In this installment of TeachOntario Talks, we are profiling and celebrating the practice of the Student-Led Learning Walk featured at Precious Blood Catholic School in Toronto.
Student voice and the ability to express ourselves creatively and critically has never been as important as it is for today’s students as they journey toward a future spurred by innovation and constant change. One way to nurture these skills, amplify and make learning visible, and nurture school-wide engagement is through the practice of the Student-Led Learning Walk.
What are Student-Led Learning Walks?
The Student-Led Learning Walk is an innovative, collaborative community-based leadership practice that documents learning and makes it visible and intentional for all. These walks provide authentic opportunities for students to share their learning with their peers, their parents and their community. This in turn boosts student ownership of learning, enhances student achievement and nurtures parental support and understanding of the children’s learning.
What are the Benefits of Student-Led Learning Walks?
Research and experience reveal the following as benefits of student-led learning walks:
- greater accountability in students for their own learning
- increased pride in achievement among students
- increased confidence by students to take on leadership roles
- increased learning independence in students
- more positive student-teacher relationships
- increased parental participation in school life
- improved communication with parents, resulting in deeper understanding of and confidence in what happens at school
Source: Kinney, Patti. (2005) Letting Students Take the Lead. Principal Leadership, p.35.
How it All Began:
When Mirella Rossi started her role as principal of Precious Blood Catholic School in Toronto, she was looking for a way to get to know her staff. "I was new to the staff, they were new to me, so how do we get to know each other better? Through our shared work," she explained.
The focus of the first Student-Led Learning Walk was on Visual Arts and, with that one big idea in mind, the entire school from Kindergarten to Grade 8 created a showcase of their learning in the school gym. "What an awesome sight," says Rossi. "To walk into a gymnasium and see displays of two and three-dimensional works of art come alive!"
Educators, parents and community partners were invited on a tour guided by the students. Walking through each project, students explained their learning and that of their peers. Parents were able to see the entire curriculum come alive as they watched the learning grow from grade to grade.
"Coming together as a community around student learning, all the while including parents as active participants is an energizing experience," says Rossi.
The success of that first walk inspired the entire staff and student body to continue with this inspiring practice and they have run several Student-Led Learning Walks since. Subsequent walks have focused on Mathematics (Data Management), French and Physical Education.
What Students Are Saying About the Student-Led Learning Walk:
It is evident from observing the Student-Led Learning Walk that students are are reflecting on their learning and their growth. The depth and breadth of the student artifacts, learning stories and genuine level of student engagement is remarkable. The JK-Grade 8 students have been authentically empowered to own their learning.
Students describe what the Student-Led Learning Walks mean to them in the video below.
"The Student-Led Learning Walk has given us as students a chance to take control of our education," says Rebecca, a Grade 8 student at the school.
"(It) really brings the school together as a community," says Alliza, 13. "I've been here since Kindergarten and I can really see how I have developed through the years by seeing the work of the younger grades."
Not only have students made their own learning visible, but the students in the older grades collaborate and mentor the younger students by giving useful descriptive feedback and allowing knowledge and learning to break through the walls of individual classrooms to flow throughout the school as a whole.
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