'Learning walk' shouldn't be there to trip you

15th April 2011 at 01:00

The description of the "dreaded learning walk" in last week's "What keeps me awake at night" column reveals a serious problem affecting teaching today. Teachers are so used to being graded and judged, not only by Ofsted but also by well-meaning leaders anxious to furnish their evidence base of school effectiveness, that they fear any classroom visit.

A learning walk should be an opportunity for teachers and pupils to show off what they are doing; a sharing and celebration of learning across a school, not another means of making snap judgments.

There is a direct parallel with assessment - pupils become so accustomed to their work being graded (assessment of learning) that qualitative feedback enabling them to improve it (assessment for learning) is eclipsed. Likewise, the relentless grading of teachers on the four-point Ofsted scale stifles any open, developmental observation and sharing of practice.

A renewed emphasis on formative and collaborative approaches to continuing professional development would demonstrate a real concern for the "importance of teaching".

Phil Taylor, Birmingham City University.

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