Gallery Walk

A Gallery Walk is an ice breaker activity for a group's first meeting. It serves to introduce participants to each other as well as to acknowledge that they already know a lot about the topic at hand, including knowing what they need to learn. The principle here is that, if their knowledge is elicited and affirmed, participants become better at learning from others. Other reasons for the activity are given after the following two examples.

As participants in a course or workshop arrive at the first meeting, they can be grouped in twos or threes, given marker pens, asked to introduce themselves to each other, and directed to one of a number of flip chart stations. Each flip chart has a question. Participants review the answers already contributed by any previous groups, add their own, then move on to the next station.

When the first groups returns to where they began, volunteers from those groups are each asked to choose one of the stations and summarize that flip chart's main themes and the contrasts. These summaries are then presented to the whole group, with the aid of a single PowerPoint slide, photocopied sheet, or drawing on the flip chart in question. If a sheet listing the questions from all the stations is distributed to every participant, they can take notes on what is presented.

Example A: Gallery Walk questions for the first class of a course on “Evaluation of Educational Change”
1. What changes (big and small) are being pursued in teaching, schools, and educational policy?
2. What kinds of experience prepare teachers, administrators, and policy makers to pursue change in constructive ways?
3. What things would tell us that positive educational changes had happened?
4. What do you hope will come from this semester's experience?

Example B: Gallery Walk questions used at the start of a year-long professional development course for math and science educators to promote inquiry and problem-solving in a watershed context.
1. What factors (big and small) are involved in maintaining healthy watersheds?
2. What watershed issues might translate well into math. and science teaching?
3. What pressures and challenges do you see facing teachers wanting to improve math. and science teaching?
4. What has helped you in the past make improvements successfully (+), and what has hindered you (-)?
5. What things would tell you that positive educational changes had happened?
6. What kinds of things do you hope will come from this professional development experience?

The following reasons have been given for using the Gallery Walk at the start of a course (STEMTEC 1998). Analogous reasons apply to the start of any group's work together.
1. Breaks the ice and introduces students who might otherwise never interact.
2. Begins the community-building process so central to cooperative learning and emphasizes the collaborative, constructed nature of knowledge.
3. Suggests to students their centrality in the course, and that their voices, ideas, and experiences are significant and valued.
4. Allows for both consensus and debate—two skills essential to knowledge-building—and facilitates discussion when the class reconvenes as a larger group.
5. Enables physical movement around the room, an important metaphor for the activity at the course's core.
6. Depending on the gallery walk questions, provides one way for the instructor to gauge prior knowledge and skills, and identify potentially significant gaps in these.
7. Depending on the gallery walk questions, provides a way to immediately introduce students to a central concept, issue or debate in the field.
8. Through reporting back, provides some measure of closure by which students can assess their own understandings.

STEMTEC (1998). Workshop on science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, University of Massachusetts Medical School, November.