Using Affirming Learning Walks to Build Capacity


  • Donna Ross San Diego State University
  • Lisa Lamb San Diego State University
  • Joseph Johnson San Diego State University



instructional leadership, STEM education, teacher leadership, adult learning, classroom observation techniques, teacher education, professional development


Teachers grow from sharing their practice and receiving feedback, yet it can be difficult for teachers to welcome others into their classrooms without feeling judged. Observers need to enter teachers’ classrooms projecting respect and value for the challenging work of teaching. In this article, we share an approach to visiting classrooms, called Affirming Learning Walks, that differs in comparison to more typical learning walks, instructional rounds, or classroom observations. Affirming learning walks are hosted by teachers or administrators, conducted with other teachers, designed around eight practices known to support student achievement, and focused only on those productive practices that are present rather than on the absence of practices or areas for improvement. This approach provides an opportunity to value many of a teacher’s practices that are productive and encourages teachers to engage in more of the productive practices because they are highlighted and celebrated.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Donna Ross, San Diego State University

Dr. Donna Ross is an associate professor of science education at San Diego State University.  

Lisa Lamb, San Diego State University

Dr. Lisa Lamb is a professor of mathematics education at San Diego State University. 

Joseph Johnson, San Diego State University

Dr. Joseph Johnson is the founder and former executive director of the National Center for Urban School Transformation and a professor emeritus in Educational Leadership.  


Aguilar, E. (2016). Asset-based coaching: Focusing on strengths (opinion).

Allen, A. S., & Topolka-Jorissen, K. (2014). Using teacher learning walks to build capacity in a rural elementary school: Repurposing a supervisory tool. Professional Development in Education, 40(5), 822-837. DOI:

Bole, P. T., & Farizo, K. P. (2013). Using learning walks to improve collaboration and charter school performance (a university/P–12 school partnership): Year one. The New Educator, 9(4), 328-345. DOI:

Bushman, J. (2006). Teachers as walk-through partners. Educational leadership, 63(6), 58–61.

Dove, K. G. (2021). Classroom equity and the role of a teacher leader: Making classrooms equitable to all students. In B.S. Zugelder (Ed.) Empowering Formal and Informal Leadership While Maintaining Teacher Identity (pp. 109-134). IGI Global. DOI:

Fisher, D., & Frey, N. (2014). Using teacher learning walks to improve instruction. Principal Leadership, 14(5), 58-61.

Johnson, J. F., Uline, C. L., & Perez, L. G. (2017). Leadership in America's best urban schools. Routledge. DOI:

Johnson, J. F., Uline, C. L., & Perez, L. G. (2019). Teaching practices from America's best urban schools: A guide for school and classroom leaders. Eye on Education. DOI:

Steiny, J. (2009). Learning walks. Journal of Staff Development, 30(2), 31-36.






Best Practice Articles