the school visits that team members had the opportunity to process their own learning, articulate observations and interactions, and learn from one another. From start to finish, our learning walks have been non-evaluative — their singular objective being to improve teaching and learning in Goochland by providing our teachers with the opportunity to learn from other teachers at work.
Glenn Hecker participated in this year’s learning walks, “The ‘why’ of learning is sometimes lost in the expanse of teaching content. Our learning walk at Randolph Elementary School culminated in a discussion on teaching with intent. The pressures of high stakes testing can sometimes feel like running to cross a finish line, and our discussion helped remind me that it’s better for everyone to slow down sometimes and take a walk.” Mr. Hecker is a social studies teacher at Goochland Middle School.
Lisa Harris, first grade teacher at Randolph Elementary School, also participated in this year’s walks, “When you only work with 1st grade students, it’s not always easy to envision who they will become when they are in high school. Participating in this year’s learning walks was eye opening. Having the chance to visit the high school was the perfect reminder of how important each stage of education is to our students, and at the end of the day, no matter their age, they are all kids trying to gain understanding for their future.”