Learning in Action

A Guide to Conducting High-Impact School Visits

Prepared by the Great Schools Partnership for the New England Secondary School Consortium

*This guide was adapted from Learning in Action: How to Conduct and Learn From High-Quality Site Visits, a Smaller Learning Communities Program resource created by Pamela Fisher. Reproduced with permission from the U.S. Department of Education (Contract No. ED-04-CO-0021/0001).

Each year, members of the New England Secondary School Consortium’s League of Innovative Schools conduct site visits to other member schools. These first-hand observations of school-improvement in practice are a critical part of the regional learning and networking experience that the Consortium is working to facilitate. For this reason, the Great Schools Partnership adapted this step-by-step guide, which will help visiting school teams select appropriate schools, explore the right programs, investigate the evidence of success, and follow up with a practical strategy for sharing and implementing what they have learned with colleagues at their own school. When well planned and thoughtfully coordinated, site visits are powerful professional learning experiences that can make a significant contribution to advancing school improvement.

Designed to offer practical guidance in an accessible, straightforward, user-friendly format, Learning in Action will help teams maximize their time when visiting another school. This guide contains checklists to help both the visiting and host schools plan and conduct high-impact site visits, in addition to a recommended three-day site-visit schedule that can be modified as needed.

Since site visits allow for only a partial glimpse of strategies that, in many cases, have been developed and refined over years, the recommended three-day site visit builds in time for educators—who may have varying levels of understanding and commitment to school redesign—to absorb, understand, and embrace new ideas. For these and other reasons, the guide urges schools to allocate sufficient time for both the planning process and the site visit itself. When a site visit that is conducted in a spirit of thoughtful reflection and sharing, it creates a mutually beneficial learning experience for both the visiting and host schools.

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