2 . A false picture of learning
While watching a number of shorter lessons may be better than one longer observation in terms of getting an idea of how a class is learning (see Professor Rob Coe’s comment in our previous blog here) very short learning walks are unlikely to provide any insight into what is really happening in a classroom. For example, few classes will maintain perfect behaviour and focus for a whole hour lesson and two visits 10 minutes apart can give a totally different picture.
3. Shallow findings
A full lesson observation can provide many prompts for reflection and later deeper discussion between the teacher and the observer (as you can see on our Evidence page. Lesson walks by contrast may produce surface inferences that may lead to false conclusions or general findings that are only relevant to a minority of teachers. In addition, in England at least, teaching unions advise that a short learning walk is seen as the equivalent of a hour-long formal observation, limiting the overall amount of evidence that can be captured.
4. A return to tick boxes
Schools that have rightly removed the idea of ‘tick box lesson observations’ because they stop teachers thinking more holistically about their lessons may end up reintroducing the same narrow focus by accident. In particular shared ‘best practice’ ideas can be seen as essential– such as students copying ‘learning objectives’ or teachers welcoming students individually to a class.
5. An enhanced ‘Hawthorne Effect’
The well-known ‘Hawthorne Effect’ means that the presence of an observer can significantly affect a lesson. In a longer observation, with the observer sitting quietly at the back of the room this can be minimised, but a senior teacher entering a room will make a major impact – some schools will expect the class to stand up and greet any visitor, for example!
So, where does that leave lesson walks? As with graded lesson observations they will have value in picking up extreme issues (such as a teacher unable to control a class or lacking specific subject knowledge) – but they’re not going to lead to systematic improvement.