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Lesson Observations: A Diffferent Approach Needed?

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by richardrogersscience, Jan 15, 2016.

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  1. richardrogersscience

    richardrogersscience New commenter

    Hello everyone.

    Firstly, some history about me (so that you understand the context of this post).

    I did my PGCE in 2006 at Bangor University (which was brilliant, by the way: such a thorough preparation for the teaching profession) and I then went on to teach secondary Science for two years at schools in North Wales and Chester. After this, I immigrated to Thailand where I have been teaching at CfBT accredited International Schools in Bangkok since 2008. In October of last year, I published my first book for teachers.

    As I was writing my book, the thought of the purpose of lesson observations came up on more than one occasion. In particular, as I was consumed with 'What do they actually achieve, except causing stress and anxiety in the teachers being observed?' and 'what can anyone gain (or assess) from watching an over-prepared lesson in which the teacher is very nervous?'.

    I put it to you that the way that lesson observations are approached is generally only partially effective, and needs to be rapidly changed if the aim is to improve teaching effectiveness and, subsequently, student learning. However, if the aim is to permeate fear and stress throughout the profession, then we should just continue putting teachers through the anxiety of being assessed by an obsever.

    I don't think the second outcome is a completely effective option.

    I would suggest that instead of using lesson observations to assess teachers, we should be using them exclusively to learn from each other. I personally think that lesson observations fit in nicely with this scheme (look at steps 3 and 4 for where observations fit in):

    Key steps to take when seeking help from colleagues

    1. Speak up and admit when you have a problem: You can speak with a line manager or even another colleague you trust. If it’s a whole-class issue in which you’re having problems with disruption from multiple students, then try to find other teachers who teach that same class. Ask for their advice. The same rule applies if you’re having a problem with an individual student – find out who his or her other teachers are, and talk with them.

    2. Identify positive deviants: Find all of those teachers who have a positive relationship with the student, or group of students, you’re having problems with.

    3. Ask those positive deviants to observe your lessons: This can be hard to do, because most teachers absolutely hate lesson observations. However, you must see this as a massive opportunity to learn from the positive deviant who’s observing you. Besides, just by asking this person to observe your class you’ll be making them feel important, and they’ll probably like you all the more for it. Make sure you seek feedback from the observer, and be sure to record everything that he or she says about your lesson.

    4. Observe the positive deviants: Book a time when you can see the positive deviant ‘in action’. Try to observe them whilst they’re teaching the same students, and make lots of notes (or even ask for permission to video the lesson). Try to think of all of things that this person is doing to reinforce and promote positive behaviour, and then try to model this in your lessons. You may even ask the positive deviant to observe you again at this point, if you wish, just so that you can ‘fine tune’ the new techniques that you have learned.

    5. Be sure to sincerely thank the positive deviants when they have helped, and don’t forget to sing their praises to senior management and your colleagues too. For most people this seems silly – after all, why would you want to praise someone else’s teaching? I assure you: doing this will help you to build a strong professional relationship base that will really help if times get tough, or if you need help in the future. You’ll also be contributing to a whole-school ethos of mutual respect and openness, which can only serve to create a positive culture for everyone. You’ll also make a lot of friends in the process!

    I know that many teachers have quite heated opinions on this issue, and I look forward to reading your comments.
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