Transforming Jewish Education Through Learning Walks

Posted on 05/24/2024 @ 06:00 AM

Tags: Jewish Schools & Educational Services

By Smadar Goldstein

CAJE partners with the educational organization BetterLesson to provide teacher and leader coaching to implement Flexible Instructional Models, which offer students the opportunity to engage in exploration, inquiry, and self-assessment while discovering meaningful connections in their learning. This one-to-one support benefits teachers and students in individual classrooms, but how does a school look at the big picture within the whole school? Enter Better Lesson’s professional development and training methodology called ‘Learning Walks.’ This year, with support from the Mayberg Foundation, leadership teams in participating Miami schools benefited from Learning Walks. To learn about Learning Walks, we are sharing the following blog post from BetterLesson.

In the realm of Jewish educational institutions, continuous improvement isn't a mantra but a necessity. The landscape of teaching and learning constantly evolves, demanding educators to adapt, innovate, and refine their practices.


Learning Walks have emerged as powerful tools for professional development and teacher training.


Learning Walks, offered by BetterLesson with generous support from the Mayberg Foundation, provide a structured and positive approach to observing teaching practices within a school setting, celebrating strengths and collaborating on how to support teachers to grow based on trends collected that day.


What is a Learning Walk?


Learning Walks are structured, non-evaluative observation processes conducted in collaboration with expert BetterLesson coaches. These walks offer leaders the opportunity to delve into specific changes in teaching practices that support institutional initiatives and provide personalized professional learning for educators.


By working together to observe lessons, share feedback, and create data-informed learning plans, schools embark on a journey of discovery and growth.


Outcomes We Seek: The primary aim of Learning Walks is to identify areas for improvement and recognize exemplary practices within the educational ecosystem.


From pinpointing gaps in differentiation strategies to applauding schools for their commitment to pedagogical excellence, Learning Walks provide invaluable insights that inform future professional development initiatives.


How Can it Improve Teaching Methods? Learning Walks serve as catalysts for transformative change in teaching methods.


By uncovering trends and patterns, schools can tailor support and workshops to address specific needs, such as curriculum development or pedagogical training.


Additionally, the collaborative nature of Learning Walks fosters a culture of reflection and continuous improvement, empowering educators to refine their practices and enhance student learning experiences.


The day is divided into three parts:

  1. Opening Session - unpacking the “look for’s” and walking through the process with a leader,
  2. Observation Period - visiting 4-6 classrooms, with brief "hallway huddles" between each observation, and a
  3. Closing Session - where we unpack trends and identify next steps as a leadership team.


One of the key strengths of Learning Walks lies in their robust feedback mechanisms based on observable indicators.


Administrators evaluate outcomes such as 'designing or adapting student-centered formative assessments' based on criteria like visible thinking, alignment with learning tasks, depth of analysis, guidance provided to students, and reflection on feedback.


The data from all 4 to 6 classroom observations are collated and presented digitally in a private website, allowing for comprehensive analysis and reflection.


While each Learning Walk is designed to focus in narrowly on specific desired outcomes and indicators, schools who use Learning Walks can choose from various outcomes and indicators in differentiation, competency-based learning, and accelerating growth, thus ensuring a holistic approach to professional development.


Tailoring Professional Development: The culmination of a Learning Walk day is a collective debrief and reflection session, where participants engage in frameworks like "Pluses and Deltas" or "3-2-1" to outline future professional development plans.


By scaffolding learning experiences and providing practical next steps, schools can catalyze sustainable growth and foster a culture of continuous learning.


Learning Walks represent more than just a walkthrough of classrooms; they embody a journey of discovery, reflection, and growth.


Through this iterative process, Jewish Day Schools can cultivate vibrant learning communities where educators thrive, students flourish, and excellence becomes the norm.


Conclusion: Learning Walks offer a transformative pathway towards enhancing professional development and elevating the standards of Jewish education.


With a commitment to collaboration, reflection, and continuous improvement, Learning Walks pave the way to deliberately design and implement engaging and excellent teaching and learning in Jewish Day Schools. 

Smadar Goldstein is the Director of Partnerships for Jewish Educational Institutions at BetterLesson. She holds an MA and BA in Jewish Education and is a Ph.D candidate at Spertus Institute for Leadership and Jewish Studies. She lives in Israel with her family.

Learn more about BetterLesson Learning Walks here