Providing Instructional Leadership

“You must be the change you want to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

As part of my Professional Growth Plan, it has been my desire to do a better job in the area of instructional leadership.  I began to implement Learning Walks three years ago as a way to provide effective feedback to new teachers.  Here is a link to the Learning Walks at SCHS document  Dr. Guilott came to SCHS in 2010 to demonstrate how learning walks were conducted and led a group of administrators and academic leaders in this process.  Here is the handout she provided (with her permission):  Learning Walks and she has a book entitled:  A Value Added Decision: Learning About Learning Together.  It is available on

Learning Walks are, perhaps, the most powerful tool to providing quality instructional leadership.  It has profoundly changed my practice as an instructional leader.  As this concept morphs, I find myself instructing others from outside our school in the power of Learning Walks.  We had an average of one group per month going through the school on a Learning Walk.  I have been in every classroom in my school at least 5 times this year.  Additionally, I always invite a staff member to come on the learning walk with us.

“I am learning how to be a better instructional leader.  You can help me to achieve this goal.”

Process 2010-2011 School Year: 

You Have to Start Somewhere

This is a phrase I used with my first year teachers.  In addition to struggling with how to be a better instructional leader, I feel we need to do a better job with our beginning teachers.  I am working on a process to mentor and, inevitably assess beginning teachers.  Outlined below is the process I am working on:

  • Pre-conference – I outlined my expectation to the teacher during a one to one conference.  I reiterated that fact that I am learning as well.  The model chosen closely aligns with the Divisional model; balanced assessment, understanding by design, universal design for learning.  No evaluation would take place until they had practiced and honed in on their skills.
  • After approximately 6 weeks, we had another conference.  Are you ready for a learning walk?
  • The Learning Walk cycle began.  Teachers who participated in the learning walk reflected on their own practice.  I gave feedback to the beginning teachers which included observations on their goals.  Further, if they wanted it, I gave feedback to the classroom teachers.
  • Learning Walk participation offered to beginning teachers.  After the initial learning walk, beginning teachers were given an opportunity to be a participant on the learning walk based on their specific goals.
  • Evaluation observations were booked for semester 1.  Beginning teachers were given the opportunity to choose the classes I was to view based on observables from their goals.  Evaluation #1 was completed, vetted with the beginning teachers and submitted to the Rocky View Schools.

(All links above have been created by Dr. Margo Guilott “Authentic Education” and are used with her permission.)

2011-2012 Process

Processes are not static.  Here is the What’s Next.

For the 2011-2012 school year we asked the question, what’s next with the process? The reality was that we had 7 new staff members join the staff.  After a lengthy discussion regarding how we would support them, we decided to create time for a beginning teacher mentor.  Dr. Fansher worked collaboratively with me to produce the next phase of teacher growth.  To access the page, click here:  Beginning Teacher Page.  The password is: teacher.  Dr. Fansher also created a beginning teacher C of P which worked out of SCHS.  This drew several more teachers from across the jurisdiction.  She created time for the new teachers to learn and grow.

We decided that the process needed to emulate what we know works for student assessment.  Just like our students, people new to our school need time for acquisition, make meaning leading to transfer.  They, in my opinion SHOULD NOT be assessed until they have an opportunity to get feedback.  The process is as follows:

Week 1-6 – Teacher mentor assisted the new staff members acclimate to the school, read through the materials contained in the Beginning Teacher Page.

Week 7 – We spoke to the new staff members about the process.  Teachers would not be evaluated until December/January.  Through learning walks and mentoring, we wanted them to feel comfortable with what they were doing.  We were clear that, just like students in their classrooms, they needed time to grow with good feedback before we entered into the evaluation phase.

Week 8-16 – Learning walks and feedback.  During this phase, I met with all of the beginning teachers and went through the evaluation material to give them an understanding of what the document looked like and what they were being evaluated on.

Week 16-20 – Evaluation phase.  Administration collaboratively evaluated teachers, met to discuss our impressions

Week 21- Evaluations were discussed with teachers and submitted to Human Resources

Week 22 – Learning Walks were offered to new teachers looking to grow their practice beyond their classroom.  Mentoring continued and Dr. Fansher offered supports to those who were struggling.

Week 23 – 25 – Learning Walks expanded to include other teachers

Week 26-28 – Evaluation Cycle began for teachers

2012-2013 Process

Learning walks have become imbedded in the culture of Springbank High School.  Not just for new teachers, all teachers are invited to go on a learning walk.  It is still very organic in nature and I have never formalized it as a way of generating change in this school.  I want it to remain pure and generative.  Last year, I began charting my impressions of what we were seeing.  I am doing the same this year and, just the other day, I looked at the difference in the data from last year to this year.  This is what I noted:

  • positive changes in the teaching and learning environment
  • more attention to release of responsibility
  • alternative assessment
  • better and more ubiquitous use of technology
  • more understanding of the “why” of the learning by both teacher and learner
  • more receptivity of teachers to feedback.

What’s Next?

I really like the process, how it has been established and the way it has become part of our school day.  For the teachers who are being evaluated for a more permanent contract, it honors people and follows what we know about effective assessment.  Learning walks are a generative way to see what is going on in the classroom and generates innovative thought.  Dr. Margo Guilott has written a book called, “A Value Added Decision:  Learning about Learning Together.  This is a must-have for any leader looking for a way to inspire teachers to think differently about what they do in the classroom.  We are currently devising a qualitative research model to accompany this process.

We will be working with Authentic Education to produce video clips for instructional purposes.  I plan to continue assisting other schools implement this process.

*I must stress that Learning Walks SHOULD NEVER be used as an evaluation tool.

(permission granted by Marzano Research to use the protocol)


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