Learning Walks and Instructional Rounds

Formative Assessment for Professional Learning

Developing "V-shaped learners," Mount Vernon uses learning walks for generating broad views into the teaching and learning ecosystem, as well as instructional rounds for exploring the depths of professional practice.

Learning Walks

Learning Walks Allow for Surveying School

On a learning walk, one or more MVPS educators visit a collection of classrooms and learning environments for brief observations. For example, a teacher might spend about 8-10 minutes in 5-6 learning spaces for about an hour in total. At each point in the walk, the teacher observes, listens deeply, questions a few students, looks for examples of visible thinking, and captures a micro impression to send via Twitter before traveling to the next destination. It's a strong way to conduct a mini ethnography and powerful learning session.

Dr. Tony Wagner, Harvard Graduate School of Education, on Learning Walks

In education, we talk about all kinds of things -- theories of learning and classroom techniques, and so on. But we never actually look at and talk about teaching together. And if we want to improve instruction, the first thing we need to do is make the classroom walls transparent. We have to do "learning walks" together and talk about what we see....We need to talk about the elements of good practice and then strategies for helping everyone in the system improve every year (pp. 128-9).

Wagner, Tony. The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don't Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need -- And What We Can Do About It. New York: Basic Books, 2008. Print.

Instructional Rounds

Instructional Rounds Provide Deep Dives

Instructional rounds are similar to medical rounds in teaching hospitals. An instructional rounds team works collaboratively to dig deeply into professional practice over extended periods of time.

At MVPS, we began piloting instructional rounds (IR) in the fall of 2013. In our Heads of Grade pilot, we teamed four teacher leaders and four administrators to provide multiple lenses and sounding boards for giving feedback and engaging in rich discussions about our teaching and learning practices. During IR, four observers record detailed notes for the visited educator and complete an ethnographic survey that collects data on such things as instructional methods, roles and engagement levels of student learners, space configurations, and infusion of the MV Mindsets. The notes guide the team debriefs, and the data helps us map our teaching and learning ecosystem in what we call "pedagography."

Resources for Instructional Rounds

Instructional Rounds and Pedagography

Designs for a Learning Map Revolution

NAIS Annual Conference 2016, Session Notes
Thursday, February 25, 2016, 8:00 - 9:00 a.m. PST
Presenters: Bo Adams, Shelley Clifford, Chip Houston
(See #NAISAC16 Program Guide)


Three instructional leaders and educational designers from Mount Vernon Presbyterian School facilitate a session about ways to build collaborative teaching capacity and map a school’s pedagogical and learning ecosystem. At MVPS they are innovating instructional rounds processes and inventing pedagography - a new strategic practice for mapping and enhancing one’s own school.


Teaching and learning are complex endeavors. Schools are complicated, interconnected ecosystems. How are we optimizing the phenomenal human resources in our schools - our faculties - to enhance our teaching and learning practices and to understand more fully how the components of school are connected and co-influencing? How do we really know and improve ourselves, holistically, as a learning community?

To address such critical questions at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School, the administration and faculty collaborate to mash up the observation, feedback, and coaching practices of instructional rounds with a mapping and data-visualization invention they call “pedagography.”

In this session, three leaders and educational designers from Mount Vernon will facilitate a workshop detailing the innovative ways that they are building collaborative teaching capacity by expanding instructional rounds and mapping the school’s pedagogical, learning ecosystem. By observing, questioning, experimenting, and networking, these Mount Vernon leaders are revolutionizing professional learning through design and systems thinking. They will help you do so, as well.

What three questions will the workshop answer?

  1. How might we create a school culture hungry for feedback, immersed in the growth mindset, and engaged as networked cohorts of learning teams using observation, feedback, and coaching to enhance pedagogical practices for the ultimate benefit of improved student learning?
  2. How might we use design thinking and systems thinking to innovate professional learning practices in school?
  3. How might we systemically map and visualize our school’s pedagogical ecosystem like Lewis and Clark mapped the Louisiana purchase or like Google is mapping the Earth?

What distinguishes the workshop from others on this topic?

There is not another school on the planet, that we know of, that is using instructional rounds in such an innovative way - to simultaneously blend auto-ethnographic methods and instructional case study to build collaborative teaching capacity and map a school’s pedagogical ecosystem for purposeful management of professional learning and targeted school innovation and development.

Resources and Handouts

Distributed During the Live Session, Feb. 25, 2016


Instructional Rounds and Pedagography Slide Deck (NAISAC16)

At the National Association of Independent Schools Annual Conference 2016 (#NAISAC16), Bo Adams, Shelley Clifford, and Chip Houston shared stories of the School's research and practices with instructional rounds and used this slide deck. While it's not meant to stand alone, it may be a strong resource for those wanting to virtually attend the session and/or employ IR at their schools and organizations.


IR Video Practice

Playmaker: Speech (Shelley Clifford)

This 10 minute video provides a way for people to practice clinical observation in order to build capacity for instructional rounds. Bo, Shelley and Chip used a clip during the NAISAC16 session to simulate a slice-of-time IR and debrief.

The IR notes from several members of the MVPS team are included and linked below. Also, Shelley has provided her reflection after the class segment, which is a "preflection" for the IR debrief.

Playmaker Speech Clifford Reflection and Network Notes

Instructional Rounds in Practice

Blog Posts from Mount Vernon Practitioners

Instructional Rounds Debrief, Take 1 | Visible Reflections

Cultivate a culture that is hungry for feedback. When I met Tyler Thigpen, head...
31st Jan 16

Instructional Round, The Debrief | Visible Reflections

According to the work of Elizabeth City, Richard Elmore, Sarah Fiarman, and Lee Teitel...
31st Jan 16

Traditional Observation v Instructional Rounds – Chip Houston

In our third year of practicing instructional rounds, I continue to learn and grow...
31st Jan 16

Implement Instructional Rounds – Chip Houston

.entry-header Implementing Instructional Rounds Recently, the idea was posed to us about how to implement...
31st Jan 16

Being a student of your own school. #LearningWalks #InstructionalRounds #Pedagography | it’s about learning

We are a School of inquiry, innovation, and impact. Grounded in Christian values, we...
31st Jan 16