The more we immerse ourselves in the unexpected – like visiting different grade levels or subject areas – the more we benefit and can see possibilities for our own “classroom worlds”. Amy Burvall ‘PD Walkabout’

When it comes to change and transformation, a strategy often used to support the process is the classroom visit. The question though is whether the greatest benefit of such walkthroughs and observations is the feedback provided to the teacher or what we learn as an observer? This post was prompted by David Hopkins’ #OpenBlog19 series.

Alexis Wiggins, the daughter of the late Grant Wiggins, shared a reflection on her experience of shadowing a 10th and 12th grade students across two days. The focus was not on providing feedback for teachers, as is often the case, but instead on empathising with the learner. Her revelation was that high school students spend a majority of their time sitting passively and listening. In response, Wiggins left with a range of thoughts about what she would change in her own classroom, such as providing time to stretch, offer brief mini-lessons and dig into personal experiences.

Approaching feedback from the perspective of leadership, Peter DeWitt discusses some of the focuses associated with walkthroughts. This includes cooperative learning vs. cooperative seating or surface level vs. deep level questioning. In conclusion, DeWitt suggests that,

Too many times the success of walkthroughs is a myth because they focus on compliant behavior, and making sure te huachers are covering curriculum. Walkthroughs will be much more successful if they bring about deep learning on the part of students, teachers and the leaders who are doing them.”

What stands out for me is that, like Wiggins, DeWitt’s focus is on learning for all.

Continuing with the idea of learning, Amy Burvall explores the opportunities to engage with and give feedback to colleagues from disparate areas. The intent is to open ourselves to the serendipity. As she states:

The point is I think the more we immerse ourselves in the unexpected – like visiting different grade levels or subject areas – the more we benefit and can see possibilities for our own “classroom worlds”.

Through such strategies as the ‘Wow, How, Now’, Burvall demonstrates the benefits to being open to others.

Exploring effective teaching, Jason Borton discusses how giving all teachers the opportunity to participate allows for ownership over their own accountability.

Raising the performance of our entire teaching team is the focus as well as each teacher taking individual responsibility for improving their implementation of quality teaching practices.

With different teachers released each week, the focus is on collective feedback. However, on the flipside of this, each teacher is then given the opportunity to learn and reflect.

As someone who visits a lot of different schools it is not my play to provide feedback as to how things are. Like a flaneur, I am instead interested the lessons I can learn. Sometimes the best feedback is what we learn as an observer and self-determined learner, I think this is where coaching is so powerful.

As always, intrigued in your thoughts and learnings. Comments welcome.

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creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by mrkrndvs:

I started reading a new book the other day, What Would Gandhi Do by Michael Kirby. In it he reflects on a range of modern issues, such as women’s rights and homosexuality, and returning to Gandhi, wonders how he might respond today.

Viewing a problem through someone else’s point of view is such a powerful exercise when working through a problem. For example, see Alexis Wiggins’ account of life as a student. New to coaching, she spent several days just observing life from a different perspective by sitting through class after class in order to develop a better understanding of where to start.

Seeing something from someone else’s point of view does not, however, always have to be in person. it can also be useful, as Kirby does, to wonder how someone else may approach a problem in order to start a different line of thinking and generate new ideas. Not only are we forced, in this situation, to consider someone else’s shoes, but also what it might be like to wear them.

Warren Berger touches on this strategy in his book A More Beautiful Question. During his discussion of question brainstorming, he describes how Andrew Rossi of marketing firm M Booth stokes creativity by thinking things through from an unusual perspective. Sometimes this includes wondering how a completely different company might respond, other times it might be a person. For example, how would IKEA solve the problem or what would Jay-Z do in this situation? The purpose of this provocation is to go beyond the usual possibilities and open the mind up to unusual combinations. This can be useful in breaking new ground.

Coming at this from another angle, Alan Thwaites approaches point of view and personality with the question, are you Sir Ken Robinson, Professor Brian Cox or Rupert Murdoch to your students? This question stemmed from the growing tendency of schools to ask such questions during job interviews to learn more about the applicant. In his post, he discusses what each would do in the position of curriculum coordinator. He then closes with the question as to who your students see you as?

Extending this focus on how someone else might respond, I often use my idea of various leaders and educators when stuck to wonder what they would approach the problem at hand. For example, when thinking about curriculum and assessment, I have caught myself wondering how Kath Murdoch might approach the problem, while stuck grappling with the ethics of being online I have wondered what Doug Belshaw would think. I also remember at the #GTASYD14 that the question often posed was, what would Sergey Brin do? I am not sure any of these people would actually think or act the way I imagine and to be honest, I will never really know, but this misses the point. The idea I have of them, built over time, merely acts as stimulus for working through challenges in my context.

What about you? What different questioning strategies do you use to think things through? Is there someone who you use as a guide when stuck on something? I would love to know.

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