Observing lessons

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Observing lessons

Unread post by Barney »

I have just been promoted and now have to observe other teachers as part of the school affiliation agreement. Does anyone have any tips on how to manage the feedback? What to focus on etc? All help gratefully received.
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Observing lesson

Unread post by Susan »

Hi Barney,

You could look at this answer to the same question (from Lucy)

Peter Easton
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Peter's tips:

Unread post by Peter Easton »

If this following post sounds a bit formal it is because it is taken from a manual I have written about being a good teacher:

The most common mistake that teachers make when they watch others is that they look for mistakes and weakness to note down. Instead, a better approach is to take notes of the whole class as it unfolds, making comments on every aspect of the class – good, bad and mediocre. It’s actually good to note down what the activities were and what the instructions were, regardless of whether the teacher did them well or not. The reason for writing down otherwise mundane aspects of the class is that it helps to build an overall picture of the situation in which the teacher has performed.

It’s like watching a game of football. You don’t just watch the mistakes out of context to make a fair and balanced judgement on the quality of the team or the game. You need to watch the whole 90 minutes and then make a critical analysis using hindsight. For example, to a teacher you have just observed you might say this:

“Well I thought the warm up was good. You asked the students where they would go if they could travel to any country in the world and two responded quite well but the one in the middle didn’t really give you an answer. I think you could have given her more attention and modelled the other answers with some further suggestions. Perhaps, also, encourage the other two to help her out more and explain the idea to her, in English of course. Another good question would have been ‘What would you do there?’ The speed and level of your speech was fine though.”

Which is more preferable to this:

“Students didn’t understand what you were asking of them.”

Your observation notes should include three elements:

• notes of the activities and their times
• notes on students’ involvement and responses
• your subjective reactions to the activities

You may want to divide the page into three columns to categorise your notes.

Giving feedback

Ideally you should give the teacher feedback not straight after the lesson but a little while after when they are able to reflect more objectively on how it went. Feedback should be given verbally and you need to make a strategic decision on which points to address and preferably follow this up with a formal written report 24 hours later re-emphasising the points.

When giving feedback it is necessary to foster a collaborative spirit. What’s important is not criticism or prescribing solutions but understanding the teacher’s views and reasons why they do what they do in the classroom. This allows for meaningful and progressive discussion of the merits for and against such a method and opens the teacher to new practices or more effective methods through intelligent discussion, not diagnosis.

Observations are good for maintaining and improving standards, they create a healthy professional environment and help to integrate a teaching culture of best practice.

Teaching is a profession where we can constantly be improving on the status quo and we all need training from time to time because we all fall into bad habits and lazy ways. Accepting advice and applying it in the classroom distinguishes the professional teacher from the less able teacher.
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Unread post by Dave T »

I like to start by focusuing on the good aspects of the lesson. And ask the teacher what they felt went well. It keeps the feedback constructive. then you can go on and focus on some aspects that need to be addressed, but as you have looked at good points the teacher is more open to new ideas and the whole feedback process stays very positive and beneficial.

Hope that helps.
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Unread post by Kootvela »

Before the lesson, ask the teacher which aspect of teaching s/he would like you to observe. Observation is not only a formality but also a part for teacher development.
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Observing lessons: CONCLUSIONS.

Unread post by systematic »

Peter, Dave, and Kootvela have given some excellent advice and I would like to conclude by saying that observation - being observed, and observing others at work - is a critical part of a teacher's development. Up until less than a generation or so ago, the courses in teacher training colleges and faculties of education were very heavily focussed on observation by sending their student teachers out to watch others at work. However, a problem lay in the fact that the teachers they were watching were not always demonstrating good examples of teaching.

Since the beginning of the second half of C20, various models of teacher learning have been suggested; the three main ones - as also posited by Wallace (1993) - are:

The craft model: The trainee learns from the example of a "master teacher", whom (s)he observes and imitates. Professional action is seen as a craft, rather like stone-masonry, carpentry, or plumbing, to be learned most effectively through an apprenticeship system and accumulated experience and where the applied science does not necessarily need to be understood. This traditional method is still used in some countries as a substitute for postgraduate teacher development. The downside is that while the master-craftsman to be observed may be a true expert at his job, there is no guarantee that he also knows how to teach it effectively to others. Watching - also imperative in medicine - is a very slow, passive learning process, and some people may just not be able to acquire some required skills, such as, for example, the enormous degree of dexterity needed for filigree, or for micro-surgery.

The applied science model:
The trainee studies theeoretical courses in applied linguistics and other allied subjects, which are then applied to classroom practice. Many university courses are based on this idea. The downside is that on-line and distance TESOL courses can only provide this model, and more and more schools are insisting on TESOL certificates which include an observed, assesed, practical element.

The reflective model: The trainee teacher observes lessons then either reflects alone or in discussion with others, in order to wortk out theories about teaching, then tries these out in practice. Such a cycle aims for continuous improvement (Schön, 1983). This method is used in recently designed teacher training courses. In a well balanced theory-practice syllabus, our experience is that this form of observation and its use works best.

Some excellent advice can be found in:
Classroom Observation Tasks, Ruth Wajnryb 1992, ISBN: 0-521-40722-2
Cambridge University Press

It is mandatory reading in our teacher training courses.
I offer any information or advice 'as is' and hope that it has been of help. I am not an admin of this board, and my postings do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the board management.
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Re: Observing lessons

Unread post by jonnielsen »

I like to start by focusuing on the good aspects of the lesson. And ask the teacher what they felt went well. It keeps the feedback constructive. then you can go on and focus on some aspects that need to be addressed, but as you have looked at good points the teacher is more open to new ideas and the whole feedback process stays very positive and beneficial.
also, it is great to ask the teachers what they like to observe and what are there programs.
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