Transforming Evaluations: Learning Walks

I recently read an article about Learning Walks by Peter Dallas Finch (May 2017) that shared a perspective on evaluation, in this case within a school setting, that I believe our corporations could learn a great deal from. In the case he described, a school district had undergone quite a transformation in the way they conducted their evaluations. They went from fairly standard "check the box" evaluations to a method known as a "learning walk".

In a learning walk, an individual goes through a space (a classroom in this case) and looks at it with only a very few objectives in mind. The purpose is not to test for individual strengths or weaknesses, but to gain an overall understanding of how the space functions and whether the handful of objectives are being met.

Learning walks are results-driven, not methods-focused.

At the end of a learning walk, the observers have a discussion with the people in charge of the space (in this case, the teacher), to let them know what they saw, heard, and experienced. They do not take this time to provide evaluations, per se, but highlight anything interesting that arose from their time.

And that time is brief. Generally, the time in any one space is less than 10 minutes.

This brevity allows for a snapshot. Not all objectives can expect to be met in the short time frame, nor all specifics of methodology be observed.

This type of evaluation strategy takes a great deal of pressure off the space/person/program being evaluated, and also takes a great deal less time. Taking less time means that evaluation can be done more consistently, which we should all know is becoming more and more important with newer generations of workers.

What would it look like to implement some type of learning walk in your corporation?

How do you think the evaluation process might change if evaluators focused in on particular spaces or programs, rather than individuals, and asked only a few questions about how they functioned? What would it look like for your management teams to be involved in a learning walk each week, since they can happen in less than 15 minutes? What benefit might occur as a result of focusing evaluation in on just a handful of key desires and outcomes?

I believe that evaluation would become a positive experience for more people if structured learning walks became more common. These evaluations would also be more useful to everyone involved. Individuals would feel less pressure to perform or follow a certain set of guidelines, evaluators would not struggles as much with the time commitment, and everyone would have a better chance to see the purpose behind the process.

What are your thoughts? Are learning walks one way we can change our evaluation processes to be more vibrant and valuable?

Finch, Peter Dallas. "Learning-Walk Curriculum." AASA. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 May 2017.