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Theo et al: How to conduct observations and give feedback?

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by slingshotsally, Dec 5, 2015.

  1. slingshotsally

    slingshotsally Star commenter

    Hi all,

    Please could anyone advise me on how to conduct observations in ICT at primary level. We are expected to conduct these for a specific subject in Primary School but have had NO training or mentoring in this area.

    Although personal experience of being observed is important, I believe that it is too subjective. I would prefer to know the best practice model for this process.

    Thank you for reading and I hope you can help.

  2. marlin

    marlin Star commenter

    GLsghost likes this.
  3. digoryvenn

    digoryvenn Lead commenter

    I find that lesson study is much more appropriate than formal lesson observations.
  4. muso2

    muso2 Established commenter Community helper

    Do you teach in the primary school you've been asked to observe in? Not totally clear from your post.
    I've carried out PM observations in all sorts of subjects at secondary level, well outside of my own specialism. Surely the bottom line is being clear on what makes good teaching and learning, whatever the subject. Anything subject-specific that I'm unsure of I'd ask the teacher about afterwards, if there hadn't been an opportunity before the observation.
    If you feel the school could give more support to those carrying out observations, you're probably not the only one - could you ask for more guidance to make sure you're following your school's protocols?
  5. pjhewett

    pjhewett New commenter

    I researched the use of peer feedback for my Masters Dissertation.

    Apart from needing to follow the school protocol, which is clearly the first thing to do, I'd suggest it is worth reflecting on what the observation is for.

    Observations generally tend to be for evaluation or learning more about practice. Both have their place of course, and yet research shows that generally a mutual reflection after an event with no element of judgement from either party makes for a review session which creates genuine value for both practitioners - both the observer and the observed.

    I know that seems odd - after all, we make judgements all the time - and yet if the observer is able to suspend judgement and assume the observed made a choice for a reason that seemed appropriate to them, then the discussion about the consequences of the choice can be a really useful one, and can inform the practice of both parties.

    I now work in an environment (in HE) where peer review is a respected part of our practice and is used to help improve performance rather than make judgements and categorise people. It is accepted that review is as useful for the reviewer as the reviewed.

    So in a nutshell my advice is to keep eyes and ears open, make full notes including what was actually said / done, and then review this with the teacher in a way which respects their professional competence.

    Good luck!
    marlin likes this.
  6. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter


    An excellent reply overall from @pjhewett . Thank you.

    I would say that an overarching aim of any observation is to recognise the professionalism of colleagues and respect their skills and efforts, while working with them, if necessary, to identify any areas for development, but without in any way showing a lack of confidence in their ability.

    Avoiding anything that can make them feel less confident in themselves and their teaching is very important, I think, even when there are areas to improve.

    I like to begin feedback by asking the teacher what they felt were the strong points of the lesson. With luck - and my luck has never yet run out! - I can usually then identify further strengths that the teacher had not mentioned. This will then start the feedback session off very positively, as they can see that I acknowledge and appreciate their professional competence.

    Then and only then, when it has been acknowledged that there are many areas of good practice that can be celebrated, do we turn to other aspects.

    Again I begin by asking the teacher their views - are there any things that perhaps next time would be done slightly differently, building on today's lesson. With luck - and here my luck does sometimes run out - the teacher identifies and is happy to discuss the same area or areas noted by me. The final area is discussion of what the teacher thinks would be helpful for him or her on moving forward, and how I can support that.

    I prefer to give a very brief Thank you for allowing me into your lesson, I appreciate that at the end of the session, having already made an appointment for later that day or the next to give the feedback. This allows me the chance to ponder on the right way to present points both positive and less so, for the benefit of the teacher.

    That's my system; others may have different ones that work for them and their schools.

    Best wishes

    jomaimai, marlin and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  7. slingshotsally

    slingshotsally Star commenter

    Thanks for all the replies.

    Teachers are under such scrutiny that I would prefer not to antagonise fellow professionals who may not have been given any CPD to teach the the ICT topics by giving inappropriate feedback.

    I was so happy to get this post, now I just want to ensure that I fulfil my duties with due regard to others feelings as well as teaching and learning of children.

    Hope that makes sense, I'm in a bit of a rush.
    marlin likes this.
  8. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter

  9. Skeoch

    Skeoch Star commenter

    Another thought here - not quite matching what the OP was asking. In every observation I've done I have tried to learn a bit more about the skills of teaching. If, afterwards, as Theo suggests, you can say, "Thank you" and then "What a good idea to do.... I am encouraged to do that with my class..." then there is affirmation and CPD all round.
    slingshotsally and marlin like this.
  10. slingshotsally

    slingshotsally Star commenter

    Hi All,
    Just wanted to let you all know that your advice has been extremely helpful. My colleague and I are tasked with observing teaching and learning in ICT and are aware of the historical weaknesses in CPD in this area throughout the school.

    The reasons for the sudden urgency for observations are
    (i) Ofsted due any minute and the realisation that apart from English & Math, no other subjects have had even a cursory glance!!

    (ii) Section 5 Ofstead(?)- apparently the DHT didn't realise that you could be ofsteded for a specific subject until 2 weeks ago.....

    Anyway.. my colleague and I have agreed that we are to make general observations without naming and shaming colleagues.

    As a result it will include-
    year groups, matching medium term plans with current teaching plans, looking into the "fish bowl" from outside to observe unobtrusively, stepping into lessons no more than 10 mins to get a snap shot of lessons, success, 1 area of development per year group

    These will not include
    names of class teachers, any unprofessional comments, no subjective or vague targets

    We will look at needs and see what the "trends" are for the whole school and each year group.

    After that we will plan CPD and develop a framework for team teaching as well as planning support.

    Hope you have a wonderful weekend

  11. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter


    You too, @slingshotsally , now that this is decision is off your back!


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