The Walker Learning Approach is revolutionising primary school teaching approaches through an evidence-based pedagogy. It provides an authentic personalised learning model of teaching and learning that is effective across all cultural, economical, geographical, religious and social spectrums. The pedagogy uses developmentally appropriate ways of helping to engage children in meaningful and relevant strategies that enhance academic skills alongside social and emotional development.
The Walker Learning Approach was developed and designed by Kathy Walker and Shona Bass to engage children from Preschool to Year 8 in authentic and meaningful ways so that children would enjoy their learning wherever they lived across Australia. It draws upon evidence from neuroscience and human development and reflects and respects the uniqueness of culture, family and relationships. It uses play-based and personalised learning theories as its basis and retains explicit instruction of literacy and numeracy.
Rather than use philosophies developed from overseas, the Walker Learning Approach was specifically designed to reflect the richness and diversity of Australian cultures from inner urban cities through to remote and regional areas including indigenous communities and cultures. Theories of play are used by many great philosophies from across the world and the Walker Learning Approach draws from many great play theories which are evidence-based and supported.
The Walker Learning Approach is the very first full play pedagogy designed in Australia and is now being implemented across Australia and internationally. The Walker Learning Approach requires careful consideration and intentional implementation by schools in order to ensure effective teaching and learning occurs.
Four mornings each week, our early learning classes begin the day with a hands-on, play-based session called Investigations. There is a minimum of 8 learning areas on offer in each classroom and these areas provide students with an opportunity to pursue their interests and practice class learning intentions through different open-ended experiences. During each Investigation session, there are focus children, a reporter, and a photographer. The morning Investigation starts and ends with the teacher scaffolding the student's learning and drawing attention to the current class learning intentions, making connections between the student's experiences and the current learning focus. Every day after Investigations, students have formal instruction in literacy, numeracy, and other learning areas. The student's experiences from Investigations are used to springboard from the morning's Investigation experiences to this formal teaching.
The Walker Learning Approach includes the opportunity for each student to be a focus child once a fortnight. The focus children speak to the class during ‘tuning in’, informing their peers and teachers of their intentions for the morning’s Investigations. The teacher works individually with each focus child during Investigation time, scaffolding the student’s learning through their interests. This is an excellent opportunity for relationships to be developed between the students and the teacher. Focus children report back at ‘reflection time’ to share their observations and learning.
Reporter and Photographer Roles
During investigation time students rotate through the reporter and photographer roles. The reporter and photographer are provided with a special personalised task to complete during the day’s Investigation. Reporters can be seen wearing the ‘R’ vest with a clipboard in hand. The photographer wears the ‘P’ vest and snap pictures on our class camera. The specific tasks given to the reporter and photographer are related to the fortnightly learning intentions and are personalised for each student depending on their strengths and needs. Reporters and photographers report their findings to the class during reflection time, providing an opportunity for students to develop their skills speaking in front of the class.
Years 3 - 6 Walker Learning Approach
The Walker Learning Approach (WLA) is a philosophy of teaching and learning that spans from preschool through to upper primary years that underpins what happens every day and informs teachers’ intention to teach. It is based on student empowerment, engagement, and ownership alongside teacher direction, scaffolding, and instruction. Four essential and integral aspects of the WLA are to empower students to take some responsibility for their learning, to identify some of their own learning needs, to practise being organised, and to be able to communicate through a variety of methods about their learning and interests.
The key components of the WLA to support the philosophy and four essential aspects include:
- Creating an empowering and student-focused learning environment.
- Successful learning and meaningful engagement requires everyone to be able to work both independently and interdependently.
- The WLA places an emphasis on students having some personal space as well as a collective space and place within the learning environment.
- These are hands-on and easily accessible space that provides information aimed at developing a pattern and expectation that the learning day commences with ‘checking in’ on the board before anything else.
- Builds independence, organisational skills and time management.
- Shares a few minutes each day with the class about their learning, interests and personal learning goals.
- Shares a few minutes each day with the teacher some of their feelings, work, skills.
- Aims to personalise learning, build and extend a meaningful and positive relationship with the teacher.
- Small group learning experiences where teachers and others scaffold, revise, extend and support students in focusing on specific skills or interests.
- Some are compulsory, others optional.
- Promote greater levels of responsibility and student reflection.
- Provide more personalised learning experiences.
- Formal instruction teaching sessions.
- Incorporates essential learning required by students.
- Includes reading/literacy, writing and numeracy requirements.
Student-Teacher Class Meetings
- Empower students to voice and share their opinions, feelings, experiences and ideas as part of their own learning.
- Develops a sense of what it means to belong to, contribute to and function within a community.
- A focus on local, national and global issues.
The WLA is underpinned by intentional teaching, using student interests (as a catalyst for engagement, motivation and skill instruction) and respect of a child’s culture and context. These are used as a springboard to facilitate further understandings and skill development in all areas of learning including literacy, numeracy, language, cognition, social, psychological and emotional development.
All information is sourced directly from the Early Life Foundation, the Walker Learning Approach and Engagement Matters.