I’ve mentioned time and again that we are in Phase One of what our district calls Digital Transformation or FCPSon. So much of what we’re doing is trying out a plan, reflecting on it and deciding what works and doesn’t to move forward with the next phase with the best of what we’ve been doing.
I want to reflect for a minute or two (promise to keep it short!) about Pineapple Charts vs Learning Walks. I think there are benefits to both, but want to talk about it because I think one or the other might fit our needs better.
Pineapple Charts – if you haven’t read about this idea, check out this blog post by Cult Of Pedagogy.
Here is a photo from Greenbriar West Elementary School of a pineapple chart in action. Teachers add a post it note with a short description of what they are doing, add it to the chart to indicate when and it serves as an invitation to their classroom for other educators.
Teachers hoping to learn from their colleagues visit at those times and see what the teacher and students are involved in. It’s a great way to help teachers share what they are doing and a good start for visiting other colleagues and classrooms.
The downsides of this are that it’s only useful if teachers post their notes and invite their colleagues in to visit. Having the safe culture already in place, where teachers expect to learn from each other, and understand the need for constant improvement is critical. Without this, teachers are not likely to put up the post it notes. Sure, you might have a few add a post it the first week, but it won’t garner tons of participation and after the first week, you will see participation wane.
I think of Pineapple Charts as that planned/scheduled observation. We put up the post it for our best lesson, one we know we can do flawlessly, that we know our kids will engage with. This is not about the every day management, planning and teaching that happens in our classrooms. This is about the best, special event that we want to show off.
Learning Walks are different – done differently in each school, but the basic premise is that colleagues pop in on each other and see what is happening. In some way, a form or notes left on the door, data is collected as a reflection and the observing teacher focuses on specific areas and see what is happening (and what the teacher/student is doing) and what they’d like to take back with them to their own classroom. In our school, every teacher is expected to visit 4 other classrooms during the year (roughly one a quarter, though they can choose when and where and who they visit).
One of the best parts of learning walks is that teachers connect across departments. They visit teachers who teach very different content and notice that they really aren’t that different. They notice that they teach many of the same kids. They see arrangements, activities and opportunities that they want to know more about and many are following up with the teacher they observed to learn more.
The upside of learning walks is that they are expected, everyone is doing them and teachers are encouraged to pop into other rooms to check out what is happening. The positive peer pressure is pretty good 🙂 They start the conversation!! We have the culture in place (again, relationships and trust is a core value of learning from each other!) that this is safe and comfortable.
The downside is that sometimes people are just going to visit their friends’ classrooms. We’ve put structures in place to try to minimize this (requirements like visit one general education, one special education, one academy classroom and one of your choice) and emphasized how important it is to step outside of your comfort space and learn something new. Again, this is a culture shift for some schools and departments!
Finally, the biggest difference between these two seems more like the difference between a scheduled observation and a drop-in observation by your administrator. A scheduled observation means the teacher is likely doing her very best lesson, the one she picked for this especially and has run through it in her head a million times since she knows her observation is happening. A drop in observation let’s the administrator see what the daily routine, what the regular work in that classroom looks like. There are benefits to seeing both. When it comes to which is more approachable, I lean toward the drop in observation, just like I’m leaning toward the learning walks 🙂
What kind of opportunities do you have for teachers to learn from each other and see each other in action? What are your thoughts on these two options?