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Armstrong Library and Learning Commons: Learning Walks, Mindset & PLC's

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A Learning Walk is a brief classroom visit utilizing a researched-based tool that provides principals and teachers opportunities to reflect on what students are learning, learning strategies, student interaction with the content, and student engagement. Data from learning walks is analyzed from the school perspective rather than the individual classroom perspective. The "look-fors" indicate the practices that are expected to be in every classroom, everyday. 

Robbinsdale Armstrong High School Learning Walk Focus Areas 
  • Clear Learning Targets/Essential Outcomes
  • Student Voice/Engagement
  • Formative Assessment/Check for Understanding



Mindsets are beliefs—beliefs about yourself and your most basic qualities. Think about your intelligence, your talents, your personality. Are these qualities simply fixed traits, carved in stone and that’s that? Or are they things you can cultivate throughout your life?

People with a fixed mindset believe that their traits are just givens. They have a certain amount of brains and talent and nothing can change that. If they have a lot, they’re all set, but if they don’t... So people in this mindset worry about their traits and how adequate they are. They have something to prove to themselves and others.

People with a growth mindset, on the other hand, see their qualities as things that can be developed through their dedication and effort. Sure they’re happy if they’re brainy or talented, but that’s just the starting point. They understand that no one has ever accomplished great things—not Mozart, Darwin, or Michael Jordan—without years of passionate practice and learning.





Professional learning community (PLC) 



An ongoing process in which educators work collaboratively in recurring cycles of collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for the students they serve. Professional learning communities operate under the assumption that the key to improved learning for students is continuous job-embedded learning for educators. 



A Focus on Learning

The very essence of a learning community is a focus on and a commitment to the learning of each student. PLCs make collective commitments clarifying what each member will do to create such an organization, and they use results-oriented goals to mark their progress. Members work together to clarify exactly what each student must learn, monitor each student’s learning on a timely basis, provide systematic interventions that ensure students receive additional time and support for learning when they struggle, and extend and enrich learning when students have already mastered the intended outcomes.

A Collaborative Culture With a Focus on Learning for All

Collaboration is a means to an end, not the end itself. In many schools, staff members are willing to collaborate on a variety of topics as long as the focus of the conversation stops at their classroom door. In a PLC, collaboration represents a systematic process in which teachers work together interdependently in order to impact their classroom practice in ways that will lead to better results for their students, for their team, and for their school.

Collective Inquiry Into Best Practice and Current Reality

The teams in a PLC engage in collective inquiry into both best practices in teaching and best practices in learning. They also inquire about their current reality including their present practices and the levels of achievement of their students. They attempt to arrive at consensus on vital questions by building shared knowledge rather than pooling opinions. They have an acute sense of curiosity and openness to new possibilities. Members of a professional learning community are expected to work and learn together.

Action Orientation: Learning by Doing

Members of PLCs are action oriented: they move quickly to turn aspirations into action and visions into reality. They understand that the most powerful learning always occurs in a context of taking action, and they value engagement and experience as the most effective teachers. Henry Mintzberg’s (2005) observation about training leaders applies here: deep learning requires experience, which requires taking action. It “is as much about doing in order to think as thinking in order to do” (p. 10). In fact, the very reason that teachers work together in teams and engage in collective inquiry is to serve as catalysts for action.

A Commitment to Continuous Improvement

Inherent to a PLC are a persistent disquiet with the status quo and a constant search for a better way to achieve goals and accomplish the purpose of the organization. Systematic processes engage each member of the organization in an ongoing cycle of:

  • Gathering evidence of current levels of student learning
  • Developing strategies and ideas to build on strengths and address weaknesses in that learning
  • Implementing those strategies and ideas
  • Analyzing the impact of the changes to discover what was effective and what was not
  • Applying new knowledge in the next cycle of continuous improvement


Results Orientation

Finally, members of a PLC realize that all of their efforts in these areas (a focus on learning, collaborative teams, collective inquiry, action orientation, and continuous improvement) must be assessed on the basis of results rather than intentions. Unless initiatives are subjected to ongoing assessment on the basis of tangible results, they represent random groping in the dark rather than purposeful improvement. As Peter Senge and colleagues conclude, "The rationale for any strategy for building a learning organization revolves around the premise that such organizations will produce dramatically improved results."

Excerpts from: 

DuFour, R., DuFour, R., Eaker, R., & Many, T. (2006). Learning by Doing: A Handbook for Professional Learning Communities at Work™

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